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A heroic moment in the Army led me back to school at Purdue Global.

Dustin Young wearing graduation cap and military uniform

I’m balancing duty, family and online higher education.

As an active service member in the Army, Dustin had a life-saving moment that pushed him to earn his degree. He’s sharing his story and why he chose Purdue Global to move him forward in his military career.  

After I graduated from college, I worked for Chrysler for almost a decade. But then I realized that, while I loved turning a wrench, it wasn’t very much of a challenge for me. Trying to make a career change at 29 years old, I felt I needed to be confident in my choice. So, after contemplating it for about a year, I figured it was about time. And now I’ve just hit my ninth year as an active service member in the Army.  

In the same way I knew I wanted to join the military, I always knew I wanted to go back to school. I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. In high school, I was a volunteer firefighter. Still to this day that is a job that I really miss doing, so I was thinking of doing something fire science related. Then in 2017, I had a moment that pushed me to get my degree.

On the way back from port operations, I came across a semi driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel, and he smashed into a guardrail. The truck caught on fire and rolled down into a swamp. We missed it by about a minute or two. I got out of the vehicle and went to the edge of the road. The semi was lying in this swamp, and another witness said the truck driver was stuck inside. We could hear him yelling, and the truck was starting to smoke a lot more. It was starting to burn, so without even thinking, I jumped down there, ran down into the swamp and climbed up the truck. Because I’d been a firefighter, and because of my role in the Army, I knew to throw the door open and turn off the ignition. I made sure the driver wasn’t hauling something that was going to explode. The driver was stuck on the passenger side under the swampy water and was starting to drown, so I dove in and pulled him out. I got him out of the semi, walked him across the truck and got him across the ravine to the waiting ambulance. Sitting at the ravine, I started processing everything from an emergency management standpoint, and that’s when I knew what I wanted to do.  

knew I had to prioritize earning an online degree, plus my Army needs, while being a father and husband. It’s all about that balance.

Dustin Young
BS fire science and emergency management ’23 / Purdue Global 

I started looking for schools and found Purdue Global. It had a very high reputation. The degree I got after high school was from a school that wasn’t very recognizable. So while I did get an associate degree, it almost felt like it didn’t count because nobody knew the school was fully accredited. But everybody knows Purdue, and I didn’t want to just commit to any school. I wanted to make sure the school had a reputation behind the degree.  

My bachelor’s degree in fire science and emergency management and my role in the Army feed off of each other. I serve in the SFAB in a role called a CBRN advisor; I specialize in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. The Security Forces Assistance Brigade (SFAB) are specialized U.S. Army units with the core mission to conduct, advise, support, liaise and assess operations with allied and partner nations. When I am advising, I can bring in a lot of strategic and operational value from what I’ve learned at Purdue Global. I can identify and advise commonalities between emergency management from a military and civilian standpoint utilizing both my Army CBRN background and my academic foundation from Purdue Global.

When you go back to school, you just have to make it a priority.  It’s a matter of making it a priority and just going for it. I knew I had to prioritize earning an online degree, plus fulfill my duty to the Army, while being a father and husband. It’s all about that balance.  

I feel a lot of excitement about my upcoming graduation, but it’s definitely not my stopping point. I’ve already reenrolled at Purdue Global for my master’s and would eventually like to go for my PhD. It feels like a huge accomplishment because there were a lot of hurdles I had to jump in order to graduate summa cum laude while being deployed. It will be such a proud moment for my wife, my son and my whole family.

Dustin at graduation ceremony.

Sitting at the ravine, I started processing everything from an emergency management standpoint, and that’s when I knew what I wanted to do.

Dustin Young BS fire science and emergency management ’23 / Purdue Global

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