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Andrew Romo: Student Veteran Shares Journey From Military to College

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After graduating from high school in 2009, student veteran Andrew Romo enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed at Camp Pendleton as a part of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Division. He served on the front lines of infantry missions as an anti-tank assaultman, where he used explosives to breach entry into buildings and compounds.

Romo, who reached the rank of corporal, deployed to Afghanistan from 2010-11 and served as an assault breacher to clear landmines. He also participated in several humanitarian operations during 2012-13 in countries such as Yemen, East Timor and Thailand as part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and served as the demolition team leader for the tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel.

After his service, Romo decided to pursue higher education, with encouragement from his wife, Melissa, programs and services coordinator at CSUF’s Veterans Resource Center. He transferred to CSUF from Fullerton College and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in human services and a career in academia or law enforcement.

Romo, a senior, serves as president of the Student Veterans Association, which has 87 members, including veterans and military-connected students — those who are active service members, veterans, spouses, dependents and supporters. He also is the program lead for the Veterans Resource Center’s Vet Forward program, which helps student veterans explore careers.

During the month of November, Cal State Fullerton is celebrating campus veterans. The month kicked off with the Nov. 4 “Morning Colors” flag raising ceremony to pay respect to the flag and salute Titans who have dedicated their lives to protect and serve their country. Romo was among the featured speakers at the event.  

Why is it important to celebrate campus veterans?

The veteran identity is one that many students hold close. There are students who are military veterans who have served our country — and there are many more students who are military-connected students. It’s important for Cal State Fullerton to pay tribute to these students because it honors those who have gone before us — and also honors those after us.

What are some benefits of the Student Veterans Association?

The student veteran is a type of individual who has a desire to continue to serve and seek like-minded individuals. I believe that one of the primary benefits is the camaraderie shared among the student veterans. The organization’s leadership also collaborates with the members to seek out new and fulfilling ways to help in the community. We work with several Orange County community organizations, including the Orange County Food Bank, Patriots and Paws,and Renewable Farms, to help in any way we can. This community outreach helps student veterans find meaningful connections and purpose while at Cal State Fullerton.

How does the Veterans Resource Center support students in their college journey?

The center itself provides a space for a very diverse, particular group of students. These students often require extra support from the university to navigate the barriers to their education benefits. The center also is a one-stop shop that provides benefits assistance, veteran wellness programs, professional development and fellowship. All of the center’s programs and services come together to assist veterans and military-connected students in their pursuit of higher education. 

Why did you want to serve in the military?

I joined the military because it was something I aspired to do as a child. A close childhood friend’s father was in the military. My friend ended up in the service after 9/11 and was injured. I wanted to serve my country to give back to those who gave me my freedom. I’m very proud of my service as I am the first one in my family who has served in the armed forces.

Why is it important to you to earn a college degree?

I initially did not want to go to college. I wanted to go directly into law enforcement once I got out of the military. My plans did not go well. My deployment was extended twice, which left me little time to transition out of the military. During the time that I was overseas, my wife interned at the Veterans Resource Center. She encouraged me to pursue a degree as a backup plan if law enforcement did not pan out. Melissa connected me with some influential veterans at CSUF, and because of the strong bonds that I made with staff members and students at the center, I knew that I wanted to transfer to Cal State Fullerton. My career goal is still to pursue law enforcement, but since I have gained so much from the center, I also have a strong desire to serve in higher education as well as obtain a master’s degree in social work. Time will soon tell which path I will go down.