Great Falls College-MSU Spotlight: student Lucas Volkomener - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Great Falls College-MSU Spotlight: student Lucas Volkomener

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Great Falls College-MSU Spotlight: student Lucas Volkomener Great Falls College-MSU Spotlight: student Lucas Volkomener

This is Lucas Volkomener. A veteran who says his military experience is one of the reasons he's now studying nursing at Great Falls College-MSU.

"Trying to right some wrongs in my past," explained Volkomener.

Volkomener served eight years in the United States Army as a combat engineer. 

"I helped invade Iraq, spent about seven months in Iraq during the invasion, and then we moved to Afghanistan and spent 4 months there for their first presidential elections," said Volkomener. "And then I was part of the re-invading force going back into Baghdad in the 2007 surge and we spent about 15 months in Baghdad."

He received a Purple Heart for his heroics when an IED, or improvised explosive device, split his vehicle in half.

"I woke up laying in the street. And then we received small arms fire after that and … I was just trying to med-evac the rest of my casualties out."

Volkomener was also nominated for another Purple Heart, but finished his deployment and left the country before it was awarded. He says he didn't bother to check if he won it. However, he has some regrets from his time abroad.

"When I was in Iraq, we came under mortar fire and one of our bunkers took a direct hit and me and another one of my soldiers were the first to arrive on scene with our first aid packs," said Volkomener "We treated the first guy that came out and when we pulled him out we were pretty sure he was dead but we were gonna give him the best chance possible anyways and we got him med-evac'd out and we pulled two more out of the bunker and they were alive and we had nothing to treat the 2nd and 3rd casualties with because we spent everything on the first guy. and I found out later that day that the first guy was dead on arrival and the second guy died on the route to Germany. And so I blame myself that I didn't know enough at the time. I didn't prioritize my casualties or spend my resources in the right place. Felt like we could have saved the second guy if i'd known that."

So when it came time to right the wrongs of his past, he looked to Great Falls College MSU because it's military-friendly.

"When I was looking at schools to go to, Great Falls College was the only college listed on the veterans benefits website as approved through V.A funding."

And he's an exemplary student there, continuously making the Dean's List, and being named student of the year for English and writing in 2015. But, the scars from his past can make schooling difficult.

"A lot of veterans carry the burdens of what they've had to endure overseas. And not everybody shows it on the outside and sometimes it takes a veteran to recognize those disabilities," said Volkomener.

That's where the Veterans Center and fellow service member Kevin Lyons, a veteran's success coach, comes in, helping student veterans succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.

Volkomener also suffers from a traumatic brain injury that can flush his mind, so he says other Great Falls College MSU resources have been helpful as well.

'Disabilities Services does their best to minimize the disabilities that you may have. And they do what they can to ensure that your disabilities don't impede your academic goals. I think that's pretty unique."

And, it doesn't hurt that that the school is in his hometown.

"You can set your roots with your family and come home every night rather than going to a college in a different city where you never see your family. Got enough of that in the military," he explained."

While Volkomener attempts to right the wrongs of his past, those wrongs continue pushing him to rewrite the future for himself and for his community. 

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