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Spring 2021 Veterans' Interviews

The students in Dr. Lauren Rule Maxwell’s Spring 2021 undergraduate Advanced Composition class conducted oral history interviews with a diverse group of U.S. veterans to learn about their military experiences. In addition to conducting interviews, the students incorporated the veterans’ stories into a range of writing exercises, including abstracts and feature articles, which appear with the interviews online.

Click on the hyperlinked headings below to see video recordings of the interviews, which also will be archived in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. By capturing these histories, it is our hope that the interviews will do justice to the veterans’ stories while paying homage to their legacy and the principled leadership they inspire.

Many people deserve thanks for helping make this project a reality. In particular, we’d like to thank Lawrence Galasso in Multimedia Services, Morgan Spencer in External Affairs, and the staff of The Daniel Library.

Interview List

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Interview of Captain Geno Paluso by Allyson Ansell, April 7, 2021

Born in Washington, Pennsylvania, CAPT Eugene “Geno” Paluso was introduced to the military life at a young age. He attended a naval prep school and immediately knew the military life was for him. He had hopes of pursuing a Navy career. As graduation came around, he applied to several military colleges all over the U.S., The Citadel being one of these. Months later, he conducted a pre-knob visit, toured campus, and fell in love with The Citadel itself.

Arriving at The Citadel, he did not have a Navy contract or scholarship, and he dreamed of being an F-14 Tomcat pilot. A classmate introduced him to a Navy SEAL, and his dream suddenly changed. He eventually received a contract, and as commissioning rolled around, he chased a BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) slot. If that slot was not available, he was planning to drop his commission and enlist in order to get one. Luckily for him, he got the slot and soon after started his career as a Navy SEAL.

He left for BUD/S training in 1989 which took place in Coronado, California and six months later, Class 164 graduated. Throughout his career, CAPT Paluso held several roles on different SEAL teams, ranging from Assistant Platoon Commander to Executive Officer all the way to Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group THREE. After serving on the operations side of the Navy, he spent several more years in administrative roles, from part of the Navy Staff at the Pentagon to being on the Joint Staff.

CAPT Paluso attributes a lot of his success to the great leaders he had along the way, many of whom kept him in line. After graduating from The Citadel, he told himself he would never come back, but in 2014, CAPT Paluso took over as The Commandant of The Corps of Cadets. He wanted to impact the future leaders in a positive way, much like those that impacted him. He wanted to “leave everything on the field.” This interview provides viewers insight into CAPT Paluso’s time in the service and what it meant to him, getting to come full circle, and serving his alma matter.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of Captain Brian B. Parker by SSgt. Lyndsay Danielle Cribb, April 2, 2021

Active-duty Marine Corps Captain Brian Parker’s life and career serve as the ultimate testament to working hard, staying humble, leading from the front, and just “being a good dude.”

Brian B. Parker grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, and spent his childhood days outdoors surrounded by family. After the September 11th attacks on the United States, he grew a burning desire to serve our country. The rest, as they say, is history.

Captain Brian Parker enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2003 in the Delayed Entry Program and attended Recruit Training on Parris Island, South Carolina. After graduating from boot camp in 2004 with a meritorious promotion to Private First Class, Captain Parker served as an Infantryman and was immediately thrown into a combat workup and a deployment to Iraq as a junior Marine. After another deployment to Iraq as a Corporal and graduating with honors from Advanced Infantryman’s Course in 2009, Captain Parker was accepted into the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. Fond of the Charleston area, Captain Parker chose to attend college at The Citadel where he would graduate magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in History, and meet his wife, Kelly.

In 2012 upon graduation from The Citadel, Captain Parker would receive the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of Combat Engineer and continue to serve the Marine Corps in different capacities. After several years serving as a commissioned officer in the fleet, and holding key leadership positions within his MOS, Captain Parker elected to come back to The Citadel as a Marine Officer Instructor in 2017 to lead and mentor midshipmen and MECEP Marines seeking the same commission he received just five years prior.

In addition to discussing his career accomplishments, Captain Parker shares more personal details regarding his family dynamic and his specific experiences within a combat arms occupation, including deployments he served on and his thoughts on combat related injuries. He includes a list of key individuals who inspired him as a leader, shares his love for Marines, and reflects on decisions he made within his career that molded his personal leadership philosophy. From this interview, one can gather not only the dedication Captain Parker has for the Marine Corps and his family, but exactly what it looks like when a top-notch individual chooses to selflessly serve and effectively inspire the next generation of military leaders who will one day lead the fight.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of Lt Col Martin F. Brabham by Robert Freeman, April 20, 2021

The average person likely thinks of the Air Force as being entirely centered on airplanes and flight, but in reality, it is much more than that. For Lt. Col. Martin Brabham and many other missileers like himself, it is about rockets and space operations.

Lt. Col. Brabham had the opportunity to serve both as a missileer and an operations officer for Delta IV rocket launches. But most importantly to him, he got to meet interesting people and become a mentor for others during his service. Lt. Col. Brabham’s major life advice that he imparts on both those working with him in the service to his children is “The golden rule—always treat others the way you want to be treated, and always hustle.”

Lt. Col. Brabham has done it all, from being a missileer, to operations officer, and even commanding training units. He now has found his home back at his alma mater, The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina, as a TAC officer mentoring cadets and ensuring their success.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of SSgt. Lyndsay Danielle Cribb by Noah Guzman, April 5, 2021

Staff Sergeant Lyndsay Danielle Cribb has traveled around the world while rising through the ranks of an enlisted Marine to a soon-to-be officer. Pursuing degrees in Criminal Justice and English and serving in the Marine Corps for 10 years, what she is most proud of are being a mother to her three-year-old son Jeremy and making a lasting impact on her fellow Marines with whom she has trained and served. As a Marine Aviation Operations Specialist and an instructor of many courses, including those for training both Corporals and Sergeants, Staff Sergeant Cribb has continually honed and refined her leadership style throughout her journey. With each new position and challenge, she has risen to the occasion, challenging herself to achieve excellence in everything she does, a pursuit that she believes she has possessed from an early age and that was instilled in her by her father, who was also a Marine. She brought with her that pursuit to Parris Island, where she graduated from Boot Camp.

Staff Sergeant Cribb has been stationed around the world, serving in locations from Cherry Point, North Carolina, to Iwakuni, Japan, to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, and currently in Charleston, South Carolina, as a MECEP instructor to future Marine officers at The Citadel. No matter where she has been, Staff Sergeant Cribb has always exemplified the value of service before self.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of CSM Isaac Ragusa, III by Katherine A. Jarvis, April 6, 2021

Command Sergeant Major Isaac Ragusa III grew up in Eagleville, Pennsylvania. Born in 1971, Sergeant Major Ragusa had a hard childhood and knew that when he graduated from high school, college would not be possible. Sergeant Major Ragusa knew he needed to secure a job post-graduation and have a plan. At the age of 17, he went to the local recruiter’s office with plans to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Soon into his meeting, he knew the Marine Corps wasn’t the right fit for him. On his way to leave, the Army recruiter pulled him into his office, and soon after, Sergeant Major Ragusa was signing paperwork to enlist in the United States Army.

In 1989, after graduating from Methacton High School, Sergeant Major Ragusa became a U.S. Army Infantryman. This opportunity with the Army has taken him to many places including Panama, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. Traveling the world has allowed Sergeant Major Ragusa to observe many different cultures, and along his travels he even picked up the ability to speak Thai.

Sergeant Major Ragusa has also met many empowering people whom he has striven to be like throughout his career. His time in the Army has shaped the person that he has become. He has seen rough times and learned hard lessons and owes his success to the opportunities he’s been given. Sergeant Major Ragusa is a perfect example of someone who makes the best of whatever situation he is put in. Sergeant Major Ragusa has used what he’s learned in his career with the Army to teach Cadets at The Citadel important life lessons. He has become a role model to many Cadets and someone who is sought after when looking for life advice. While Sergeant Major Ragusa may be a little rough around the edges, he always tells you the hard truth—what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. As a Cadet, this is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from him.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of LTC Jefferson R. Panton by Ian Kaiser, April 2, 2021

LTC Jefferson R. Panton was raised on a small farm in Portland, Maine. Growing up working diligently alongside his seven brothers and sisters in a small town, he had dreamed of traveling the world. He had always been interested in the military but would be the first in his family to serve a full career as a U.S. Army Officer. He enlisted at the age of 19 in Military Intelligence, specializing in Chinese, graduating from the Defense Language Institute. After impressing many officers during his time at basic and as an enlisted man, he matriculated and commissioned out of West Point as an infantry and mortal platoon leader. He would later complete the training necessary to become part of the Special Operations community as a Green Beret. From his time at West Point to retiring after 29 years, LTC Panton looked to serve his peers and subordinates not through his individual efforts, but through building up other people and building relationships. To LTC Panton, his military service was more about those he impacted along the way than any fancy ribbons he could earn.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of First Sergeant Rick E. Dean by Merritt Reeves, April 2, 2021

Rick E. Dean, retired First Sergeant in the United States Army, enlisted in September of 1984. Growing up with an Air Force father and Army uncles, it was only a matter of time before First Sergeant Dean found his way into the military. Searching for something more fulfilling, First Sergeant Dean left high school before graduating. He went to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he attended Basic Infantry Training. Unprepared for the difficulty of Basic, First Sergeant Dean made a deal with himself every night to sneak out and go home. However, every morning when he woke up to his Drill Sergeants, he found his stride and graduated with a sense of pride in accomplishment. Struggling later as an E3, First Sergeant Dean luckily had a Staff Sergeant who reinstilled the patriotic need to serve. It was this change of perspective that allowed First Sergeant Dean to rise the ranks and achieve more ambitious goals involving more important roles.

First Sergeant Dean has been stationed in Erlangen, Germany; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Stuttgart, Germany; Camp Hovey, Korea; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Vicenza, Italy; and Fort Jackson, South Carolina. To all these locations, First Sergeant Dean has brought his “leading by example” style of instruction and continues to do so as Fourth Battalion NCO at The Citadel. His perseverance and experience have inspired many cadets on campus and designates him as an invaluable wealth of information and an approachable listener.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of CMSgt Jennifer Kersey by Alicia Roberts, April 6, 2021

The interview with Retired Chief Master Sergeant Jennifer Kersey reveals that her 30-year service in the United States Air Force was filled with heartache, headache, lessons, teachings, growth, admiration, new experiences, and relationships. In this interview, she explains how she has grown as a person as she simultaneously progressed in the military. She speaks to the role that the Air Force has played in her life and how that has affected her two children as well as her husband. Her life is not limited to her time in the military, and this interview highlights that she is clearly now so much more than a retired Chief. While in the service, she received a number of awards, medals, and recognition for her leadership in and determination to serve the Air Force. Chief Kersey explained to me that despite all her achievements and accomplishments, she is most proud of her decision to get married and start a family. After being involved in a number of special teams and organizations inside of the Air Force, her favorite team to work with is her husband and two children.

Toward the end of this interview, Chief Kersey explained to me that she quickly fell in love with the Air Force and that she allowed it to impact her life in more ways than the physical. She adopted teachings and lessons to her civilian life and chose to incorporate everything she could from her service. She shares these lessons with Citadel cadets today by serving as a TAC offer. To think that it has been 30 years since she entered the Force blows her mind. “If I could go back in time, I’d do it all over again,” she said with a smile. Retired Chief Master Sergeant Jennifer Kersey exemplifies how beneficial the military can be and how much love can grow from service to something larger than oneself.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of Colonel Heyward G. Hutson, III by Joseph Shevchik, April 1, 2021

Col. Heyward G. Hutson throughout the interview discusses his desire to serve in the military; beginning with his childhood, he knew that he wanted to make a career out of the military. Col. Hutson, a graduate from West Point where he would receive a Bachelor of Science, commissioned in the United States Army as a second lieutenant. He then would head to Fort Sill, where he would start his first advanced training. Next, he would then take on Ranger training. He explains in the interview why ranger training is one of the most mental and physically tough training an Army soldier can go through.

Col. Hutson took charge of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, where he deployed the battalion to Baghdad as a maneuver task force partnered with an Iraqi Federal Police brigade. This was one of Col. Hutson most powerful leadership moments in his storied career. He got to help rebuild hospitals, schools, and houses and even bought trash trucks and trash cans for all the residents of the village. Col. Hutson later would go back to school; he received his Master’s degree in Education from Northwestern State University and studied at Harvard in the JFK Fellowship Program. After retiring on 1 September 2018, Col. Hutson took over the role as the Assistant Commandant for Discipline at the Citadel, where he enjoys having an impact on the future leaders of this country and creating a lasting impression on each Citadel cadet’s life.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of Major Alex H. Lim by Paul Suh, March 25, 2021

Major Alex Lim is a Public Affairs Officer in the Marine Corps with over ten years of service and experience. He has been to various countries and regions around the world from cross training in the Philippines to cross training for amphibious warfare in Thailand with the Thai military forces. He is currently stationed in Myanmar, California, with the Third Marine Aircraft Wing.

Much like many Marine Corp officers, his journey started in Quantico, Virginia, after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 2008. Major Lim has been stationed in various locations such as San Diego, Hawaii, South Korea, and Afghanistan. He deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, with Regimental Combat Team One as a Public Affairs Officer and helped with joint operations and building mutual trust with the local Afghani military forces. After long and rigorous training, and years of experience with building trust between different forces of the military across the globe, he is now the man he is today.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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Interview of William F. Roten by Harrison Wedgeworth, April 7, 2021

Mr. William “Bill” F. Roten, born in Elkland, Maryland, joined the United States Navy two years after graduating from high school in the hills of North Carolina after seeing the positive impact the United States Marine Corps had on his stepbrother. He served in the Lebanon Conflict in 1982 and the Libya Conflict in 1984 onboard the USS Mullinnix DD944, USS Saratoga CV60, and the USS William V. Pratt DDG44 between 1979 and 1988. Rated as a boiler technician, Mr. Roten quickly rose through the ranks to the rate of E-6, First Class Petty Officer, and became known as the “Oil King,” the chief boiler technician onboard the assigned vessel.

Mr. Roten describes his service in the United States Navy as “one of the best decisions I ever made.” Mr. Roten never negatively speaks of the United States Navy itself, but his tongue does bite towards legislators, whom he wishes had extended the G.I. Bill to his time of service. Mr. Roten described the rate of boiler technician as a perfect fit, as it fit his “mechanical mind,” something he carried with him after he left the United States Navy, working in a shipyard immediately following his honorable discharge from the United States Navy.

Mr. Roten now resides in Charleston, South Carolina, the same place he met the “belle who kept me here in the Navy and keeps me here now.” Mr. Roten remains a quiet, humorous man who exhibits the qualities he found important to him in the United States Navy and guided him through his service: Loyalty, Integrity, and Honesty. He imparted those lessons to his son, currently a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, something serving as a mock point of contention between the two of them. Mr. Roten is in many ways a down-to-earth, Southern country boy from the backwoods of North Carolina. More than that, though, he is a loyal servant of his country, a kind and gentle man prioritizing his family, and a loyal, humble man who strived to make something out of himself for the benefit of others, something he has wholeheartedly succeeded in.

Read the Feature Article | Watch the Interview

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