The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

EIU student finds self in the military

Charlie Burtell
Charlie Burtell is a freshman business analytics major student.

Editors Note: Specific facts within the story were reported incorrectly. The story stated Charlie’s home being Auburn not Elburn, the caption stated he was in ROTC when he is in the National Guard and some clarification was added for when he started at Eastern. 

Charlie Burtell wanted to make positive changes in his life after realizing in high school that the route he was on was not the best one.   

“When I was 17, I took a look in the mirror, and I was like, I need to change. I need to do something to better myself and my future. I didn’t want to end up in jail or wherever it could’ve gone,” Burtell said.   

He decided to join the military and hopes to be a helicopter pilot.   

Burtell, originally from Elburn, started schooling at Eastern in the spring semester. He is majoring in business analytics and information on systems with a minor in communications.   

Given that Burtell had to be 17 years old to enlist in the military, he had his mother sign the paperwork approving his entry.   

“I told my mom, ‘I know I’m doing things I shouldn’t be doing, and I know you don’t want me doing these things. So, I know you’d probably be okay with it, and I need you to sign these for me so I can join the military,’” Burtell said.   

Burtell’s mother pulled through with the decision, and he was enlisted on Oct. 26, 2021. He said his life has been 20 times better ever since.  

He attended basic combat training and advanced individual training. AIT is similar to trade school, teaching soldiers the technical skills they use in their careers.   

He was stationed in Fort Lee, Virginia, for four months for AIT, training as a diesel mechanic– also known as 91 Bravo or a wheeled vehicle mechanic.   

During that time, Burtell was trained in the basics of operating diesel machinery and diesel-powered cars as well as how to maintain and service them.   

Joining the military was an escape, he said.  

“I never had a very positive home life,” Burtell said. “My parents were divorced, and they’ve always had battles. I’ve kind of had to deal with their battles.”   

Burtell’s plan was to get away to protect his mental and physical health.   

He said by joining the military, it allowed him to create a character who he wanted to be. He said he’s proud of who he is now.    

“I don’t think I would be sitting here doing what I am doing in college, trying to get an education, trying to better my future, trying to build a persona for me and my family and putting respect on my name,” Burtell said.    

Another important factor for Burtell was being able to step beyond his comfort zone. He recalled that he used to be a shy person, but the military helped him become more accepting of other people and comfortable in difficult situations.   

When he got to Eastern, he rushed into the Sigma Pi Fraternity.  

“Though it can be hard, I take every opportunity I have to finish my college work, and if I’m unable the military can give notice to the school saying I have military work to attend,” he said.   

Burtell intends to serve in the military for the next three and a half years. This is a career that he said he hopes to be able to pass down to his future children, he said.   

“Thankfully I chose the right option and that was joining the armed forces,” he said. “I’m very happy with what I’ve done.”  


Kimberly Carroll can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]. 

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