Military service inspires Jason Pearce '13 to chart an original path at Gettysburg

Jason Pearce ’13 basically lived in the water while growing up.

A swimming instructor, lifeguard, and member of two swim teams, he graduated from Gettysburg Area High School and took what he perceived to be the next logical step: enlistment in the U.S. Navy. Pearce trained in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion School and learned how to operate the nuclear reactors that power submarines and aircraft carriers. He then served as an electrician’s mate aboard the USS Carter Hall and went on two deployments off the coast of Somalia as part of an international coalition force focused on anti-piracy operations.

Jason Pearce served as an electricians mate“My first deployment included the testing of Scan Eagle, a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that dramatically increases the search and monitoring power of a single ship,” he said. “My second deployment involved acting as a floating operations base for various U.S. and NATO special forces, as well as for Iraqi nationals training in oil platform defense.”

Six years after joining the U.S. Navy, Pearce was discharged and decided to drop anchor at Gettysburg College. “I applied while on deployment, and chose to enroll because of the College’s strong history and education programs,” he said.

Pearce didn’t plan on integrating his military service into his academic work once he became a student. “I wanted to separate my experience in the U.S. Navy from my time at Gettysburg,” he said. But those plans didn’t last long. “As the semesters progressed, I began to look for courses that would help refine and make sense of the things I had seen and done while in the military.” Now a junior at Gettysburg, Pearce has charted an original path through the curriculum by designing his own course of study. “As a sailor, I became interested in an outward examination of America; it was interesting and eye-opening to learn what people had to say about the U.S.,” he said. “My major, Global Perspectives on American Influence, focuses on American history and culture, and how those things are perceived by countries and cultures from around the world.”

Jason Pearce speaks at the Gettysburg College Veterans Memorial dedicationHe plans to teach high school social studies after graduating, something he never thought he’d do. “I left high school thoroughly convinced that I wouldn’t succeed in a college-level academic setting, and yet here I am,” Pearce said. “Every time I think about that reversal it still surprises me, and reinforces the value of keeping an open mind.”

A speaker at the Gettysburg College Veterans Memorial dedication held in October 2011, Pearce addressed the audience as both a student and a veteran of the U.S. Navy; an uncommon combination on campus. “I’m grateful that the College felt it was appropriate to dedicate a memorial on the grounds,” he said after the ceremony. “I think it is a good thing to be reminded that there are people who give or have given their all in the service of something greater than themselves.”

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Posted: Tue, 6 Mar 2012

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