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Army strong

Veteran and social sciences alumnus Aaron Anderson knows how to thrive no matter what life throws his way

“I want UCI to be a great place for veterans to go and grow. This increases diversity, which is something I already love and respect about UCI,” says Aaron Anderson ’13, an advocate for fellow soldiers who works with administrators to bring more veteran resources to the campus.
Courtesy of Amanda Kate Photography

In an instant, Aaron Anderson’s entire world changed.

The Humvee transporting him and his Special Forces team through the Afghan desert was hit by an improvised explosive device, ejecting Anderson and his comrades from the vehicle.

“I knew what had happened almost immediately,” he says. “As I was suspended in the air, I didn’t know if I was going to survive.”

But he did. Despite the force from the blast and the subsequent gunfire, Anderson made it through that day in February 2006. He was seriously injured, but the realization that he was alive was a profound and life-altering moment.

The international studies alumnus and current MBA student at the University of California, Irvine has been sure to, in his words, “live as richly as possible” since then. Anderson founded the Green Beret Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Special Forces soldiers and their families. He was called out in President Barack Obama’s 2014 UCI commencement address and later discussed foreign policy and veterans’ issues with the commander in chief.

He married, started a family and now works on the trading floor at PIMCO, a global investment management firm. And though the path he’s taken is very different from anything he expected prior to that day in Afghanistan, the experience has motivated him to make the world a better place.

Anderson had been a rebellious Southern California teen – a far cry from the “quiet professionals” in the Army Special Forces. Family issues, including a less-than-present father and a mother who was battling cancer, led to misbehavior, and he was kicked out of the house.

“It was tough love, but I think it was the best thing she – as a single mother – could have done for me,” Anderson says. “If she hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be the man I am today. I wouldn’t have had to chart a different course.”

Eventually, he got his act together. He finished high school, was attending community college and was working toward a career in the music industry. Then 9/11 happened. Read more …

Battling PTSD

Veteran-alumnus to speak at UCI on the toll of trauma

“The story of the war belongs to the entire country, not just veterans,” says UCI alum David J. Morris.
Courtesy of David J. Morris

David J. Morris, University of California, Irvine alumnus, former Marine infantry officer, war correspondent and critically acclaimed author, returns to campus Wednesday, Nov. 30, to discuss “What We Talk About When We Are Talking About PTSD” at 4 p.m. in Humanities Gateway 1030. The event is part of the School of Humanities’ “Documenting War” series. Read more …

Veteran among first-generation mentors

New programs guide a changing student population to success

“Sit in the front row,” he was instructed at orientation. “Make eye contact with your professor.”

Harwood Garland grappled with that seemingly simple advice. In Iraq, he had learned to keep his back to a wall and let no one get behind him. Read more …