By Katy Lauro
Most people can remember exactly where they were on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
On that tragic day in American history, Queens senior Walter Broadhurst sat in his eighth grade Social Studies class and watched the Twin Towers burn and smolder as they slowly crumbled to the ground. Broadhurst knew he needed to figure out what he would do with his future and that's when he became focused on joining the military.
Throughout high school, Broadhurst prepared himself for a career in the military. He joined the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) and dedicated the majority of his time to it. He took every JROTC class offered and frequently volunteered through the organization in the community, during parades, food drives and even on funeral duty. He also held leadership positions in the group every year of high school.
Upon graduating from high school, Broadhurst enlisted in the Reserves of the United States Marine Corps, which mainly consisted of training and drills during the weekends. At age 19, Broadhurst volunteered to go to Iraq. His parents worried; but were supportive in his decision.
Broadhurst recently spoke to an auditorium full of Queens students, faculty and staff about his deployment.
"I remember getting off the plane in 140-degree weather and being drenched in sweat just from walking down the runway," Broadhurst said.
From funny stories about roommates to powerful stories about missions while being deployed, Broadhurst shared many things with the audience that he had never spoken with anyone about.
"I shared small things with people before, but never really thought about telling anyone stories until Campus Union Board approached me about doing a lecture." Broadhurst said. He also talked about his decision in choosing Queens to further his education after deployment.
"An admissions counselor e-mailed me once a week when I first showed interest in coming to Queens and it was that personal touch that is the reason I'm here." Broadhurst said. "The faculty end up being mentors and advisors inside and out of the classroom and there are also so many opportunities for service work that I really appreciate."
Walter also spoke highly of the Health and Wellness Center supporting him and helping him adjust to civilian life after deployment.
"Many people don't realize the simple tasks we need to get reacquainted with such as cooking, driving and paying bills, all things we're not used to doing ourselves while deployed."
QU4Troops, a new club on campus, co-sponsored Broadhurst's talk. The group is comprised mainly of students who have a connection to the military, whether they are military spouses or have a family member who serves or has served. The goal of the club is to serve the military community and to support each other within the club.
Alexandra Restrepo Osorio, a Queens student and Marine wife, started QU4Troops because she felt like she did not have anyone to support her through her unique challenges. "My goal was to reach out to students who had a connection to the military and show support and appreciation to the rest of the military members and their families," Osorio said.
QU4TROOPS is currently working a silent auction, with proceeds going to the purchase of calling cards for service members. QU4TROOPS also has many connections to deployed units for people who may not personally know a soldier, but are interested in donating care items.
For anyone interested in supporting our troops overseas, here are some personal recommendations from Broadhurst of care package items to send:
Mail - Even a letter from someone they don't know is comforting to a solider
Calling Cards - Hearing a familiar voice can make someone's day
Beef Jerky/Snack Bars - Food is limited, so anything they can throw in their backpack is great
Movies/Books/Magazines - Anything to pass the time while they are waiting on their next assignment