On this Veterans Day—and every day– we honor and thank those who have served in the United States military, especially our Kelleys.
Public events are planned across the IU campuses this week.
Watch the video below, and read ahead to see a short spotlight on just a few of our Kelley veterans and service members.
Matt McDermitt, BS’17, human resource management and management
At age 18, Matt McDermitt didn’t know how his life would change. He joined the Army as a way to pay for school. Less than six months later while he was in basic training, four terrorist attacks killed thousands of people on United States soil on September 11, 2001. Our nation was never the same.
McDermitt served for eight years as a military police officer. He was deployed to Iraq for 18 months, where he was stationed at Abu Ghraib prison.
“It was a tough journey, especially being so young when I started out,” said McDermitt. “It was eye opening, and at times, it was heartbreaking. It was really one of those life journeys that completely changes you.”
Upon returning home, McDermitt spent eight years as a sheriff’s deputy with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, before deciding to get his undergraduate degree from Kelley Indianapolis.
“I never anticipated coming back to school, but it was always that one goal I kept coming back to. I would tell others: It’s never too late to get this accomplished. I never thought I would learn so much nor have so many resources to help me through it. I like to say the military showed me the world, and the Kelley SChool has given me the knowledge to understand it.”
And he’s not stopping at his undergraduate degree. McDermitt’s ultimate goal is to attend law school.
“For me, the Kelley School is a building block of sorts: What’s my next goal and the goal after that? I decided I want to make an impact for veterans,” said McDermitt. “I hope to go to law school in order to focus on veterans. It’s near and dear to my heart, and I see a need to give veterans a voice.”
“For me, Veterans Day is about remembering those sacrifices that were made, even if you only take a fraction of a moment,” McDermitt said. “I’m a veteran, and I still say thank you to other veterans I see walking down the street. They’ve made exceptional sacrifices.”
Matthew Spartz, MBA’17, entrepreneurship and marketing
Matthew Spartz graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008 with a degree in print journalism. It was during his time in college he felt a calling to join the service.
“The height of the war in Iraq was during my junior year in college, and I knew I wanted to serve if I had the opportunity,” said Spartz. “I heard of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), which would allow me to finish college while training for the Army, and I decided that this was my chance. Before my junior year, I joined the Army ROTC, and after I graduated, I was commissioned a second lieutenant and entered active duty service.”
“After graduation I went to Ft. Sill, Okla., where I trained to be a field artillery officer before going to my duty station at Ft. Campbell, Ky., as part of the 101st Airborne Division. I spent a year training as a fire direction officer and, then, took over as platoon leader for a 105mm Howitzer platoon when we deployed to Afghanistan in May 2010,” he said.
“In Afghanistan, I was stationed in the Kunar River Valley on the border with Pakistan and also served as a fire support officer in the Pech River Valley farther north. We redeployed to Ft. Campbell in May 2011, and I left active duty in November 2011.”
Spartz has continued to serve and is a captain in the Army Reserves. He also works at Rolls-Royce as a Global Commodity Manager, where he manages the supply chain strategy for Air Turbine Starter Systems and Ignition Systems.
Spartz decided to get his MBA from Kelley because he says he wanted to learn business from the best.
“If I was going to invest time in a program, I wanted it to be the most challenging program I could get into,” Spartz explained. “For me, not having a formal business education, the best part of Kelley has been the broad business education from the perspective of a manager. Whereas the focus of an undergraduate education may be on learning to perform the technical jobs of a business, learning the fundamentals from a manager’s perspective focuses on how a business works in order to grow and improve the business as a whole.”
“Learning the content from a managerial decision making perspective has changed the way I understand and approach daily problem solving. Being in the Evening MBA Program has been invaluable. Being able to take the lessons from class and apply them to real problems the next day at work has probably paid off more than any amount of studying ever could,” said Spartz.
Spartz also is an advocate for recruiting and training veterans into civilian business. He says he was a founding member of Rolls-Royce’s first veterans employee group.
“Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned at Kelley is that technical business skills can only take a person or company so far; the leadership someone provides and the culture they foster can make or break an organization. This is the differentiating factor that veterans can bring to a company,” he said.
“Veterans may not currently be trained in a specific business function, but they have the collaboration and leadership skills that are crucial in today’s businesses. In college, I trained to be a journalist, and the Army taught me watered-down rocket science. Veterans are experts in learning whatever is necessary to get the job done!”
Spartz is also the president of the Evening MBA Student Advisory Board at Kelley Indianapolis. Originally from the Chicago suburb of Lombard, he is married to his college sweetheart, Brittany.
Kyle Hester, BS’17, finance and accounting, with a minor in economics
From a young age, Kyle Hester knew he wanted to be a Marine. His father served as a Marine for 21 years, so he says he was surrounded—and inspired by—the Marine Corps through his childhood.
“Moving from base to base and state to state throughout my life, the only thing consistent was my family and the Marine Corps,” said Hester. “I idolized my father and all of his fellow Marines, and I knew one day I wanted to be just like them. When I graduated from Hamilton Southeastern High School in 2009 , I went to Indiana State University. But I dropped out after my first semester to pursue my dream of becoming a Marine.”
Hester went to boot camp in 2011, and he served in the United States Marine Corps for four years. He was stationed in San Diego, achieved the rank of Sergeant, and was the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Operations Department for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323.
Hester was deployed in 2013 and served aboard the USS Nimitz for 10 months in the Arabian, Red, and Mediterranean seas.
Upon returning home, he decided to attend Kelley Indianapolis to pursue a degree in finance and accounting.
“I appreciate all the opportunities the Kelley School provides its students and the challenges it sets forth to make sure every student becomes his best. I know when I graduate that a Kelley degree will open many doors, allowing me to start a promising future. As I drive downtown to campus, I look at the Indianapolis skyline and feel hopeful for my future after Kelley.”
“I hope people take away from this story that military members, no matter the branch, go through more than anyone can imagine,” Hester explained. “Being away from family and experiencing what goes on overseas is different than what you see in the movies and even in the news. If you see veterans, no matter the age, take the time to thank them for what they did.”
Joseph Wagner, MBA’18, finance
Joseph Wagner joined the Army National Guard after high school. Following boot camp, he started at IU Bloomington, where he enrolled in the Army ROTC.
“I joined the National Guard because I wanted to give back to my nation and community, and I also wanted to do something challenging, something not everyone could do. Without the National Guard, I wouldn’t have been able to afford college nor achieve the successful career I have today,” explained Wagner.
Wagner graduated in 2012 from the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs with a BS in management and as a commissioned officer in the Army National Guard. After college, he worked for several years at Cook Medical and, later, the Sports Licensed Division of The Adidas Group. Currently, he is a first lieutenant, working full time for as the head of marketing and part time as a unit commander in Richmond, Ind. for the Army National Guard.
In January 2016, he decided to get his MBA at Kelley Indianapolis.
“I appreciate the Kelley Evening MBA Program because it gives me flexibility to continue to work full time while pursuing an MBA,” said Wagner. “I chose Kelley because it is a nationally ranked and recognized program, and it’s close distance to home.”
Wagner hopes those reading this story understand the many differences among service members throughout the United States military.
“There are many different types of service members. National Guardsmen are citizen-soldiers who live in the state locally, work full time, go to school, have families, and serve their country ,” said Wagner. “We are called upon in the event of a state or local disaster and, sometimes, for federal active duty overseas. The greatest thing about such service is the confidence, leadership, and drive it has given me to pursue a better career and achieve success through the Kelley Evening MBA Program. “
“Don’t just dream big, act big,” he added. “Never be afraid to jump in with both feet, as success is only achieved by those who make it theirs.”
Matthew Caras, BS’16, accounting and finance
Matthew Caras currently serves in the Army National Guard with the 138th Sustainment Brigade. He is a sergeant first class.
“I decided to join the military to pay for my education. However, my love for the military quickly grew, and I have continued to serve. I plan to continue serving.”
Caras served two tours in Iraq—one in 2008 and one in 2011—as a combat medic in Balad and Tallil.
In 2014, he decided to go back to school for his accounting and finance degree at Kelley Indianapolis. He and his wife are expecting their first child in December.
“I appreciate what Kelley stands for,” says Caras. “Having a degree from Kelley implies that I worked hard to receive that.”
To those reading this story, he leaves them with this thought.
“I hope civilians understand the sacrifices that soldiers make in order to protect the liberties that everyone enjoys.”
“Putting myself in danger is not a huge concern of mine; it is the time I have to spend away from my family that is truly the difficult part. We are a 100 percent volunteer military service, which means every single soldier decided sacrificially to serve. That decision to serve is worthy of the utmost respect,” added Caras.
MaryEllen Mascia, BS’16; Tyler Mascia, BS’17
MaryEllen and Tyler Mascia met in Texas while training for the Air National Guard, and the rest is history.
They dated for five years before getting married.
“I grew up in California, and shortly after starting college in 2008, I decided to join the military,” explained MaryEllen. “I was stationed in Northern California for about four years and continued to go to school. After active duty, I moved to Indiana to focus on school. I still serve in the Indiana Air National Guard, and I split my time between school, the military, and a full-time job.”
“My time with the military has given me real motivation in life, a real purpose,” explained Tyler. “The Guard also gave me an opportunity to learn from different locations, throughout the United States, which was another benefit to serving.”
Both MaryEllen and Tyler now attend Kelley Indianapolis and serve as staff sergeants in the Indiana Air National Guard.
MaryEllen, who is majoring in human resource management, works at OrthoIndy as an HR coordinator. Tyler is pursuing a finance degree. Both say they’ve already been able to apply lessons learned from Kelley in their daily lives.
“My senior year and I-Core have definitely been challenging,” said Tyler. “But at the end of the day, I feel prepared for the future.”
“If you’re considering the military, it’s a great opportunity, especially the Air National Guard,” said MaryEllen. “We are able to go to school full-time, work and still serve. It is an honor to serve my community, state, and nation. If it’s something you’re considering, definitely look into it.”
Brian Whitted, BS’17, finance and supply chain management
Brian Whitted joined the Navy in 2000, and he served as a hospital corpsman, which is part of the medical staff for the Navy and Marine Corps.
His journey in the military started just after high school, when he worked at a grocery store for a few years.
“One day I decided I needed to do something with my life, and the military had been a big part of my family. So after speaking with them, I signed up,” said Whitted. “That decision to join the military was the best decision of my life. It started my medical career, and it also has given me the opportunity to start a business career at Kelley.”
During his time as a hospital corpsman, Whitted spent much of his time with the Marines, serving at Navy Hospital in Beaufort, South Carolina; Hawaii; and again in South Carolina at the Marine Corps Air Station.
After serving in South Carolina and following the birth of his son, Whitted moved back to Indiana and worked as a medical assistant. He later decided to get his degree from the Kelley School.
“I chose Kelley because of its reputation as a top business school,” he explained. “I also appreciate the commitment of the faculty and staff to retain the school’s reputation at the highest level. I love that my professors have real-world experience and teach more what is in the textbooks.”
“People should know that service members are like everyone else. In fact, they are some of the most dedicated people you’ll ever meet.”
Jonathan Gerber, BS’17, finance
Jonathan Gerber served in the United States Navy for four years. He says he spent three years stationed in Washington, DC, and another year in Djibouti, working in communications. When he left the Navy, he was a Second Class Petty Officer.
“One of the biggest things that I have taken away from being in the Navy was the ability to work with people from all walks of life,” said Gerber. “The Navy is one big melting pot and you have to work together to be successful as a team. While at times it was not the easiest, it was definitely one of the best experiences that I have had so far in life, and it has without a doubt made me a better person.”
Now, Gerber attends the IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, where he will graduate in 2017 with a major in finance.
“I appreciate the professors and the small class sizes,” said Gerber. “Smaller class sizes make approaching a professor much easier. You can also see the professors genuinely care about the students, and they want everyone to succeed.”
Garrath Robinson, BS’17, marketing and international business
“No matter how bad the current situation in your life may be, we are defined by and grow by the way we overcome the challenges that we face,” said Garrath Robinson, BS’17.
“The only person who can change any situation or challenge that you face — is you. You should never be afraid to do something you are scared of (sorry to all of the English professors for that one). Acting on the goals, ideas and challenges that scare us often provide life’s most rewarding feeling, once they have been overcome.”
Garrath Robinson, BS’17, served in the United States Army. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas for four years, spending a year of that in Paktika Province on the Afghanistan, Pakistan border. He ended his time in service as an Ammunition Team Chief and Assistant Section Chief.
“I truly enjoyed being deployed and performing our job as a team at a very high level,” explained Robinson. “Our platoon provided more fire support for troops in contact and for special operations than any other group during that time span. We also took over 250 rocket attacks within 270-day time span. I mention this, because there was a lot of adversity faced during that time span and it truly helped to mold me into the person I am today. It has helped me to crush adversity and to better face my challenges head-on with resiliency and confidence.”
“I joined the Army because I remember growing up and every morning watching my father get dressed in his uniform,” reflected Robinson. “I admired my father as a child and into my teenage years. In high school I messed around a lot, which led to me letting myself down.”
“I knew something had to change, and the only person to blame was myself. Making the decision to join the military helped me gain inner guidance and direction, and most of all — self-discipline. It was the best and most critical decision I have made to date, and that decision turned my life around. Being able to serve the people of the United States and my fellow Hoosiers was one of the most rewarding experiences,” he added.
Robinson says he chose to come to Kelley for the opportunities that being located downtown present.
“Kelley Indy gives you the ability to not only attend a great school, but to be in the middle of the corporate world,” said Robinson. “I appreciate that Kelley has industry experts as professors, and that the professors are engaged and excited to pass along their knowledge.”
For those who may be reading this, Robinson has a message.
“I want everyone, especially students, to know that we as veterans also owe you and your families a debt of gratitude for the support that you send our way. It’s humbling to have strangers you’ve never met go out of their way for you. I also would like students to understand that not all veterans are like those you see in a movie,” he explained.
“Regardless of political, religious or ideological differences, an oath was sworn to protect you at all cost and that is something the entire veteran community lives by. I would also like to encourage Kelley and IUPUI students to take time and go to HVAF or the VA medical centers and volunteer. It’s a very humbling experience to look into the eyes of someone your age who has sacrificed their body for their country.”
“Lastly, I want everyone to know that veterans are people you can talk to. We may have faced different challenges, but we know what it’s like to need a person to chill with and let us vent. We are probably professionals at that by the time we leave the service. So don’t be afraid or shy, start a conversation with a veteran, and you may be surprised at how alike you both are.”