By Rebecca Fiedler
Many Baylor students have served overseas with the United States military and have brought their experiences back to Waco with them.
Seattle, Wash., junior Bryan Solis first came to Baylor in the spring of 2013, after serving six years overseas with the Marine Corps.
Solis first enlisted in the Marine Corps his junior year of high school. Solis said he was inspired by his high school AFJROTC instructor, who would eventually adopt him and become his dad.
“A lot of what I learned from him really inspired me to continue to build on that discipline and things he’d taught me before,” Solis said.
Solis was deployed in August 2007. He was 18 years old, had graduated high school and was taking online courses with Kaplan University. Once with the Marine Corps, he was deployed to many different places, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chile and Myanmar. His job was Counterintelligence/Human Source Intelligence, which involves keeping enemies from observing intelligence and tactics.
“I was attached to the Marine Corps and Embassy Security Group, and those Marines are actually deployed to various areas around the world to provide security to over 220 different embassies and consulates,” Solis said.
Solis saw combat in Iraq and was injured, he said. He was shot five times and was in two vehicle-born IED, or improvised explosive device, explosions. His memory from the events is fuzzy, he said.
“Honestly there’s not a whole lot I can recall – at least not in the moment,” Solis said.
Solis said there was a lot to learn, and the work was very fast-paced, and he was scared at times. But, with training and with other personnel at his side, he said he felt a sense of security.
“It was also a bit comforting to know that if any dangerous circumstances arose, that someone would be taking care of it, to the best of our abilities,” Solis said.
After his six years of work with the Marine Corps, Solis returned home November 2012. Baylor was a big change in scenery from what he had been experiencing, Solis said.
“It’s honestly a completely different experience,” he said. “It’s a lot different coming to a university whenever you have a lot of experience underneath your belt, whatever ranks you serve in. Because you’re not this 18 year old high school graduate coming to college. You have some kind of worldly experience with you.”
Solis said relating to students was difficult at first upon return, but he found a good community at Baylor through the Veterans of Baylor student club, which the Baylor website describes as a club that helps student and faculty veterans build connections with one another, as well as with those who have someone close to them serving overseas.
“It’s just nice to be able to speak to someone who’s been there and has some experiences you can relate to,” Solis said.
Solis also said Baylor faculty and staff have had a positive effect on him.
“The faculty here has been really great,” he said. “They’ve taken the time to actually get to know me a little bit and consider my experiences in a lot of the curriculum they used. It’s really great being able to use those experiences in the classroom and be able to see things in a broader perspective than just what you read out of a textbook or what you hear in a lecture.”
Solis said he thinks Baylor students should be aware that there are veterans present among them.
“It’s more of an awareness that we want them to have as a group,” Solis said. “I don’t think any veterans are looking for any kind of parade or any kind of special treatment other than acknowledgement for the service that they have done.”