Dillon Mount is a 26-year-old accounting major from southern Utah who wears black rimmed glasses and casual clothes, and who seems like any other student that attends Colorado State University.
But, he is not: He is usually in a uniform.
When Mount was 18, he married his wife. When Mount was 19, he was deployed to a small village in Afghanistan.
Mount is a paratrooper in the United States Army. After being deployed twice, he now spends most of his time as the Battalion Cadet Command Sergeant Major for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at CSU.
As a commander for the ROTC, Mount is responsible for the well-being of every ROTC member, making sure that they are all doing okay.
This takes up the same amount of time as a full-time job, but it is not paid the same as regular jobs. Instead, Mount attends CSU for free through the Green and Gold scholarship.
“There’s nothing better than helping someone achieve something they want to achieve,” Mount said.
Mount was deployed for one and a half years before attending CSU. But, after he graduates this spring, he is going back to the army.
“I just like it,” Mount said of the army and returning after finishing school.
Mount described the army as a beehive—a giant complex working together to reach the same goal through unity.
As much as Mount loves the army he noted that when you join, you lose all individuality.
“I used to have super long hair,” Mount said, motioning to his short, military-style haircut.
However, he said the biggest strength of the army is the same as what can be considered the one of the worst parts of serving: the similarity among every soldier, wired to be the same.
Each soldier learns respect and responsibility—inherent in military training—and these qualities tend to stay after finishing their duties.
For this reason, when many re-adjust to civilization, they can become frustrated by the lack of respect or different type of respect that civilization often utilizes.
Mount approaches respect differently than some other veterans.
“People are people and they’re going to act how they want,” he said.
When Mount was stationed in Afghanistan, he noted that unlike many people’s misconceptions, being deployed does not mean constant war.
Though soldiers certainly experience war, they also have downtime in the camps they stay in.
A positive memory Mount recalls is when one of his fellow soldiers was sent kites from his family. Though American soldiers could have used the kites for themselves, they went to the village they were stationed in and gave it to the locals. He said the children especially appreciated them.
In Afghan culture, kite flying is an integral recreational activity, according to The New York Times. Kite-running is not the same as flying a kite in a park during a picnic as it is in the U.S., but a cultural expression.
The children in the village where he was stationed did not receive an education and were living in a dangerous zone. He said kite-running is one way for them to play and release their stress.
“Kids are the same everywhere,” Mount said. “They all just want to have fun.”
The Adult Learner and Veteran Services center at CSU offers a multitude of services such as tutoring and peer advising. However they most often introduce veterans to the community at CSU, according to Marc A. Baker, the director at ALVS.
“The hardest transition for most veterans is finding their community here at CSU,” Baker said. “Their active duty service is very community centered.”
According to Baker, many veterans feel like they are alone on an island when first attending CSU.
CSU has valuable resources for veterans, and one of the top ROTC programs in the country.
CSU’s “Ram Battalion” was named the best medium-sized program in the brigade, according to the ROTC CSU website. This proves to be valuable to students in the military, providing them with what they need in order to succeed.
Mount has enjoyed school and what CSU has offered him, except for one flaw.
“They do stupid [expletive] construction projects,” Mount said.
Regarding military members, Mount emphasized that they are all human and not different from everybody else. However, he said veterans tend to be more reserved in class due to the way that the military has changed them.
Mount recommended that if you see an older person in your class who seems to be quieter to just talk to them.
“If you just talk to a veteran, it can change your outlook on everything,” Mount said.
Some veterans are more jaded the longer they are in the service, Mount said. Yet, one thing he has learned from the military and fellow soldiers is that a better day will always come.
“Don’t waste today just because of how you feel,” Mount said. “Just because something bad happens one day doesn’t mean something better can’t happen tomorrow.”
Katie Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @katie_marshall3.