The Hub@TTU is launching a series focusing on veterans studying at Texas Tech University. The series, which will include photos, videos, diary entries, Q&A’s and profiles, will tell the stories of veterans transitioning back to civilian life and of those that have already made the transition.
Feet that have walked in the most dangerous territories in the world in the midst of war now return to stroll through Texas Tech University’s Memorial Circle. Juggling 15 hours of classes, working as a police officer and supporting his family, 30-year-old Justin Holt is not your ordinary student.
After making the life changing decision to join the Army at age 18, Holt left his West Texas home and embarked on a five-year career as a military police officer. He served two tours in Iraq and was also stationed in El Paso and Austin. Holt returned to college this semester to pursue degrees in anthropology and linguistics.
Holt plans on receiving his bomb technician certification and using his degrees from Texas Tech to return to the Middle East and assist in bomb education and training with local police forces.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Hub@TTU: Mr. Holt, could we begin by getting some background information?
Holt: I grew up around this area and spent all of my life here. I come from a military family, too. My stepfather was in the Navy, my grandfather was Army Air Corps, uncles were both Army. I did JROTC and let that really influence me, so at 18-years-old, right after graduation, I went in as an M.P. (military police) starting in July of 2005 until August 2010. I had two deployments, both to Iraq, and then I was stationed in El Paso, then Austin, and I recently moved back here because of a job opportunity with the Lubbock Police Department.
The Hub@TTU: Considering you’re coming back to school after two tours in Iraq and years away from traditional classroom education, what challenges have you faced?
Holt: Enlisting at 18-years-old and then coming back to school has both benefits and challenges. I’m a very non-traditional student. I’m 30 years old with a full-time career and I’m also going back to school for a double major in anthropology and linguistics. Also, to be able to use my Army education benefits, I’m required to take a full 15 hours. So being a parent, two kids, 30 years old, trying to have a career, support a family, and also be a full-time student is difficult. The whole thing is a lot to put on a person’s plate. I sometimes feel like the “grandpa” of the class.
The Hub@TTU: How has the military benefitted you in your time here at Texas Tech?
Holt: Time management is a huge one. I was promoted to the rank of sergeant in the Army where I was sometimes in charge of 12-16 soldiers and in charge of troop movements on missions. I’m able to translate that to school and I know without the Army my 18-year-old self would’ve given up on certain things. Now with my time in the Army, I can take a deep breath and tell myself, “I can do this.”
The Hub@TTU: Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger college peers?
Holt: If there’s one thing I could tell them it would be to relax and understand that education is the one thing in this world that they can never take away from you. They can foreclose on your home, repossess your car, take your house, but at the end of the day they cannot take away your education. So take a deep breath, relax, and learn what you can when you can.