Since being adopted at the age of 13, the road to Texas Tech University for Odes Gish was far from traditional.
Searching for a way to become more self-disciplined and motivated, Gish enlisted in the United States Army in 2009 after graduating from high school. Now, he walks among the other Red Raiders on campus.
Now a 26-year-old cadet in Texas Tech’s Green to Gold Active Duty program offered through the Reserve Officer Training Corps, Gish is a junior university studies major with concentrations in political science, military studies, and organizational leadership.
Along with his wife, Stephanie, and 4-year-old daughter, Gish currently embraces the challenges and opportunities presented for non-traditional veteran students.
Gish maintains his active duty status and claims Texas Tech as his new post where he serves. After college, he plans to become a second lieutenant aviation officer and continue his career in the United States Army.
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.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Hub@TTU: Mr. Gish, could we begin by getting some background information on you?
Gish: Sure. I’m originally from Bentonville, Arkansas. I grew up in a poor family and ended up becoming adopted at the age 13. When I graduated high school I had the choice of going to college or going to the military, and I thought going to the military would give me the discipline I needed to be successful. I originally planned to serve three years, but when I got in, I realized that I liked it more than I thought I would. I deployed with the 1st Army Division to Iraq in 2011 to conduct the draw-down of the whole ordeal there. After that, I went to Ranger school while in the 82nd airborne unit and then I got accepted into the Green to Gold program here at Texas Tech.
The Hub@TTU: Considering that you joined the Army right after high school, how are you acclimating to attending college for the first time? What challenges have you faced?
Gish: The biggest challenge is being able to delegate my time. I’m married and have a family now. I also have so many different experiences than those I sit next to in class. At times it can be isolating because I can’t go join a fraternity or hang out with people I see in class, because at the end of the day I want to go home and spend time with my family. Also, the mentality of being in group projects with civilians (people without military experience) can be very challenging at times. The Army has taught me to be very goal driven. I think 10 steps ahead and the other people in my group are thinking about the weekend, or they don’t even know why they’re in college yet. For me, my grades determine the future of my career.
The Hub@TTU: Do you remember your first day of class here at Texas Tech?
Gish: Yeah! I was really excited actually. I love going to class and seeing that I still have a lot to learn and many ways to improve as a leader.
The Hub@TTU: If a veteran approached you and said that they wanted to come back to college, what advice would you give them?
Gish: Have flexible expectations. People don’t always understand you or how things are for us, and they might not ever understand, but they’re people just like anyone else and you have to adapt to their different personalities and responses.
The Hub@TTU: Do you have a favorite memory from your military experience?
Gish: I got to jump out of Black Hawk helicopters in Ranger school and with my 82nd airborne unit. Getting to jump out of the helicopters was awesome, but seeing the Apache helicopters fly low and shooting rockets over my head in Iraq was one of the biggest reasons I want to commission as an aviation officer.
The Hub@TTU: Do you remember what it was like when you first stepped foot in Iraq?
Gish: We flew out of El Paso, Texas and if you’ve ever been there you know it’s dry, sandy, and hot. When we got to Iraq, I can swear we never left El Paso. It felt the exact same, it was crazy.
The Hub@TTU: Being with people who might be forced to come to college or still don’t know what they want, what do you wish you could tell your fellow, younger college student?
Gish: The hardest thing to figure out in life is deciding what you want to do. When you’re 90 years old, what do you want to say you did with your life? When I take that mentality it clears things up as to where me and my family are going. If you don’t want to waste your days, months, even years of your life, think about what really matters most to you.
The Hub@TTU: Seeing that you’re new to the area, what do you like most about Lubbock?
Gish: For me, Lubbock has been, by far, the most military friendly city I’ve lived in. It seems like people here understand that sometimes being in the military is hard, it takes a toll on us. They seem to acknowledge that and appreciate our willingness to go out and defend the nation.