Recently I had an opportunity to reach out to a former squadron mate and Virginia Tech alumni to discuss his experience of being a Hokie stationed overseas, and the values that were sowed and cultivated during his time at VPI. As has been highlighted in the news media over the last few months there are several entities that wish the United States, and our allies, ill. As a result, I have removed personally identifiable information, including the interviewee’s name and other material provided during the interview, that could potentially be exploited. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
JJ: Would you tell me about your time at Virginia Tech as a student?
LN: I arrived at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2005. All four years of my attendance were spent in the Corps of Cadets, the Highty-Tighties, and Navy ROTC. I studied History and graduated in May 2009 before being commissioned in the United States Navy.
JJ: Which Virginia Tech sports do you follow?
LN: Pretty much football.
JJ: Tell me about your most powerful, student, sporting memory.
LN: Well, first let me set the stage. My most powerful memory, as a student, requires reliving two trials. The initial event was the2007 Virginia Tech versus Boston College football game at Lane Stadium. At the time, BC was the second ranked team in the country, and Matt Ryan was the odds on favorite to win the Heisman. The weather that night was something that any Hokie faithful is familiar with: cold, windy, and wet. Virginia Tech had shut out BC for three quarters and most of the fourth quarter. The rain eventually stopped and Matty Ice led a gut-wrenching comeback, to defeat VT, in the last two minutes of regulation. Later that year when we met the Eagles in the ACC title game revenge was the only thing we thirsted for, and we got it. The sweetness of that victory and solidifying the removal of Matt Ryan from the Heisman Hunt is my most powerful student sporting memory. The ACC title and an Orange Bowl berth were the cherry on top.
JJ: Do you have a favorite sport?
LN: When it comes to my favorite sport to play, it is soccer. But, when it comes to following college sports football is THE game.
JJ: How have the values you learned, as a member of the Corps of Cadets, translated to your military career?
LN: Responsibility and integrity are two of the biggest values that the Corps of Cadets taught and instilled in us, as leaders. I’ve found that, especially when you're operational, responsibility is crucial. It is important to remember that your actions can have life and death consequences. That is also where integrity comes into play. You need to be sure that you set a good example for the people you lead and serve with.
JJ: How have you stayed current with VPI athletics during your service?
LN: It is certainly difficult, but I do my best. The complication of being in a significantly different time zone often means I am unable to watch the games. Even so, I make sure that I learn the results as soon as possible. On my last deployment internet connectivity could be hit and miss, so I asked my dad to help out by emailing the game recaps to me directly while I was away.
JJ: What is your favorite memory of Virginia Tech sports during your military career?
LN: During this past football season my squadron was deployed and the ability to see games was pretty difficult. They were only able to receive and show a couple of college games each week, and they were usually on very early in the morning or late at night. This was not exactly optimal when you had to prepare for and execute missions throughout the day. But, with the 2014 VT vs Ohio State game being a national broadcast I knew it would be one of the games available on the ship. We managed to get the game shown on the projector in our squadron ready room. Wearing a maroon VT shirt under my flight suit and a VT ball cap on my head, I watched the entire game. People were giving me a hard time the entire week leading up to the game, claiming that VT had no chance, to include our Executive Officer who was an Ohio State fan. Naturally, that only made the victory sweeter! A close second was taking the pictures, with you and other Hokie alumnus, holding the VT flag, while transiting through the Suez Canal.
JJ: Where are you currently stationed?
LN: I am on an exchange tour with the Australian Air Force. An exchange tour is not the same as a deployment, it is not temporary. I actually have to move to the host country and live there while executing my duties. I am based on the East Coast of Australia, near Sydney.
JJ: How do you intend to keep up with Virginia Tech Athletics during your time abroad?
LN: Mostly through the internet, but there are occasional broadcasts of U.S. college football games on some of the pay-tv services in Australia. There is an ESPN Australia network that shows live and rebroadcasts of games, so hopefully I'll get lucky with a few and get to see the Hokies play for free.
JJ: Is there any interest of United States collegiate sports in Australia?
LN: Not really. The American expats here follow some of it, but the Aussies have their own sports that they primarily follow. At most, some of the locals follow American professional sports, particularly the NFL, but not much on the collegiate side.
JJ: What is your favorite Virginia Tech memory, student or otherwise, that will always stick with you?
LN: Probably my first home football game. As a member of the Highty-Tighties we had the opportunity to perform on the field for every home game. It also meant we got to form up outside the tunnel for the players to run out of onto the field. Two words: ENTER SANDMAN.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to the Hokie faithful about your experience as a VT student and as a military member abroad. It is often easy for us to take our ability to simply watch a game for granted. As the start of the season marches ever closer, let us be thankful that we can easily sit back, with those we love, and enjoy a Virginia Tech football game.