Traveling through Iraq three years ago, Army Sgt. Hyman Lee made some unlikely friends. As he and his comrades came upon new territory – a village marketplace – six smiling Iraqi children, from 10 to 15 years old, ran toward them.
At right, Hyman Lee and Iraqi officers taking a break from training, look through pictures in Hyman’s camera.
The two groups traded pens and took photographs together. And, while they all relied heavily on hand gestures to communicate, the encounter emulates the positive experience Hyman had in Iraq.
“You just know that they’re happy to see you – that if Americans are here, it’s going to be a better place, a better tomorrow.”
Hyman is among a small group – approximately 3 percent – of students at colleges and universities with one thing in common: They’ve served in the United States military.
His service, however, goes well beyond the Iraq War, where he worked in civil affairs to liaise between the military and the public, and to help rebuild infrastructure in Baghdad and parts of Eastern Iraq. Hyman is also the president and co-founder of the Temple Veterans Association (TVA).
TVA, which started in Fall 2010, is an unprecedented group dedicated to providing support to Temple students, faculty and staff who have served in the U.S. armed forces.
“Especially in a school as big as Temple, you need a veterans association,” Hyman said. “With the two wars, you’re producing a lot of veterans, and they’re coming to school.”
Hyman – then a high school senior – enlisted in February 2004, as part of the Delayed Entry Program, which allows its enlistees to begin training once they graduate high school. He began basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., in July 2004 and went straight to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for Advanced Individual Training. By December of that year, he completed his training.
After he earned his associate’s degree at the Community College of Philadelphia, Hyman began deployment training in April 2008. He and his peers mobilized to deploy in June.
In a 2008 photo, Hyman, at left, and three soldiers in his unit stand amid the rubble of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, which was destroyed in the U.S. invasion five years earlier.
Modest about what he has established, Hyman credits much of TVA’s initial success to his and the other officers’ “secret weapon,” Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs Debbie Campbell, and is focused on keeping the group’s momentum going.
TVA recently hosted its first student-faculty networking event and has plans for a career event and internship fairs in March.
“We can’t meet up every week, but we try to give veterans a sense that, ‘Hey, we’re here for each other.’”
– Chelsea Calhoun
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