Finding New Opportunities

Justin Gordon ’22 believes that everything happens for a reason. He says, “I never regret anything I do in life. Everything I’ve ever done, has led to something else.” And right now, Justin is enjoying his life at Colby-Sawyer College.

Justin graduated from a North Carolina high school in 2006 and knew he wanted to join the Marine Corps. Following the example of his stepdad, Justin remembers choosing the Marines was an easy choice. He says, “If I was going to pursue the military, then I wanted to join the best.”

Active duty brought Justin to several locations during his 12 years of service. While stationed at Base Camp Lejeune in N.C., he served in Iraq for over a year, followed by nine months of duty in Afghanistan, serving as an 0351 infantry assaultman. In 2013, Justin joined a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), in which he was stationed on a ship and responsible for training military units in different countries. Upon his MUE deployment, Justin emailed his monitor and requested Inspector and Instructor (I & I) duty. He says, “My monitor asked me where I wanted to go and I told him either Florida, Hawaii or California. I gave him all the hot places. He emailed me back and my choices were New Hampshire or Connecticut. After talking to some buddies, they convinced me to take New Hampshire. I’m glad I chose New Hampshire. I love it here.”

Never setting foot in New Hampshire before, Justin put all his faith into Craigslist and rented an apartment in downtown Manchester - sight unseen. He drove straight from North Carolina to New Hampshire, moved in all of his belongings and began his role as I & I. His duties included training the Marine Corps Reserve, rendering military honors at funerals, coordinating Toys for Tots, and working with the Governor’s Office, Senators, and schools at events.

Justin Gordon Marine portrit

While working in this position, Justin met his girlfriend, Hannah, at Hanscom Air Force Base. Originally from Connecticut, Hannah graduated from the University of New Hampshire, found a job at Mascoma and moved to Sunapee, N.H. They would spend weekends visiting each other, and it was during this time that Justin was first introduced to Colby-Sawyer. He spent time on campus working out at the Hogan Sports Center, and immediately fell in love with the campus.

Justin never thought about leaving the Marines, and intended to stay in for a full 20 years. But in his eleventh year, Justin remembers thinking he might want to explore other options. He says, “Everything hurt, physically and emotionally. I knew that it was time to close the chapter on my military career and start a new opportunity. I had already done more than most do in a lifetime, and I decided I wanted to try college.”

Justin left his I & I position on September 10, 2018 and began classes at Colby-Sawyer on the same day. “I knew I wanted to use the GI Bill and loved the layout of the campus at Colby-Sawyer. But it was the dining hall that sold me,” he says. Currently a sophomore year business administration major, Justin admits that it has been a challenge to get back into the grind of school, and he takes advantage of the numerous resources that are available on campus.

What’s next for Justin? He intends to finish his degree, and then he and Hannah will decide where they want to go moving forward. He says, “We don’t know if we’ll stay in New Hampshire or pull out a map and point to somewhere and try it. If something comes up and changes your plan, it just opens up a door for another opportunity to be successful in life.”

by Donna Long