By Rebecca Fiedler
Palestine, Texas, sophomore John Hazel is serving in Afghanistan as a specialist for the National Guard. He has been stationed there for three months; his total deployment is scheduled to last 12 months.
Hazel enlisted Jan. 5, 2011, as a senior in high school. During his freshman year at Baylor, he joined the ROTC, just to see if it was something he liked, Hazel said.
He decided, however, the officer route that the ROTC offers was not the one he wanted to take, so he did not participate in ROTC as a sophomore.
The Baylor website says ROTC cadets do not deploy until they have graduated and are commissioned as officers.
“My plans kind of changed midway through,” Hazel said. “When you do ROTC and you contract with ROTC, there’s actually no chance of you being deployed because you’re attached to the ROTC program.”
Hazel has had to skip semesters at Baylor because of military training, and he plans on returning to Baylor in the fall of 2014 as a sophomore in his second semester.
Hazel said he learned many skills and got a lot of experience out of Baylor that affect him serving in Afghanistan.
“I’m a political science major and so a lot of the classes that I took there deal with kind of this area in the Middle East and what all is going on over here, so they’ve given me a pretty good insight just being here. It’s given me a pretty neat perspective.”
The relationships Hazel formed at Baylor and Antioch Community Church in Waco have strengthened and encouraged him along the way in his military service, Hazel said. He said he also thinks it was a good idea to be deployed mid-college career instead of before.
“I try and stay as up-to-date as possible, and my life group from Antioch keeps me pretty up-to-date on everything that’s happening,” Hazel said. “I know God’s been doing a lot, and I know He still has a lot in store there at Baylor. So that’s one of the things that keeps me going — thinking about everything that’s happening back there. It’s exciting to hear about it.”
Hazel said faculty and staff at Baylor have taken care of his needs at school during his deployment.
“I definitely don’t think I’d find this much support from the Baylor faculty and staff at any other university, so that’s been a big help as well in transitioning,” he said.
Hazel would like to remind his fellow Baylor students that veterans walk among them.
“You’d be surprised how many of our classmates, or even our teachers and professors, are veterans and prior service members,” Hazel said. “Some of the best connections I’ve had have been with prior service members.”
Hazel said veterans have wisdom and experience to share.
“There’s just a lot you can take from what they have to say from where they’ve been,” he said.