Every veteran of war has a symbol he or she is proud of. Every soldier served in a unit that had a symbol or “code of arms” as an identifying marker that brought pride. After their service, some veterans later wear these symbols as badges of honor, proof that they sacrificed much for the service of their country. It could be the four clovers of the 4th Infantry Division patch, or the yellow snake of the “Don’t Tread on Me” insignia.
For Eugene Stallings it is a green bomber jacket that is decorated with numerous patches of his prior service that he wears in honor of his time fighting in the Iraq war.
Stallings is one of many veterans who currently attends Texas Wesleyan this semester. He is an Iraqi War veteran and is a member of Wesleyan’s Veteran’s Club. He likes to help other veterans by talking with them and helping them with problems.
“One thing I miss about the Navy is the group cohesion, the missions, and waking up every day knowing that something I will do today will affect a broader picture than myself,” he said.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Stallings is a United States Navy veteran who currently majors in business at Texas Wesleyan. He served for four and a half years in the Navy.
He fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom on the aircraft carrier the USS Nemesis. Stallings said he was in Iraq during the initial invasion of 2003.
While deployed, Stallings said he performed a variety of jobs. He served as a crewman and as a jet engine mechanic. But Stallings said his true passion during the war came from helping others. Stallings said he would lend an ear or hand to anyone in need.
“I really enjoyed delivering the mail to other soldiers in the field,” Stallings said. I lived much better than most soldiers, so I had access to shopping areas and better food,” Stallings said.
Stallings said he would regularly buy birthday presents for the children of other busy soldiers who could not do it themselves. He said he would then help the soldiers mail the gifts home in time for their birthdays.
Joe Brown, dean of freshmen, said Stallings has a wonderful way of approaching his view point about life.
“I really enjoyed having him in my class,” Brown said. “He would make me laugh, and I could tell that he was there to learn.”
Dr. Timothy Grammer, professor of history at Wesleyan, said Stallings was instrumental in helping Carolyn Clontz, president of the Veteran’s Club.
Grammer said members of the club “always said he was the go-to guy.”
The VA club helps veteran students by making them aware of the benefits they are qualified for. They also help members apply for the benefits from the government, which can be a long and hard process, Stallings said.
“If any Veteran here on campus needs help, they can contact the VA Club, and we will help,” Stallings said.
Whether it is helping fellow soldiers or helping fellow Wesleyan students, Stallings is ready to serve.
It is the things we do in life that determine who we are. The badges of honor worn by veterans are only small reminders of what they have given their country.
On your next stroll through campus, keep an eye out for combat patches.
This is part one of a thre-part series on Wesleyan veterans.