While some ORCSD students may have thought Wednesday, November 11th was just a day off from school, veterans all across America were celebrating Veteran’s Day. There are 17.4 million veterans living in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau, and every one of these veterans have their own stories and lives after their service. The Oyster River community has its own share of veterans and even students at ORHS who are planning to enlist in the military after graduating.
David Newton, Mark Combs, and Gilbert Tumaneng are local veterans who reflect on their time in the military and apply their skills to their current lives and professions. For students interested in joining the military after high school, it is evident that the skills learned in the military will translate back to their time out of it. Veterans have learned a lot from their service and they all have a story to tell, no matter what they do in their current lives.
David Newton is a United States Marine Corps veteran who served from 1997 to 2002 as a Micro Computer Repairman. He was stationed in California and Okinawa, Japan where he spent most of his time during service.
Newton joined the military to gain new opportunities in his life that weren’t available growing up. “I didn’t really know what else to do. I grew up quite poor and nobody in my family had gone to college and it seemed like a good way to start out, get some skills, get paid, and then go to college after that,” said Newton.
After Newton served as a Marine, he went to school to further his education. He returned to Upstate New York and received his undergraduate degree in business and economics. He followed that by attending law school at Boston University and became a lawyer.
Newton worked as a lawyer for multiple companies until starting his own business as a Criminal Defense Attorney in Stratham, New Hampshire working for himself. “I think I still use a lot of the things I learned [in the military] to get the things done in my life now. People tend to be very grateful for it, so it actually helps me when I’m advertising my own business now. People often comment that one of the reasons they hired me was because they saw my military background along with the rest of my pedigree and that was a deciding factor for them,” said Newton.
One of the transferable skills from his time in the Marines was the ability to remain focused. Newton said, “probably the most important thing you learn in the military is to accomplish whatever you need to do. I was fairly organized and I was smart, so it gave me the ability to focus.”
Newton wants people who aren’t veterans to know about the sacrifice these people make when they join the military. He said, “every veteran, whether they’re in for a couple years or a long period of time, basically turn over their life to serve the country. They’re asked at any point and time to put themselves in harm’s way and they do that voluntarily and freely.”
Mark Combs lives in Haverill, MA and served from 2000 to 2004 in the United States Marine Corps with the First Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team and also served in the Second Battalion First Marines Infantry. He escorted ships during his service and was stationed in Virginia, North Carolina, Iraq, and Italy.
Combs had family in the military that inspired him to join since a young age. He said, “I have a long family history of being in the military. My step dad was an Airborne Ranger and I lived with him my whole life and I saw what he was doing and thought that it would be something that I’d like to do, so I joined right after high school.”
After Combs served as a Marine, he went to school to get an x-ray license. “In Iraq I stepped on a landmine, so I was getting a lot of x-rays. Every time I’d get an x-ray, some piece of shrapnel or something new would be found inside my body and I was like, ‘woah, this is kind of interesting,’ so I thought it could be something that I’d do,” said Combs. The accident in Iraq provoked an interest in x-rays for Comb. He now works as an X-Ray Technician and has been doing this since 2009.
Apart from his injury in Iraq that inspired his career path later in life, Combs mentioned some skills that he had learned from being in the Marine Corps. He said that he still uses his leadership, comradery, and knowledge that he gained from his service in his life now.
Out of Hawaii, Gilbert Tumaneng served in the United States Air Force doing air transportation loading things such as weapons, cargo, people, animals, helicopters, and hazardous material. He enlisted at the age of 19 and has been a part of the Air Force for almost nine years.
He was stationed in North Carolina for four years, then was deployed to Afghanistan. Tumaneng then went to South Korea for a year followed by South Carolina for three years. He is now in Bedford, New Hampshire where he’ll be for the next 4 years.
He works now as a Recruiter for the Air Force, talking to high schoolers and graduates about their future plans and goals and to consider the Air Force’s opportunities. It’s a career that he enjoys because of how social and personal it is. “I am a very sociable person, so working with the high school kids and graduates and just talking to them about their plans and their goals and about the Air Force was something I enjoy because of all the social interaction.”
Tumaneng initially had plans of working in the automotive industry because he was inspired to open a repair shop after watching the Fast and Furious movies. He started attending college in hopes of being a repairman, but realized that it wasn’t the path for him. Tumaneng said, “I ended up dropping out of college and working two jobs. Since I was working two jobs with nothing to do, there was an Army recruiter on the island I lived on and I went to go talk to him and he told me everything about the Army and I was sold.”
After learning about the Army, Tumaneng consulted his cousin who was also in the military. His cousin suggested the Air Force and Tumaneng contacted an Air Force recruiter shortly after.
“Since I’m from Hawaii, the air force recruiter was on a different island, so it was a little different as far as communicating because we had to do everything over phone and email, but I ended up going the Air Force route and I don’t regret it one day and I’ve been there ever since,” said Tumaneng.
The Air Force provided a world of possibilities for Tumaneng that he wasn’t expecting. He said, “when I first came to the Air Force, I literally had no expectations, I just wanted to join for the experience and to leave Hawaii and see the world. With being in the Air Force, I’ve gone to many many places that I never thought I would go to.”
Tumaneng encourages people to keep an open mind about the military. He said, “I know the military kind of has this stigma to it, but I always encourage people to look at all their options and dig deep and do their own research as far as military and what opportunities and benefits it can offer you […] with the Air Force and military in general, that would definitely help a lot of people out.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Air Force, Tumaneng said he is happy to talk. He can be found on Instagram @airforce_portsmouth and his phone number is (603) 785-6165.
Veteran’s Day is for acknowledging, appreciating, and thanking the people that dedicate their time and lives to serving for the United States. Combs wants veterans to be acknowledged for their time in the military even by simple gestures. Combs said, “veterans are very important. A lot of people ask me, ‘what do we say? How would you like to be thanked?” and I say, ‘just tell [veterans] thank you.’ That means more to a veteran than anything, just someone to say thank you and you would not believe how far that goes.”