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Student veteran advocates for other veterans on campus through organization

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After serving in the Navy as an aviation boatswains mate aircraft handler for three years, Shae Diehl continues to serve her community by working with others at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Diehl, 28, is originally from Oklahoma and is a junior geophysics major. 

As an aircraft handler, Diehl worked on aircraft launch and recovery on the flight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard from 2013 to 2016. 

She said both of her grandfathers served in the military—one served during WWII in the Army and the other enlisted in the Navy in the 1950s.

Besides her family’s tradition of service, Diehl said other events influenced her decision to join serve her country.

“I was in fifth grade when 9/11 happened so I remember that day very clearly,” Diehl said.  “As I grew up, I felt the overwhelming urge to fulfill a patriotic duty, so I knew I had to serve.” 

She met her husband Chris, Petty Officer 2nd Class, while on active duty in Japan. Chris is currently stationed at the Naval Air Station in Kingsville. They have a two-year-old son, Dexter, who Diehl said inspired her to pursue higher education.

As she continues to work toward earning her degree at A&M-Kingsville, Diehl is listed in the Inactive Ready Reserves until May 2021. She's also the president of the Student Veterans Association on campus. 

Shae Diehl“Kingsville had the geophysics program I wanted so I came here. My experience has been a roller coaster,” she said. “I've met so many people who share the same experiences and I've met people who look at me like I'm a crazy person for having joined. I've really had a great experience as a student veteran on campus.” 

Diehl said she understands the transition from being in the military to civilian life is difficult and crucial. That’s the reason why she strives to help others in that situation.

“I struggled with my transition. Everyone was proud of you because you served and now you aren’t and you don’t know what to do,” she said. “We understand how each other is going to be feeling, and thinking as well as having similar experiences in warfighting. We offer a safe space for students to have the easiest transition experiences on campus,” she said.

 “The campus is very military friendly and I love that. It makes us more known. […] not everyone just knows we exist, but we know we exist,” she said. “The point of the Student Veterans Association is to bring awareness that we’re here. We’re here to learn, we’re here to promote. We’re here to help.” 

Some of Diehl’s responsibilities as president of the association include promoting the organization and its events such as the annual Veterans Day Ceremony.

Diehl said the ceremony has grown since she was a freshman. This year, she implemented flag sponsorships to honor veterans and their loved ones.

“Veterans Day, to me, means a celebration of those who were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice purely for those who are unable, for whatever reason, to pay it themselves. It’s a celebration of those who were willing to leave their homes and loved ones for the sake of service and self-sacrifice not for the betterment of the individual, but for the betterment of the whole country,” she said.

“The fact that somebody would come to a ceremony like this shows that they support me in return, they support the community, they support what we stand for and what we’ve done. That means the world to me and I know it does to a lot of other veterans as well. Just to know that we have the support of our friends and family who live back home is really what’s most important.”

 For more on Diehl, watch this video. 

Category: General Univ

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