My Citrus Story- Tony Giannone
As if they are now, later they shall be.
I graduated from Monrovia High School in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War. At the time, I wasn’t the world’s greatest student and I knew I would be drafted, so I enlisted with the hope of getting deployed to anywhere except Vietnam. I spent nine months in Korea after basic training, working as a crew chief with vehicles with tracks. However, my grand plan suddenly dimmed when I was sent to ‘Nam in November, 1969. No one who has experienced combat ever forgets it. It changes people. When I received my honorable discharge and returned to the States in 1971, I honored a promise I had made to John Stricula, the Citrus College football coach. I enrolled at Citrus and played football there rather than at Mt. SAC. Little did I realize at the time how much my life changed for the better.
Not only did Coach Stricula help me through the process of enrolling, he nudged me in the direction of Dave Sundstrand, an English teacher who taught me not only how to write an essay, but also how to think. That was very important because at the time, returning veterans were cursed and spat upon. It wasn’t unusual for people to falsely condemn me as a “baby killer” when they discovered I had served in Vietnam. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t killed anyone — all veterans were often treated with contempt. Professor Sundstrand and other faculty members, however, reached out to help me and many of the returning vets feel accepted. I transferred to Cal Poly Pomona two years later and earned a bachelor’s degree. I believe I was able to succeed because of how well Citrus College prepared me for the demands of higher academics.
It is a testament to Citrus College that I eventually found my way back here when campus safety chief Rex Wanland hired me as a security officer. Just as Coach Stricula and Professor Sundstrand had done earlier, Chief Wanland became a mentor to me. It’s been more than thirty years and I am the supervisor of campus security now, but I am more proud of Citrus College than ever before. The establishment of the Boots to Books course is just one of many reasons. Looking back, I wish there had been that type of support available in 1971. I admire the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our country secure, and it’s gratifying to know that Citrus College is on the cutting edge of providing valuable mentoring and counseling services to these veterans.
My Citrus Story is funded in part by grants supporting the College Success program, and has been developed in cooperation with the Citrus College Foundation and the Citrus College Board of Trustees. Copyright © 2010, Citrus College
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