Combat Boots and Textbooks

By Alexander Bailey
Jonathan Munroe is one of a select few who went above and beyond the call for education and for service to his country; he did both.
For most, graduating from high school means going off to college, drinking with new friends, and studying with the hopes of landing a well-paying job upon graduation. But Munroe took a different path when he dropped out of college after just one semester. And soon after, he found himself enlisted in an entirely different form of education. This experience has shaped Munroe into the man he is today, with all of the triumphs and struggles that come with that.
Before the military, Munroe moved around often. “Growing up, I traveled from place to place. I lived in 10 states, 13 cities, in just 16 years,” Munroe said.
He had gotten used to moving from place to place, and after high school, he embarked on the same track that most graduates took, and he started college. “I did a semester in college – I was stoned the entire time. I skipped classes and didn’t care, didn’t focus on the classes. I met great friends, too, but after a concussion my freshman year, I lost my funding for school. I finished the semester with a 3.8 GPA and started delivering pizza for five months for money. Once I realized that it was not enough to get by, I met with a recruiter, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Munroe was active duty in the United States Army for four years, after which he switched over to the Army Reserve, and the option for college was once more before him. This time, he was more prepared to take it on. “For better or for worse, I believe that being a college student after being a veteran has shaped how I look at school. Before the Army, I looked at college as something I would just have to do. The military drills into you how unimportant school is; regardless of degree, a bullet is a bullet. But it gave me the discipline to get as far as I have,” Munroe said.
Influenced by his experiences as a soldier, Munroe adjusted the best he could to the civilian life of a student, but some things were easier to get used to than others, especially while he still has certain Reserve duties to perform. Munroe said that because he was still in the Reserve, there were certain aspects that he was still unable to do. “One thing that the military takes away from you for school is the individuality of it all – the chance to express yourself while you are learning; while you are military and in school, you can’t do that,” he said. “For example, I want to grow a beard, but I can’t because I have a PT test tomorrow.”
But certain perks of the veteran life made it easier to accept college as the next phase of life. Once held back for financial reasons, Munroe was now able to pursue the education he had started over four years before. “The one really cool thing about being in the military and in school is that the Army pays for everything – they want you to be in school. The downside is that at any moment they can pull you out of college and education takes a back seat to your military duties, which is fair, but inconvenient,” Munroe said.
He went on to speak of one of the downsides of the military before college, and how there are setbacks and shortcomings, as with any big decision. “One of the worst parts I feel about the military and school is how far back it puts you,” he said. “I miss the carefree lifestyle before the military. After high school, I did not have many responsibilities, but after the Army, I have school, a wife, a new child, a leadership position, bills, and the Army Reserve. It’s like having five full-time jobs, and there’s not enough hours in the day.”
Despite all of the struggles that come with his life choices, Munroe said he appreciates the positive experiences and opportunities that he has had, and he keeps his eyes on the future. “Overall, it was a journey I was more than happy to take, despite the struggles it has caused,” Munroe said. “Overall, it was worth it.”