On Nov. 11, Americans everywhere will take pride in celebrating Veterans Day as we honor our soldiers. Many of these Veterans have been given the opportunity to attend colleges and further their education through the help of administrations such as the Veterans Affairs Commission. Emporia State is proud to have one of its own on campus who sat down to share his story.
Lorenzo Tuero is a junior communication major at ESU and is on track to graduate in May 2022. He entered the U.S. Marine Corp in 1975 at only 17 years old. His reason for serving was influenced by his desire to help support his mother who was a single parent raising his siblings.
One of his favorite moments that occurred during his service was after beginning training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California.
“Because I was the youngest, I got my dress blues for free,” Tuero said. “And they gave me a gold plate with a gold knife, fork, and spoon just for being the youngest marine on the base. That was one of the funnest times.”
After his three-month long training, Tuero was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for one year and describes his experience there mentioning both the good times and the hard times.
“The cultures of the people are so beautiful, the art, the culture,” Tuero said. “But then there’s the sad things. Once in a while they would come and protest in front of our base and throw tomatoes saying American pigs go home. I’ve even had stuff thrown at me while I was jogging outside the base.”
While he was stationed in Japan, Tuero’s job was mainly to supply gear for soldiers.
“Marines came to me to check out gear for infantry training,” Tuero said. “I had the helmets, the backpacks, the cantines, cartridge belts—everything you need when you’re in the field.” After serving as a Marine, Tuero worked many other jobs including being a jailer for the Chase County Sheriff’s Department where he injured his back during his evening rounds.
During a visit to the VA hospital, he was given the news that he could use his veteran benefits to go back to school if he wanted to.
“I’m only 58,” Tuero said. “I thought, ‘Is this it? Is this the end of my life? Is this where it all comes to an end?’ I said ‘No, I still feel strong.’ My mindset is that there is more I want to give back. Pay it forward.”
Tuero plans to use his communication degree to help other veterans after graduation and has been offered a job as an outpatient veteran representative in Wichita.
“The only thing I could think of is if I go to college and get a degree, I want to go back and work at a VA hospital and help my fellow veterans,” Tuero said.
“That’s my goal.”
As he moves closer to this goal, Tuero said that students made him feel welcomed from the very beginning of his journey.
“After my back surgery,” Tuero said. “I actually had a walker. I had my books and my backpack. And the kids would run and hold the door for me.”
Tuero was grateful for professors at ESU as well, comparing his experience with them as one similar to the camaraderie he felt amongst his commanders within the Marines.
“And then there are the instructors,” Tuero said. “I had that feeling sort of like Marine Corp. ‘Lorenzo if you don’t quit on us, we won’t quit on you.’ The instructors here are nothing short of amazing.”
Professors on campus are equally as grateful with Tuero’s presence in the classroom. Sheryl Lidzy, associate professor of communication and theatre, is one of Tuero’s current instructors. Lidzy said that non-traditional students such as Tuero add variety to classrooms.
“Lorenzo is very insightful,” Lidzy said. “He has had a wide variety of lived experiences that adds an extended perspective that I may not be able to give in
This Veterans Day, Tuero said he plans to honor his relatives who served through a post on Facebook that will include photos of them during their service. He also encourages people to show their appreciation to those who served by visiting their local VA hospital.
Tuero pushes for his own loved ones to further their education and reminds them that anything is possible through hard work and perseverance. He has just welcomed his first great-grandchild into the world and hopes to be an example for them.
“Nobody’s a more vocal person about college education than me to my own kids,” Tuero said. “And none of them have an excuse now. Grandpa did it.”