Adam Horton knew exactly what he was signing up for.
“In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Horton said. “I knew I needed discipline and structure, but I didn’t have a plan.”
Horton said he had an uncle in the Army he looked up to, but he had not fully committed to joining the military until 9/11.
“After Sept. 11 happened, you can say my choice (to join) was solidified,” Horton said. “I didn’t personally know anyone (who died), but I had friends that lost loved ones. It mattered.”
Originally from New Hampshire, Horton joined the Navy out of Maine during his senior year in high school in 2005. He spent boot camp in Illinois and was moved to Washington for deployment.
“I worked as an aviation electrician on the EA-6B Prowler,” he said. “I was stationed with the Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-138, and was attached to the Carrier Air Wing aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).”
Deployed out of San Diego in 2007, Horton spent nine months supporting both Iraqi and Enduring Freedom repairing aircraft as the John C. Stennis patrolled dangerous seas.
Horton’s second tour of duty came in 2009 as the carrier scanned the West Pacific for danger.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 2010, Horton married his longtime girlfriend Lorrie and began attending Murray State on the Post-9/11 Chapter 33 G.I. Bill. He is pursuing a degree in engineering/
physics and is the president of the newly formed Student Veterans Organization.
According to Alexandra Dietz, assistant registrar of Veteran Affairs, Horton is one of roughly 160 students receiving Post-9/11 Chapter 33 benefits.
“That means that they or a parent have served in the military on or after Sept. 10, 2001,” she said.
Dietz said almost 300 veterans on campus currently use education benefits provided by the U.S. government.
“There could be more veterans on campus that we don’t know about,” she said. “But these are the ones using benefits provided for them.”
After serving in the Navy from 1985 to 1989, Lawrence Acree took advantage of his military benefits, earning an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Hopkinsville Community College and a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership at Mid-Continent University.
After 9/11, however, Acree could not sit back and watch events unfold. He jumped to action.
“I re-enlisted,” he said. “I just asked myself, ‘What could I do to help my country?’”
At 40 years old, Acree went back into active duty as a Navy CB from 2007 to 2008.
After serving a second term in the Navy, he chose to return to college at Murray State to pursue a bachelor’s degree in television production. He is a junior and an officer in the Student Veterans Organization.
President Randy Dunn was at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale during the 9/11 attacks and saw major changes post 9/11 in the ROTC program.
“The SIU-C ROTC program had gone by the wayside, but has become much stronger,” he said.
Major Paul Denson, officer in charge of West Kentucky ROTC, also noted significant increases in enlistment and recruiting success following the 9/11 attacks.
“I can remember one lieutenant, in particular, who had no desire to be deployed,” Denson said. “When his father died in the Twin Towers, he immediately asked for assignment.
“You had two types of people who joined up at that time. People who wanted to be involved because of what was going on and those who signed up for military incentives designed to maintain the force.”
Alison Marshall, associate director of Veteran Affairs and adult student liaison, is working in conjunction with Dietz and veterans on campus to get the Student Veterans Organization off the ground.
“I think once all of these veterans start trusting each other and word of mouth begins to spread, more veterans will come out to support one another,” Marshall said.
Student Veterans Organization held its first meeting on Tuesday to coronate its new lounge in room 300 of Alexander Hall. It will meet again at 6 p.m. Tuesday to discuss group activities going forward.
The organization is looking for active or post-active duty veterans to become members as the semester progresses.
For more information about group activities, meeting times and general information, contact Deitz at 809-3754 or Marshall at 809-5796.