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Guest Column: A veteran’s reflection on Memorial Day

Law enforcement deployment in South America. Courtesy photo


By Evaristus Odinikaeze

Choosing to serve within the U.S. Coast Guard represents a turning point in my life. I had spent my earlier decades living abroad in Nigeria and Germany with my life dominated by grade school, college coursework and employment opportunities. I am the first person from my family to ever serve in the military, which made the decision a tough one. My understanding of the path ahead relied solely on the orientation from my recruitment officer. Suddenly, my traveling that had once been for knowledge, leisure and cultural exchanges became a civic duty. I had a difficult time explaining to my sister in California my rationale for joining the military during U.S involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. It took some time before I divulged the same to my other siblings in Europe and Nigeria as I lacked the words to calm their fear of my loss of life or limbs.

Despite those initial challenges, I focused my attention on what mattered most, which was my drive to join a unique, honorable and loyal group of men and women in a nation that had become my own. Although, serving in the military is not for everyone, I personally think that everyone should do a mandatory military service as found in Germany and elsewhere. Military training has the tendency to foster tremendous lifelong skills such as teamwork, leadership, respect for others, and devotion to duty. Serving in the military groomed and disciplined me unlike anything I had experienced previously. I came to appreciate that freedom is liberating, but is not free. This sacrifice of military personnel in surrendering their personal freedom allows civilians to continue to flourish within their own.

Within the harbor of each ship, I discovered how policy directed each unit and command leading to my involvement within the Coast Guard’s Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC). This position was a springboard for my interest in public policy leading me to consider further graduate course work beyond my previously earned masters in China and California. Northeastern University’s unique interdisciplinary public policy program fuses quantitative and qualitative empirical methods with program evaluation and policy response techniques. I have seen firsthand during my military service how integral this fusion can be for making positive changes in structures that affect human lives.

Evaristus volunteering with Boston Mayor’s Operation Thank a Veteran. Courtesy photo

Transitioning from military active duty to being a full-time student at Northeastern has been a rewarding and worthwhile experience thus far. It is an understatement to say that I have learned and grown immensely with just two semesters under my belt. Courses in economic analysis, policy strategy, research design, program/policy evaluation techniques, quantitative and statistical analysis, and education policy have given me improved insight. Learning from world-class faculty with a diverse group of peers has made it easier for my transition from the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area to the urban winters of Boston. In the spirit of continuing my mission and connecting with my military brotherhood, I have volunteered in service to other U.S veterans through the Boston Mayor’s office. The city sponsors “Operation Thank a Veteran” to cater to veterans and their families in the Greater Boston Area.

As I reflect on my military brothers and sisters who ultimately sacrificed their freedom for that of the many, on this Memorial Day, I challenge you in our unique Coast Guard way to “honor” those few who paid that ultimate price, “respect” your neighbor as you would expect from others, and “devote to America” as to your duty. Semper Paratus!

Evaristus Odinikaeze is first-year student in the Master of Public Policy Program at Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs with an interest in law, public policy and behavioral sciences. He is the co-founder and founding treasurer of Northeastern University Graduate Students of Color Collective. He also holds an MS in Accounting from St Mary’s College of California and Beijing International MBA from Peking University, China.


Published On: May 26, 2017 |
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