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Student Veteran Finds a Home at St. John’s

St. John's Veteran's Day Story
Thursday, November 2, 2017

Before joining the Marine Corps, David Bierwirth felt his life lacked direction. Today, the Homeland Security major at St. John’s University views his service as a life-changing experience that shaped the person he has become.

David entered the Marines after a single semester at a local community college. Five years in the corps gave him the confidence to complete his education. The Chicago native enrolled at St. John’s University, a decision he has never regretted.

“The diversity of people and cultures in New York City and the Queens campus reminded me of everything I love about Chicago,” said David. “And one visit made it obvious that out of all my potential choices, St. John’s cared about me the most.”

Finding the Right Fit

That concern, David said, was especially evident at St. John’s Veteran Success Center. The Center provides academic, career, networking, advocacy, and other services for the 387 veterans enrolled at the University. The Student Veteran Association also helps with the transition from military to civilian life. In 2017, St. John’s received two major awards for the abundant resources the University offers veterans.

A family member’s advice originally led David to the military. As he considered life after high school, David’s relative pointed to the skills he would gain. David researched the various branches and decided the Marines would be a good fit. “I wanted the most intense experience I could find,” he said.

After boot camp, David was assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California as an Administrative Specialist. He served as the Adjutant’s Awards Clerk before requesting a special assignment as a Marine Security Guard. For the next three years, he provided security at US embassies in South Korea, Afghanistan, and the Republic of Benin in West Africa.

An Opportunity to Give Back

While his primary mission was protecting personnel and classified information, David strived to immerse himself in regional cultures and engage with locals. He organized fund-raising and other activities in addition to the Marine Corps Ball in South Korea. “People told me we helped change their preconceptions about Americans and the US military,” he said.

When he came to St. John’s, David sought out the Veterans Success Center. Today, he is a member of the Executive Board of SVA and its Social Media Representative. “I wanted to get more involved, to give something back, because the staff goes above and beyond for us,” he said.

Currently, David is considering graduate school. His goal is to one day enter the US Foreign Service and work at an embassy overseas. “Being in the military taught me discipline,” he said. “Ultimately, it introduced me to possibilities I never considered before.”