By Sarah Sabatke

After graduating from high school in Waynesville, Missouri, Kyle Andrews attended community college. It was there that he realized it was “time to do something else.”

At age 21, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He wanted to serve others in a more meaningful and hands-on way. He also wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who served 26 years in the Marine Corps.

“I decided, ‘You know what, I want to follow, do the same thing he’s doing, but make it my own,’ ” Andrews said.

Andrews began boot camp in San Diego, California, on Oct. 20, 2014. He served with the Marine Corps as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Defense (CBRN) Specialist, and was promoted to corporal in April 2017.

Deployed overseas

From July 2018 to February 2019, Andrews served abroad with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, part of what he describes as a “peacekeeping mission.”

Kyle Andrews hanging upside down from military equipment, wearing uniform
Kyle Andrews hangs upside down from a tank during some free time while serving in Kuwait with the United States Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Kyle Andrews.

His service took him to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific before spending several months in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Andrews was deployed aboard the USS Rushmore (LSD 47), a Whidbey Island-class Amphibious Dock Landing Ship.

During his deployment, he submitted his application to MU. From a few short visits in the past — and all he had heard from friends who had graduated from MU — he knew that was where he wanted to go.

“I had just gotten back on ship, and I decided, ‘You know, it’s time to do something else,’” Andrews said. “I decided I want to do this for myself. I want to do this for myself so I can help others even more.”

On April 19, 2019, he ended his active service. Four months later, at age 25, he began his first semester at MU.

From service to student

Andrews’ daily routine looks quite different now. He lives in downtown Columbia, a far cry from the single large, open room on the ship where he used to bunk with 35 other Marines.

He is studying biochemistry at MU and expects to graduate in May 2023. Andrews learned about how certain environments affected the human body while in the Marine Corps — and now, he wants to understand why.

Aside from attending classes, he spends time studying and relaxing at the Mizzou Student Veterans Association space in Memorial Union. During the third week of each month, the group goes out to a local restaurant to spend time together and discuss any problems they may have.

“Mizzou Student Veterans Association, they’re really good at finding the answers,” Andrews said. “Really good at ‘What’s the issue?,’ ‘What can we help you with?,’ and ‘Is there anything that isn’t being done that can be done?’”

Supporting each other

November is recognized as National Veteran and Military Families Month, and Veterans Day is Nov. 11. For veterans, though, Andrews says the daily struggles aren’t confined to one month. He says that mental health is a big issue, especially around the holidays.

“One of my best friends, from my old unit, he got out, he went back to Ohio and didn’t have anyone to really talk to,” Andrews said. “I had a friend call me at 1:30 a.m. the other day like, ‘Hey man, can we talk?’ We talked for four and a half hours.”

He does his best to support his friends, whether he met them while serving or on campus.

Kyle Andrews poses for a portrait outside of Memorial Student Union, hands clasped in front of him
MU freshman Kyle Andrews stands in front of Memorial Student Union, home to the Mizzou Student Veterans Association. Andrews, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, has found a home with the organization. Julia Hansen/University of Missouri

Andrews has also found friends and encouragement through the Mizzou Student Veterans Association and is working to establish a co-ed service fraternity for student veterans, to support each other on campus.

“Especially in the military, it’s some of the biggest fraternities in the world right there,” Andrews said. “Leaving the military, that brotherhood, and coming to a campus, it’s like, ‘I don’t really feel like I fit in with them’ … instead of ‘Hey, you know, we’ve been through some similar situations, how about you come and join us?’”

After graduation, Andrews would like to work with the government, possibly with forensic science or defense research. Every part of his plan for the future involves what he says is “doing my part for others.” After having lived all over the world, he says anywhere is comfortable — as long as he feels confident in his abilities as a scientist and as a citizen.

Andrews said his time in the military made him a better person, something he tries to build on in every interaction he has with others on campus — and during those late-night phone calls from friends he served with.

“I set everything else aside and focus on that,” Andrews said. “Just having someone to talk to, having someone to vent to, is really a big part of being a human being. Of being a brother.”

 

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