University of Wisconsin-Stout senior Erica Anderson believes Veterans Day is a time to reflect. For her, it also is a time to remember the seven years she served in the U.S. Navy as a petty officer second class working as an electronics technician and in satellite communications.
“I feel privileged to have been a part of something bigger than me,” said Anderson, of Menomonie, who is studying computer networking and information technology. She served in the Navy from 2007 to 2014.
Anderson graduated from Hayward High School, went to UW-Whitewater and earned a degree in international geography. She then joined the Peace Corps for a year traveling to Honduras to help set up an internet café.
“I always wanted to join the Peace Corps in high school,” she noted. “I always wanted to help out people. I wanted to learn Spanish more because I foresaw that it would be in demand.”
After the Peace Corps, she counseled delinquent adolescents in the Janesville area.
She wanted more and joined the Navy. “I liked the idea of serving my country,” Anderson said. “I just felt like I was treading water with what I was doing at the time.”
She served in Italy, where she worked at a main base providing communications to ships in the fleet. She also served in Bahrain, Uganda and Djibouti. “I loved Uganda,” Anderson said. “I was working with joint forces. It’s challenging. There is always work to be done.”
Anderson said it was difficult at times being a woman in the Navy. She often was the only woman in her area, and some men would question her authority. Women make up 18% to 19% of the Navy.
After seven years Anderson decided to return home and further her education. She chose UW-Stout because of the CNIT degree.
“I think being an adult, returning student at UW-Stout is a nice fit because a lot of it is hands-on,” she said. “It can be hard to go back to school when you’ve been in the workforce. I didn’t want to be read to or lectured to. I wanted to do something. Stout was so good about taking my transfer credits and giving me credit for military experience. There are also a lot of resources available.”
Sarah Godsave, UW-Stout’s military education benefits coordinator in the Veterans Service Office, said Anderson demonstrates all the great qualities she sees in student veterans.
“I wasn’t surprised when she shared with me the life experiences that led up to her deciding to pursue a degree at UW-Stout,” Godsave said. “Her commitment to every task she takes on is a great example for all of us.”
UW-Stout is a Military Times 2019 and 2020 Best for Vets College. Veterans support includes a Veterans Club, a Council on Veteran Services and a designated veterans relations senator in the Stout Student Association.
To celebrate Veterans Day, UW-Stout has Veterans Day week. There was a Veterans Day care package drive and a student panel. On Monday, Nov. 11, a Veterans Day flag display honoring fallen, past and present members of the U.S. military will be placed at 8 a.m. by the amphitheater at the Memorial Student Center. Names will be read at 1 p.m. Flags will remain displayed through Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Anderson is an intern at WIN Technology in Eau Claire, which offers network solutions, managed IT services and streaming solutions. She will become a part-time network technician starting Sunday, Nov. 10, and has been offered full-time work when she graduates in May.
“WIN Technology has the best culture,” she said. “Everyone is so friendly and willing to lend a hand. Everyone is involved in staff meetings. They are really involved in the community, and employees get volunteer time off.”
Anderson, who volunteers with the Veterans Club, encourages those interested in joining the Navy or military to do so. “It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “It is a challenge. The doors are open for you if you take them. You just have to have the right mindset.”
Erica Anderson pictured during boot camp graduation with her mom.
Anderson during combat training.