From Army Medic to American History Grad: Veteran Celebrates Degree
United States Army veteran Nathaniel Lohn has held many titles in his life. He's been an Army medic, a musician, a teacher and an aide to a former U.S. senator, but today he gets to add a new title to his roster. He's a college graduate.
On Wednesday, Aug. 31, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and the United Services Organizations (USO), a charitable organization focused on serving active-duty service members and their families, teamed up to award Lohn his diploma at a graduation celebration.
This special event was hosted at the community college, College of Southern Maryland (CSM), a school SNHU has a close partnership with to make transferring to a 4-year university easier for students. Lohn also completed his associate degree at CSM in 2012.
"Together, our institutions transform the lives of students through the power of education as that is our purpose, and we could not be more excited to honor Nate," said Linda Chaney, the midwest regional director for University Partnerships at SNHU.
"When I found out that they (SNHU) would accept all my credits from CSM and my military service, it left me with almost a handful of classes to complete," he said.
And today, with the help of the USO and SNHU, Lohn was able to celebrate earning his bachelor's degree in American history with the USO, his community college and university, surrounded by his friends and family.
"My father was able to attend, and my mother was able to fly in," he said. "I am extremely grateful because it made for a beautiful day for my family and I to celebrate this awesome accomplishment."
One Step Closer to His Goals
Lohn joined the Army in 2005, right out of high school. He served as a combat medic for five-and-a-half years, spending a year in Iraq and the remainder at an Army Medical Center.
After his time in the military, Lohn transitioned to a role as healthcare and personal aide to former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, whom he worked on and off with from 2010 up until his recent passing in Dec. 2021.
Today, Lohn is a substitute teacher and full-time musician, playing in local venues around Maryland. Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, he had more time on his hands and figured it was the right time to go back to school and get his bachelor's degree.
Lohn knew he wanted to study something he has a strong passion for, and now, having completed his degree in American History, he has a new career goal.
"I hope to possibly teach history as an adjunct professor," he said. "I would like to have the freedom and flexibility to telework so that I can travel, and having this degree opens so many doors for me as far as what's available through telework."
And getting his bachelor's is only the beginning for him.
"I need my master's to get to the point of teaching at the college level, so this is just one step closer," he said.
A School That Understood Him as a Veteran and a Person
When Lohn was searching for the right university to finish his degree, he wanted to ensure he went somewhere he would feel supported and not taken advantage of as a military veteran.
When he found SNHU, it appealed to him as a non-profit and military-friendly university. He also believed it would be a place that understood him as a veteran and person.
"My advisor was always around to assist if I had problems or needed to take a break," Lohn said. "The financial aid counselors were great because there was a specific extension to talk to financial aid counselors about military benefits, so I always spoke to someone who really knew what they were talking about."
He said his instructors always understood if he needed an extension due to his busy work and personal life. Even as Lohn juggled a full-time job, performing 2-3 shows every weekend and his course work, he excelled in his education.
Ensuring a special event to celebrate his graduation and honor his hard work as a military veteran was essential to the USO and SNHU.
"It was important for us to have a diploma delivery for Nate because he is a stellar student who utilized our transfer-friendly enrollment process and maintained a 4.0 GPA," said Victoria White, a regional director of university partnerships at SNHU.
Understanding the Importance of Education
While Lohn's been out of the military for some time, he understands the importance a degree can hold for those still in service.
"When I was in the military, earning your degree would hold great weight in helping you earn promotion points towards advancing your career," he said. "I believe moving on into the senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) ranks, earning your degree was practically a necessity."
Lohn encourages all military members to take advantage of getting their education. "Get started as soon as possible, don't waste any more days or even minutes considering it," he said. "Just do it."
Getting your degree can have many benefits, whether in or out of the military. A degree can help with both your professional and personal goals. For Lohn, his American history degree has helped him grow in areas outside his goal of becoming a professor.
"History is an incredibly well-rounded discipline because it offers aspects of sociology, English and critical thinking skills," he said. "Strengthening these skills has been instrumental in helping me to communicate to others and helping me to understand how we as a human race have gotten to where we are now."
With his newfound skills, degree and experience in the military, Lohn will continue to help people and work towards his many goals.
"Nate considers himself a healer in many capacities. He said that he used to heal people in the Army as a combat medic, and now he heals people through his music," said White. "Now Nate can add earning his degree to his list of healing elements as he applies his learnings to his future endeavors."
Throughout his degree journey, Lohn's advisor Mike Capppucio and others at SNHU, the USO and CSM recognized his hard work, determination, and perseverance in reaching his degree's completion.
They know Lohn will make it far in achieving his goals, and he's only just getting started.
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Alexa Gustavsen '21 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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