Countless Pacific University students and alumni have committed their lives to the service of their country with the U.S. Armed Forces.Wanda Laukkanen | Writer
After three reconstructive surgeries, he found himself in physical therapy.
The attitudes of the physical therapists and aides who worked with him changed his direction in life, he said.
“I was going through physical therapy wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life,” he said.
“I wasn’t getting any fulfillment … I was going to work every day, not feeling that I was making a difference at all.”
One day, “I realized that the joy I could see on everybody’s faces, of … I don’t want to say just helping people. Everybody says that. There’s more to it than that. There’s true joy in what they were doing.
“They thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought of my life and where I had come from — it was kind of what I was looking for.”
Harman did move to Oregon as planned and worked until he was admitted to Pacific University as an undergraduate. He hopes to eventually enter Pacific’s graduate program in physical therapy.
“I’ve met some really great people,” he said.
He’s found something of a niche in Pacific’s outdoor recreation program, Outback, where he says he has found some of the camaraderie he missed after the military. He has been a leader for several Voyages trips since his sophomore year.
Nearly three years ago, he led a five-day backpacking and canoe Voyage to Waldo Lake in the Oregon Cascades for some of the student athletes who came to the university as part of the football program. Although athletic, some of the students were inexperienced in the outdoors and a couple had never been camping.
“We did the best we could to make them comfortable and show them how great the outdoors was,” Harman said.
“We got along really well with lots of football talk.
“What’s really cool is the friendships they made in that Voyage. It’s neat to see that, to know that I helped create that. It’s very rewarding.”
Harman also has found leadership opportunities elsewhere on campus, as vice president of the Pre-Physical Therapy Club, on Student Senate and as a transfer student mentor.
He is majoring in exercise science with minors in psychology and outdoor leadership and plans to graduate this spring, though he intends to keep taking classes to improve his GPA and pursue subjects that interest him. He will apply to the School of Physical Therapy next year.
Most veterans receiving education benefits use them, like Harman, to pursue undergraduate degrees, though some choose graduate school.
Paul Bradley, 28, is in his first year of Pacific’s physician assistant studies program.
“When I was younger, my brother broke his arm and a PA was the person who set it,” he said. “When we went back, a PA was the person who cut the cast off, and I said, ‘I want to be like that.’
“My mother said, ‘Oh, so you want to be a doctor,’ and I said, ‘No, I want to be a PA.’”
Bradley, originally from Montana, spent five years in the Navy, joining in 2003. He served as a corpsman in a Navy hospital then became a medical lab technician through a year-long training program.