The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Air Force veteran: Education leads to influence

By Leah Bosworth/ne news editor

Veteran pilot Lt. Gen. Frank Petersen expressed the importance of education and the capability students have to influence the future as he reflected upon his 38 years of military service.

Markeya Williams speaks with Lt. Gen. Frank E Petersen Jr. after his presentation on NE Campus. Petersen, a veteran pilot, discussed the evolution of civil rights in the military.
Chris Cuthbertson/The Collegian

Petersen visited NE Campus Feb. 22 to present Six Decades of Change: Civil Rights and the Military in recognition of Black History Month.

“The driving factor for success is education,” Petersen said. “The three things needed for students to succeed after community college are education, education and education.”

This is especially vital to minorities, he said, because they must work harder for representation and for their voices to be heard.

“What happens to one minority will happen to the rest,” he said.

Petersen was born in 1932 in Topeka, Kan., where at the time, “there were very few opportunities for African-Americans,” he said. “Joining the military was a chance at living.”

Petersen joined the Navy in 1950 during a time when segregation in the armed forces had ended, but racial conflicts were still prevalent.

“Race riots took place in the military,” he said. “It was blacks versus whites versus browns during the Vietnam War.”

As a member of a minority group, he said he realized educating himself was the only way he would ever be understood and accepted.

NE student Janjura Williams said she found Petersen’s story inspiring.

“I admire him for all he’s been through and all that he knows,” she said. “He still wants to give back and not only to black students but to all students.”

Williams is an African-American and the first member in her family to pursue a college degree. She said she knows how it feels to come from a community where the importance of education is unknown or overlooked.

“Education is not instilled everywhere, so you have to learn how to educate yourself,” she said.

NE student Kevin Fields, who is in the Army Reserve, said he came to listen to Petersen because he was interested in his experiences.

“You can’t learn about stories of 38 years in combat unless you speak to someone who’s spent 38 years in the military,” he said.

Petersen traveled from his home in Maryland to speak to more than 100 TCC students and faculty. He said he is always excited to speak to college students because “they’re the America of tomorrow.”

“The future president of the United States could be in this room,” he said, “or her husband.”

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