Cordy Brannan-Cahill ’15 wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father, grandfather, uncle and cousin when she enlisted in the military a year after she graduated from high school.
Unlike Dad, who was in the Army, or Granddad, who was in the Navy, though, Brannan-Cahill opted for the Marines.
“If you’re going to do it, you might as well go for the best,” she said.
And that’s no insult to the other branches. By “best,” Brannan-Cahill just means she wanted to challenge herself fully. When she enlisted, women couldn’t serve in special operations such as the Navy Seals or Army Rangers. (The Pentagon earlier this year unveiled a plan to change those rules in the coming years.)
Brannan-Cahill began training in March 2008 in hopes of becoming a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear first responder.
And then she suffered a stress fracture in her pelvis and was medically discharged.
Veterans’ Day is bittersweet, she said, noting that she would have finished her four years of service by now had she not been injured.
But she also stops to remember the sacrifices of her family members, the friends she trained with and others who have served.
That includes a number of Stephens students, including those in online and graduate programs.
For at least two non-traditional students, serving in the military helped them find their calling.
Mary Rudolph admits she was looking primarily for stability when she enlisted in the Navy at the age of 22 in 2002.
“I wasn’t able to afford school or living on my own,” she said.
For the first two years, Rudolph was responsible for ship maintenance; the latter she spent on the aviation side, learning parachute rescue and making sure pilots had necessary survival gear.
She also took advantage of opportunities.
“I soaked up all the experiences, made great friends and was able to travel the world,” she said.
Mostly, Rudolph developed empathy for service members, experiencing first hand the loneliness, homesickness and feeling that you had no one to talk to.
She’s now pursuing a Master of Education in Counseling from Stephens in hopes of working for the Department of Veteran Affairs and ultimately working on bases as a military counselor.
Isalia Ratliffe also discovered her calling while serving. She was a patient administration specialist while stationed at a medical hospital during her years in the Army. Today, she works in health information technology. While she already has the career she wants, Ratliffe is pursuing a bachelor’s in Health Information Administration from Stephens.
“It’s a personal goal,” she said.
Today, Brannan-Cahill has a new goal. She’s pursuing a degree in equestrian studies in hopes of working for a breed association or in some other equestrian management or business role.
“My goal was to get better and go back, but horses are my first love,” she said. “I would have loved to gone back, but my life has taken a completely different direction.”
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