Oklahoma Wesleyan University has always been a military-friendly school. We practice this by allowing flexible curriculum schedules for active personnel and giving scholarships and financial aid to those who have served or are in the service.
As this issue of the Tower considers aspects of freedom, we gladly take time to honor the men and women who have sacrificed in order to serve fellow citizens. We have profiled several military alums who spent time serving their country before or during their time at OKWU. They graciously took some time with us to talk about their experiences as both student and a solider. These are just a representative few of dozens more of our alumni who have served our country. Please see a few others mentioned below and how to let us know of others: LINK
Brett Miquelon graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Spring 2013. He studied Communication Arts with an emphasis on Business, saying that some of the best classes he ever had were with Professor Wendel Weaver.
Brett comes from California, and having been raised right next to the military base Camp Pendleton, he knew early on in his life that he wanted to go into the Marines. In the Marine Corps he served as a Radio Operator and was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and then Afghanistan in 2008.
As he looks back on his time in the Marines, Brett admits that he could write an entire book about everything he learned in the military.
“The military taught me to take a healthy pride in myself, whether it’s my uniform, or taking care of my body, or giving my all in whatever job I hold. I see a night and day difference in myself. I am a much different person with military experience behind me.”
Along with learning self-respect, he also spends time thinking of the general respect he learned for other people in all roles. The idea of “respect” came to mean so much more to him when it was practiced in the way he treated people both above and below him in rank.
As a young Christian serving in the military, he gave some poignant advice about holding on to one’s walk with God, advising, “Never jeopardize your own morals just based on your uncertainty. Meaning, being unable to answer certain difficult questions about your faith doesn’t make you automatically wrong.”
Brett also considered the idea of freedom in America, as well as what it meant to defend it.
“Freedom is one of the most commonly misunderstood words that comes up these days. Part of that is its ability to look a little ‘ugly’ depending on how people use it. But that’s their right, and that’s the right I chose to protect. They may use their freedom to do things I don’t like, but they are allowed to do that. There are some other countries where the people aren’t allowed that freedom. Those were the countries I was fighting in.”
Brett now works as a Crossfit instructor in Bartlesville, while also working to become a police officer. He is an enthusiastic presence among our young alumni, and he continues to give a great example of an excellent work ethic for everyone who knows him.
Dustin Thompson served in the Marines from 2005 to 2011, in the reserve unit from Oklahoma City. He had grown up in Grove, Oklahoma, and was attracted to OKWU based on its class sizes and the spiritual element integrated into the education. Dustin majored in Biochemistry with a minor in Music and graduated in 2010. He then went on to finish his Master’s in Business Administration in 2012.
He was an active undergrad student, serving in the Student Government Organization, with one of his best memories being rushing to set up the winter banquet even with a snowstorm threatening to cancel everything. As for other fun memories, he admits, “Lots of stuff went on in the dorms that I can’t comment on.”
While he enrolled in school he had also enlisted in the Marines to do split training, and while typically he would have split it into two summers, he had to fast-track training before being deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2007.
Dustin says he had several influences when it came to joining the military. One was a tour of the Air Force Academy in Colorado, as the self-confidence in the cadets’ demeanors made a distinct impression on Dustin. The other influence was the attack of September 11th, 2001. That attack became a major motive, he said, for him and many of the young men he knew to enlist.
When he talks about being a Christian in the military, Dustin is emphatic about the opportunities.
“The military is a huge mission field. A lot of the guys that are getting in there are looking to fill a void. It’s a culture all in itself.”
He goes on to describe some conversations he has had. “I’ve had quite a few guys I served with that came up to me and said ‘I really look up to you because you don’t curse, or yell at people for small things.’ They gravitate towards that when they see it. It’s not a proselytizing role you have to fill, but being that light. I think it’s a mission field that’s very untapped.”
His definition and practice of freedom are relatively simple, yet they are fleshed out against the backdrop of his experiences.
“[Freedom] is the ability of people to use the gift that God has given them to help themselves and help others around them, with no interference, as long as you allow others the same…”
He explains, “When I was in Iraq, it wasn’t that we were trying to force the Iraqis to be a democracy or pick up the American way of doing things, but to let them do what they want to do. That was the mindset we had.”
Dustin is currently a medical student at the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine. His wife Lauren is currently a homemaker with their children, daughter Jesslyn and newborn son Jaxsen.
Mike Lawson served in the Marines from 1993 to 1998. He was deployed to Panama, then transferred to North Carolina, then to Okinawa, Japan, before finally boarding a Marines ship in the Mediterranean for 6 months. Mike considers his mother as the main influence on his entering the service. He explains, “She got me involved in boxing and all the martial arts…I knew I was going to be geared toward helping and protecting people.”
Mike came to OKWU in 2007 and graduated in 2009, having studied Secondary Education with an emphasis in History. Initially, he though he would attend a different local college, but he once he stepped onto the OKWU campus, he knew he was supposed to be there. He now highly recommends the university to people, in particular anybody who would like to get a degree in education.
His time spent in the Marines influenced his decision to become an officer, which in turn influenced the rest of his career. “Being a Marine is the bedrock of all of it. Everything is connected to each other. Being a marine helped me be a better corrections officer, which helped me be a better street officer. And it all helped me be a better teacher, which helped me as a parent.”
Mike is a well-known teacher in the Bartlesville School District, serving as a middle school history teacher as well as a wrestling coach. He considers the meaning of freedom and personal liberty regularly, as one of the units he teaches includes the Constitution.
“It’s probably my favorite lesson [to teach]. All of those Amendments–when you join the military and sign that contract, whether for four years or twenty years–you forfeit many of those rights.”
He goes on to list freedom of speech, search and seizure, and free travel from state to state as examples of everyday acts that, as a solider, are determined by someone else’s permission. To him, “I have to sacrifice that choice for [the civilian] to make those decisions.”
When it comes to advising Christians who are considering joining the service, Mike is encouraging and buoyant.
“A lot of Christians have this perception that there’s a separation between the government and the church in the military. But it’s not that way: there’s a lot of good Christian men and women serving.”
He admits it can be tough, comparing some parts of his time to living in a “testosterone-fueled locker room.” But again he encourages believers to stick to the faith. “Faith is the compass. We all need to go back to it.”
Mike and his wife Shauna have been married for fifteen years, and together have sons Robbie and Brody. His son Brody is now serving in the Marines.
Other alumni that have served in the military in a variety of roles include: Tom Bedient, Brian Rickey, Amy Anderson, Scott Harris, Justin and Denise Morris, Erik Troff, Kurt Bahr, Stephen Brewster, Randy Jamieson, Gordon Barnett, Darylin Cheeseman, Mike Jeffcoat, and John Roger.
If you or another alumnus you know has served in the military, please update us on our Alumni Update page with any information you would like to share!
Header photo credit: Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres