Recent statistics show roughly one million veterans and military-affiliated students are attending colleges and universities to advance their education, taking part in an experience that requires both patience and perseverance outside of the uniform. Micah Bachner, a marine biology major at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, United States Army Veteran and president of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Student Veterans Organization, sees university life as not just an advancement to his education but to his overall drive to succeed and educate tomorrow’s youth in the discipline of marine sciences.
“One of the most beneficial skills veterans possess is the ability to balance all of our courses and assignments,” said Bachner. “We put out the ‘fires’ as they come up because we’ve worked under extreme pressure before.”
Bachner enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 and served for five years. In 2010, while serving in Afghanistan on Operation Enduring Freedom X, Bachner was shot in the head by a rocket propelled grenade, causing a brain injury, vision loss, two broken ribs, a ruptured left ear drum and shrapnel lodged in his heart and lung. As Bachner began his journey on the road to recovery, he was assigned to a warrior transition battalion.
“It took about two years to learn to speak in complete sentences and walk upright without assistance,” said Bachner. “In those five years I was in the military, I went from a 17-year-old kid to a person who is dealing with the trauma of being shot and having to go over every type of rehabilitation. There was an enormous spectrum of personal change.”
Undefeated and searching for the next great challenge, and now medically retired as an E-5 sergeant, Bachner began managing his own personal aquarium at home, hoping to sustain and build upon his life-long interest in marine biology.
“My grandfather has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and spent 32 years in the Army and has been the most influential person in my life in almost every category,” said Bachner. “He was airborne and is the reason I went to airborne school. It seems like no matter where I find myself in life, he’s been there and is able to give me good perspective.”
Faced with constant doctor’s appointments and lots of free time, Bachner used his hobby of fish as the driving force for his newfound interest in education.
“I picked up ‘Aquariums for Dummies’ from my bookshelf, and on it, I saw the author’s name and the letters P-H-D, and I thought, ‘why not me?’” said Bachner. “Why not give myself enough credit to dream? Choosing to pursue a higher education is something that came at the perfect time. It alleviated the hardships of recent limitations and was therapeutic.”
The Idaho native and his wife then sat down and started looking for colleges. He, for marine sciences, and she was interested in psychology.
“Being a young newly-wed couple, trying to manage our finances and still pursue our education, we searched for a program that was not only economically suitable for us but that still had a quality program,” said Bachner. “It was all that criteria that lead us to this university. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi was the most obvious and best option for us to begin our higher education together.”
With an expected graduation date of spring 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, Bachner hopes to enter graduate school and eventually earn a doctoral degree and spend his career doing what he loves most – research.
“Generationally, I feel like we’re going in a direction that fewer and fewer people seem to be as interested in or as curious about the sciences,” said Bachner. “I would love to be able to research in a lab that allows me the opportunity to give kids free access to experimentation in the same sense that grocery stores have free cooking classes. I want to be able to make science fun and accessible to kids.”
Bachner credits some of his scholarly motivations to Ann DeGaish, A&M-Corpus Christi Associate Vice President of Student Engagement and Success and Dean of Students, via her sponsorship of the TAMU-CC Veteran Affairs Committee and to Dr. Fabio Moretzsohn, Professional Assistant Professor in the Department of Life Sciences at A&M-Corpus Christi.
“It’s a very personal thing for someone to say that aside from my obligation to you as a professor, I want to take time to make sure you have what you need to succeed,” said Bachner. “As my mentor, Dr. Moretzsohn sends me internship, grant and scholarship applications. It’s gratifying to know that I encountered someone who cares enough about my future to put in their own time and personal effort. There is also a great deal of sincerity in the way he teaches.”
Moretzsohn said the feeling of admiration is mutual.
“Not only is Micah a great student, but in my opinion, he is one of our best-qualified students to succeed as a scientist. He is a true thinker,” said Moretzsohn. “When he comes to talk to me about his future in the sciences, I can see the amazement and fire in his eyes. I’m honored that he considers me as someone who has inspired and motivated him.”
When asked to reflect on his life as a veteran and a student, Bachner says there’s one lesson that has helped shaped the person he is today.
“Along this road of life, there will be people who contribute a piece of who they are to you,” said Bachner. “In the end, if you are willing to learn, you end up becoming this collection of different people’s experiences – in a good way. I owe much of who I am today to a lot of different people and I’d say that’s something really special and unique.”