By Dan Landau
Ryan Tucker and Marc Petrino served together as Navy hospital corpsmen in Hawaii and after being honorably discharged, had a surprise reunion at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus, where they are both pursuing nursing degrees.
As Navy corpsmen, they worked together at the regimental aid station for the Third Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, located near Honolulu. “The aid station is basically the medical clinic for the regiment, and Marc was under my leadership there,” says Tucker. While working at the aid station, they found out they were both from New Jersey.
Now, both are studying at FDU and, quite by chance, the student veterans reconnected this semester. “I had heard Marc might be at FDU and one day, I heard his voice coming from the Veterans Services office,” says Tucker.
Tucker, who completed a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies earlier this year, is now halfway through the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Petrino, currently in the midst of his own bachelor’s in individualized studies at FDU, will also soon be entering the accelerated BSN program.
“The military is a very large organization,” says Jeff Dunn, assistant director of veteran services at FDU and a veteran himself. “When two people stationed together on the other side of the world are reunited here in our little part of the world in North Jersey, it shows how small a large organization can be at times.”
Prior to coming to FDU, Tucker served for six years in the Navy. “I was attached to the ‘green side,’” says Tucker — meaning he served with Marine units. Being in the military was a “great experience,” says Tucker. “The camaraderie is always there and the guys you serve with become your family, especially on deployments.”
Tucker was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Operating near Fallujah, in Iraq, Tucker was attached to a Marine rifle squad. “Everywhere they went, I went. I carried the same weapons and gear. My job was to act like a Marine until someone got injured,” says Tucker, describing his experience.
Petrino, who served as a corpsman for five years, was also deployed to Iraq on the “green side.” Iraq was scary, says Petrino, but he adds, “I was with the Marines and if they got hurt, I needed to take care of them. That was my purpose and that helped take my mind off the fear.” After his deployment, Petrino worked at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.
After leaving the military, Tucker and Petrino, both looking to take advantage of the GI Bill education benefits ended up at FDU, independent of each other. “I knew when I got out of the Navy, that I wanted to stay in the medical field,” says Tucker. “I grew up in Bergen County so I was near the Metropolitan Campus and FDU is such a veteran-friendly school. With the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program, I get to go to FDU for free.”
Petrino echoes these sentiments. “FDU has one of the best nursing programs around,” he says. “With my GI Bill benefits, it seemed like a no-brainer for me to come here. Plus, the Veterans Services Office is so helpful — whenever I have a problem or a question, I call Veterans Services and they’ve always solved my issue and answered my questions. They never leave me hanging.”
Veteran Services is an active office, helping veterans with all educational needs and organizing social events. On November 11, they will be bringing over 100 veterans and students to march in the NYC Veterans Day Parade. This is the fourth consecutive year that FDU has had a float in the parade.
“We have been serving a veteran population since FDU was founded during World War II,” says Dunn. “We have a long history of serving our veterans and to help them, we offer an unlimited number of Yellow Ribbon scholarships to eligible vets.”
Drawn to FDU by its convenient location and special services for veterans, Tucker and Petrino look forward to working as nurses when they graduate. Tucker wants to work in an ER — “my experience is in trauma,” he says — and is considering going back into the Navy as a nurse. Eventually though, he hopes to go graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. Petrino discovered he really enjoyed taking X-rays while working at Walter Reed, and is considering going into radiography in the future.