CSUN student Justin Aragon joined the military to help his family, but his “side quest” of serving his country revealed hidden talents.
When Justin Aragon, 31, first started at CSUN in 2014, he had just finished two years at Pierce College, was majoring in Kinesiology and knew he wanted to be a physical therapist.
Just one year later, Aragon faced a huge decision. His family had been working toward U.S. citizenship since emigrating from the Philippines in 2007. To speed up the lengthy process, the family’s immigration attorney said Aragon could gain U.S citizenship by serving in the military. Then, he could sponsor his parents. However, Aragon’s parents told him the choice was his.
“I told them, I’ll think about it overnight, and the next day, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it,'” Aragon said. “You know, it’s a small sacrifice. I’ll do one contract (four years).”
After completing his three months of basic training, Aragon became a U.S. citizen and now his parents are citizens as well. But instead of seeing his time in the military as a “sacrifice,” Aragon found that he thrived in his new environment.
“I loved it,” he said. “I didn’t do just one contract. I did two,” he said.
Aragon first trained as a combat medic/ health care specialist and was sent to Hawaii.
“I was in an infantry unit… I didn’t deploy anywhere to a combat environment, but my responsibility was to take care of those infantry men and women if we were to deploy to a combat environment,” he said.
From Hawaii, Aragon, a staff sergeant, went to Germany, where he was a leadership instructor in the Basic Leader Course in Grafenwoehr. Aragon explained the course prepares soldiers, Americans and those from Allied nations, for promotion. His roles were physical training and teaching in the classroom.
“My responsibility was to teach soldiers what they needed to know to be successful as leaders…. how to properly counsel soldiers, how to plan, how to prepare soldiers,” he said.
After spending eight years in the Army, Aragon returned home this summer and resumed his studies at CSUN. He still wants to pursue physical therapy, but he discovered other talents during his time in the military.
“My time in Germany, as an instructor, I found a passion for teaching and mentoring and coaching people,” he said.
The discipline he learned in the Army has also paid off in school.
“I’m better at planning, I’m better at organizing,” he said. “There’s one thing I learned called ‘backwards planning,’ or going backwards from the due date and planning step-by-step,” he explained. “What I have been successfully doing since this semester started is, I turn in my homework a week in advance.”In addition to his studies, Aragon is also working as a student assistant with CSUN’s Veterans Resource Center.
As for Veterans Day, Aragon said he doesn’t think it applies to him– instead, he thinks of those who joined to fight in wars and conflicts.
“Every time I think of the word ‘veteran,’ I think of World War I and World War II and the 9/11 veterans. Those individuals really answered the call,” Aragon said. “However, it is extremely critical for us to understand that veterans whose service was outside of those conflicts also sacrificed a lot,” he added. “It’s a really important holiday. It’s important for us to understand the sacrifices and hardships veterans have been through and [what] their family members [have been through,]” he said.
According to the Veterans Resource Center, CSUN is home to 475 student-veterans. The Veterans Resource Center, or VRC, offers assistance and community to veterans and military dependents on campus and is located in the University Student Union. The center’s “Salute to Service” week begins Nov. 5, with events for veterans and their families and an open house on Tuesday, Nov. 7. For more information, check the VRC calendar.