A Life of Firsts
How one veteran student achieved his goals through experiencing A Life of Firsts.
If Edward Davis could choose one word to describe himself, it would be “driven.” From life in the military, to becoming a first-generation college graduate and continuing his educational pursuits in a master’s program, to managing his own business, Davis isn’t afraid of taking on new challenges.
Growing up in Fort Myers with his brother and sisters, Davis’ home life wasn’t picture perfect. Living in government housing for much of his life, he made a change in 2003 and went to live with his grandmother in Georgia.
“I was in 10th grade at the time, and I wanted to spend some time with my grandmother, so I moved in with her and ended up getting my GED in 2006,” he said.
First, Military Experience
Envisioning himself as a college graduate one day, Davis knew the only way he could earn a degree would be to enlist in the military. In 2008, after working in landscaping for a few years, he enlisted in the United States Army and spent nine weeks in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Training to become an engineer, he served as a bridge crewmember for two years, building bridges and assisting in operations. Once his time in basic was complete, he left for his first duty station in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Although stationed for two years, he spent one year in Afghanistan.
First Army Bridge Company Deployed to Afghanistan
While bridge crews were already working in Iraq, Davis explained, “I was a part of the first bridge company, in the Army, to deploy to Afghanistan,” and although conditions were not ideal, and the realization of being away from the “normalcy” of life was difficult for some, Davis maintained a positive attitude.
“I was only a private first class at the time, but I tried to stay positive during my tour. These guys are your comrades and you learn to watch out for one another,” he said.
Returning from Afghanistan, Davis left for Fort Lee, Virginia, where he spent 13 weeks and traded in his title of bridge crewmember for automated logistical specialist. In his new position, he was responsible for ordering the necessary supplies for various equipment used by the Army.
Responsible for staying organized and maintaining efficiency, Davis’ ability to pay close attention to detail proved beneficial in his new position.
Among First Army Units Deployed to Turkey
Since military life often requires service members to move from place to place, in 2011, Davis left Virginia for Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he stayed until 2014. During his time in Oklahoma, he advanced into the position of sergeant and spent one year in Turkey serving with the air defense unit. Once again, Davis found himself to be among the first Army unit to be deployed to Turkey.
“We were instructed to monitor the border between Turkey and Syria to ensure no rockets landed within Turkey,” he said.
After returning from Turkey and finishing his time at Fort Sill, Davis left for what would become his final station – South Korea, where he stayed until April 7, 2015, when he made the decision to leave the Army.
First, College to finish Business Management degree
“I wanted to go to school and focus on getting my education,” Davis said. “I built up 60 credits in business management while at a satellite campus at Fort Sill; however, I wanted to move on and finish my degree.”
While stationed in South Korea, Davis admits he began planning ahead, saying, “I spent the last 12 months of my enlistment researching and planning for what would lie ahead after I got out of the service.” Discovering many influential people in Southwest Florida attended Hodges, he applied for the winter 2015 term and enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in management program.
While pursuing his degree, two particular management courses put him on the path to becoming a businessperson. One course had him comparing two cruise lines and their profitability, and another course required him to complete a marketing plan for a business. Having traveled while in the military, Davis built his marketing plan around Dream Vacations, a franchise he bought into and now operates out of his home.
“Dr. [Mike] Smith knew I wanted to have my own company, so when I told him what I was doing, he gave me tips and advice on how to provide a personal touch to my marketing efforts,” he said.
First, Launching A New Business
Launching his company in March 2016, he has stayed busy building clientele, going to school full time and staying active on campus. Connecting with the Hodges staff in the Dr. Peter Thomas Veterans Services Center (VSC), he continually received information about upcoming events occurring throughout the year. In fall 2016, he accepted the work-study position in the Fort Myers VSC, working 25 hours each week taking care of veterans who have benefit questions, as well as finding useful resources for student veterans.
“I am a very driven person, so I want to be involved as much as possible,” he said. This is why Davis can be found at most of the VSC-related events on campus. In November, he participated in the Veterans Day Ceremony in Fort Myers, and in December, he sat on a panel consisting of student veterans who answered questions and spoke about post-traumatic stress disorder.
First Person In His Family To Graduate College
Graduating with his bachelor’s in December 2016, Davis accomplished another first – becoming the first person in his family to graduate college, and while he is proud of the achievement, he is continuing his education as a master’s student in the management program at Hodges.
“I’m a full-time student, so I should be able to finish in three semesters,” he said. “My goal is go on and get my Ph.D. in management and organizational behavior. I might like to work as a business consultant.”
However, becoming a business consultant isn’t his only goal. On Mondays and Fridays, he serves as a substitute teacher for Lee County schools and likes the idea of becoming a college professor one day. Of course, he is also determined to grow his business, which means he plans to stay in Southwest Florida.
“I feel I have an obligation to my community. I want to be able to mentor and help people get their education because that’s where it all starts.”