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Military Training Will Serve Johnston Well in Nursing Career

More than 350 veterans of the U.S. armed forces chose to attend St. Louis Community College this year, and our College is proud to support them in every step of their educational journey. We know they sacrificed to serve our nation and we want to provide every opportunity for them to succeed in whatever they pursue. As we celebrate Veterans Day on Friday, Nov. 11, STLCC is highlighting veterans who attend classes on our four main campuses. A new story will appear Monday-Thursday, leading up to the holiday. 

We encourage you to read these stories for details and we ask that you please join us in thanking our veterans for their service.

Brandon JohnstonBrandon Johnston knows what it takes to succeed on the front line. Resilience, persistence and patience.

These are skills he’s learned over the years, first as a student in Jefferson College’s emergency medical technology program and later while serving his country as a soldier in the U.S. Army and as a medic in the Missouri National Guard.

Fast-forward to today, Johnston, 26, is training for a new career that will also require him to demonstrate a high level of resilience, persistence and patience.

“I want to be a nurse,” he said. “I’ve always had a desire to help others, and I think a career as a trauma nurse will allow me to blend my passion for service with my interest in the medical field.”

To make his career goal a reality, Johnston is studying at St. Louis Community College. While he’s completed the majority of his general education coursework at Meramec, he’s also taken courses at Florissant Valley, Wildwood and online.

“After high school, I thought I wanted to work as a first responder, so I earned my EMT certificate. Soon after, I realized it wasn’t my dream, so I joined the Army,” he explained. “Returning to the classroom was an adjustment, but I know it’s necessary to build the career I want.”

Military Service

Johnston accepted an assignment with the infantry in 2015. In the three years that followed, he completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan. There, he ran patrol, cleared roadside bombs and engaged in small arms firefights. While the job was tough, he survived and even thrived. When his contract ended in 2018, Johnston had achieved the rank of corporal and left having earned commendation medals for valor and combat.

When he returned home, he spent some time working construction jobs. Then, in 2019, he joined the Missouri National Guard as a medic.

The following spring, his duties with the Guard intensified as COVID-19 cases spiked across the country. Eager to serve, he volunteered for a four-month assignment that required him to suit up and administer COVID-19 tests to patients at a medical site outside of Chicago.

“Serving on the front lines during the height of a global pandemic taught me a lot about myself and the medical field,” he said. “Ultimately, that experience solidified my decision to become a nurse. The reason is because I want to be able to provide patients with a higher level of care.”

College Experience 

Today, Johnston is just a few credits shy of being able to apply for STLCC’s nursing program, a goal he plans to achieve next spring. According to Kimberlee Vaughn, M.A., associate professor of psychology, Johnston is well-positioned to make that happen. Her opinion is based on her interactions with Johnston in her human growth and development course.

“Brandon is very comfortable sharing stories from his life experiences as a veteran during our class discussions,” she said. “His sense of humor and his inclusive demeanor with classmates is refreshing to see as an instructor.”

She went on to add, “As a student, he excels at expanding upon topics and applying what we discuss in class to real-world experiences. I’m confident that he has the potential to achieve his college and career goals.”

In looking back on his experience in the military, Johnston is proud to have served and feels fortunate to be able to take advantage of the benefits now afforded to him.

“The military helped mold me into the man I am today,” he said. “While it’s tough to serve, the experience taught me that I’m adaptable and flexible, and more resilient than I ever knew.”

While there are many benefits to serving in the military, there’s one at the top of his list.

“If you’re considering the military, you should give it try because it can set you up for life,” he said. “As a result of my service, I now have an affordable pathway to earn my college degree – and this is a benefit I intend to maximize.”

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