Developing Global Citizens

SF students and alums reflect on their military service, post 9/11.

September 11, 2021 Season 2 Episode 4
SF students and alums reflect on their military service, post 9/11.
Developing Global Citizens
More Info
Developing Global Citizens
SF students and alums reflect on their military service, post 9/11.
Sep 11, 2021 Season 2 Episode 4

On the 20 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, host Vilma Fuentes sat down with current and former Santa Fe College students to ask them an important question - in what ways they had grown as global citizens in the last 20 years. Drawing on their common experience of enrolling at SF after serving in the military, alums David Durkee '14 and Angela Gregory '99, and current students Malia Rose and Brian Sullivan had a conversation about their life experiences, from combat to the classroom, and some of the ways the world has changed and the ways their exposure to different cultures has transformed them.

Show Notes Transcript

On the 20 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, host Vilma Fuentes sat down with current and former Santa Fe College students to ask them an important question - in what ways they had grown as global citizens in the last 20 years. Drawing on their common experience of enrolling at SF after serving in the military, alums David Durkee '14 and Angela Gregory '99, and current students Malia Rose and Brian Sullivan had a conversation about their life experiences, from combat to the classroom, and some of the ways the world has changed and the ways their exposure to different cultures has transformed them.

Vilma Fuentes  0:00  
Welcome to Santa Fe College. My name is Vilma Fuentes. And this is our podcast on Developing Global Citizens. Today, we want to take a moment to commemorate the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent 20 year US military engagement in Afghanistan, Iraq and the surrounding region. We're joined today by four very special guests. All of them have attended Santa Fe College as students. But they have all also served in the US military during this post 9/11 period. I'm going to invite our guests to introduce themselves and tell us a little bit about who they are, and their ties to the college. David. 

David Durkee  0:40  
My name is David Durkee. I'm a US Air Force veteran, I served from 2002 to 2009. at Santa Fe College I attended from end of 2010 to 2013.

Brian Sullivan  0:56  
My name is Brian Sullivan. I was a combat controller in the United States Air Force. I served for five years, deployed twice.

I'm a Pisces, my wife says I'm amazing. I think I can do better.

Yeah, go to Santa Fe, I want to transfer to UF to get a business administration degree and then move into law school and then possibly dabble in politics, but to to help, what America could be and to help people. 

Vilma Fuentes  1:28  

Angela Gregory  1:29  
My name is Angela Gregory. I was a radio operator in the United States Marine Corps reserves. I served from 1998 until 2003. I am a former alumna of Santa Fe College as well as a current employee.

Malia Rose  1:45  
Hello, everyone. My name is Malia Rose. And I was in the military from 2016 to 2021 in the Army, and it sounds weird saying that, because I just got that title as of February.

Vilma Fuentes  1:58  

Malia Rose  2:00  
Yes, and I am currently enrolled in Santa Fe, and my major is political science. And I continue to explore my options, but I'm gonna be more likely into politics when I get out. 

Vilma Fuentes  2:15  
Excellent. Thank you.

I guess I want to begin with a very simple question, which is, where were you on 911? Do you remember? And I'm going to start with you, Angela. 

Angela Gregory  2:30  
Sure. I had already graduated from Santa Fe. Initially, I was a reservist in the Marine Corps and I was working in Tallahassee. The morning that the planes hit on 9/11, hit the towers, I was in my office. Somebody had come in from the suite next to us, we didn't have a television in our office and so they came over to tell us what was going on. And so I remember distinctly, we didn't have smartphones, we didn't have iPads. We didn't have internet used in the same way it is today. So we were all kind of huddled in this one room watching after the aftermath of the first plane.

And then shockingly, ended up seeing the second plane hit the the second tower.

And, and I think we were all in in shock. We were all in awe. I think in that moment, I knew that my life kind of dabbling half in the civilian world and half in the military world being a reservists was somehow about about to change.

And for the rest of that day. We just kind of went home and I spent time with my roommates, and we were just affixed to the TV. We knew it was a shocking moment in time.

Vilma Fuentes  3:49  
David, what about you?

David Durkee  3:52  
I had graduated high school just a few months before and that August, so just about three weeks before that, I had entered the delayed enlistment program to ship out in January.

And I was actually right across the street at the crossings at Santa Fe, my friend was going to Santa Fe College, and she had invited me up to just come hang out and kind of party and I did. So,

that morning, I woke up, you know, recovering from a drunken boxing match. And the TV was on and there was a smoking building, you know, and just kind of sitting confused watching the news like most everyone else as that second plane hit. And now I'm completely sobered up like oh, no, like, that was obviously intentional. And what I thought I was getting involved in, you know, just escalated quickly because I knew I was going to be involved in whatever aftermath comes from this. So it was a it was a real moment for me. 

Brian Sullivan  4:56  
It became real real fast.

David Durkee  4:58  
 real fast. 

So in other words, you

Vilma Fuentes  5:00  
enrolled at peace time. And then three weeks later before being deployed anywhere, we were effectively at war. 

David Durkee  5:08  
Yep, exactly. 

Vilma Fuentes  5:10  
Brian, what about you? What do you recall from that day? 

Brian Sullivan  5:13  
Oh, for me, first off, I want to say thank you for hosting us on let us speak here today. But for me, I was a sophomore in high school, St. Pete Catholic High School, in my English comp class. And I remember a girl coming in and telling us that your plane hit one of the Twin Towers. And we all jokingly thought of like, a lot of people mean to just some drunk dude in his prop plane just accidentally ran into it. And then I think at the next class, or in that one,

everybody just went crazy, like administration and teachers and everything. We locked down the school after, you know, the second plane, because everyone realized, like, Oh, this, like Dave was saying, This is on purpose. This is not an accident. And

yeah, it was just, it was very shocking. They eventually got let go early. And I remember going home. And a friend of mine came with me.

Because he didn't have a car and we just returned on the news. My dad was there. He had come home from work. And we just saw all three just standing there watching and trying to figure out why. And how did this happen?

Vilma Fuentes  6:12  
Malia, what's your experience?

Malia Rose  6:16  
I don't have really any experience. I was four years old at the time, so I don't really remember anything.

Vilma Fuentes  6:23  
If it makes you feel better, I had just just given birth to my first child, we had just come home, she was just a few days old. And

yes, my experience is similar to all of you. But really, I was just sitting there thinking, I just need to feed my baby, I just need to produce more milk. And that was like my number one focus. Like I don't have time for this right now. Eventually, things slowly changed, or rapidly changed. But so what did you all know about Al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan at the time?

David Durkee  7:01  
As far as me getting ready to go in, I knew pretty much nothing. Those were fairly unfamiliar terms to me.

For me, it was Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood with Kevin Costner his character, and it starts off in the middle east somewhere. I can't remember exactly. Okay.

Angela Gregory  7:18  
Yeah. I think for myself, even though being in the reserves, it really, it wasn't on my radar. Like I didn't, I didn't know anything about Muslims or about Afghanistan at the time. So it was a really quick learning experience after that. 

Vilma Fuentes  7:35  
What about terrorism? Was that an area of focus for your training or anything? 

Angela Gregory  7:39  
Yeah, so I'm in boot camp, we did go through an exercise where we talked about terrorism. There, we were in a room, and they played something on the television for us. And it was as if we, in that moment, unknowingly were being attacked, like the country was being attacked, and that we were, we were due to respond to these terrorists. So the term terrorism had been terrorist had been introduced to me during boot camp. But it really wasn't even discussed much after that until after the 9/11 attacks.

Vilma Fuentes  8:14  
So do you all think that we, well you as individuals, or we as Americans have learned more about al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Afghanistan in particular, since that time?

Brian Sullivan  8:28  

Vilma Fuentes  8:29  

Brian Sullivan  8:30  
Because a lot of people consume this every day with what's in front of them. And it's still it's not

the Islam faith, that faith is not here every day in front of people's faces. There's more of it, people are more heightened to it, but they still don't understand it as much. I mean, the common citizen of America isn't doing the research to put into it. They're not in the military to deploy and understand where they're going to understand the culture.

So to answer that, honestly, no, I don't think so.

Vilma Fuentes  9:01  
 I distinctly remember walking into a mall in South Florida, maybe a few months after our intervention in Afghanistan, and seeing three Muslim women come in, you know, with a hijab. And I was standing in line and other women looked at each other and said, Look, the Taliban, right, and I just, I just was furious, right? Like, no, they're not the Taliban. It's just Muslim women.

David Durkee  9:30  
How would you explain the difference? Maybe where, where the the citizens can see, like Al Qaeda, Taliban, not necessarily knowing the difference, and some other things kind of bleeding over. And it kind of being grouped under one big amalgam is thing, Islam and all these things. I remember even when Saddam Hussein was was captured, and there were people that I would speak with that thought that the reason that he was captured is because he had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. And that kind of, because, you know, we're in conflict in that same region. And so I think, like he was saying, I guess that there is more exposure to it, but maybe not enough critical digging into it to understand all the nuances of it.

Brian Sullivan  10:26  
 Yeah, I mean, to give a good analogy, of people understanding, they just think Islam, but it's not just like that, just like if you think of Christianity, it's not just Christianity. I mean, with radical Islam coming in, you know, executing attacks, on not just Americans, you know, other countries around the world is kind of we take the Westboro, you know, church, and their fanatical ideas, and that was the introduction to, we'll say, if they weren't attacked Mecca, when it was the, you know, everyone makes the trek there. That would be their image, then, oh, America is a bunch of these crazy Westboro Baptist Church people. But no, that really wouldn't be who we are. Because there's a plethora of different religions within America. And that wouldn't be signifying of who we are as a people and what our ideologies are. 

 Interestingly, my first exposure to Islam was when I was a little kid, I want to say, I don't know, elementary school. And it was Muhammad Ali, the boxer who became a Muslim, because he was a passive pacifist, and he was not going to go to Vietnam. And so I always thought of it as Oh, yeah, Islam, it's, you know, the religion of love and of peace and have a really wasn't until after September 11, that I associated it in any way with terrorism. And I guess one thing I always try to tell certainly my children and others, whenever I get a chance is there's a huge difference between al Qaeda and the Taliban. Al Qaeda was the terrorist group that attacked us. The Taliban was the organization who was in control of government at the time of the government in in Afghanistan at the time.

Vilma Fuentes  12:10  
And our response as a country was, you know, to try to remove both of them.

Malia, so, Malia and Angela, actually, so the two of you started joining the military at very different times. But as women, and Malia in your case, you're an African American woman. Talk to me about your experiences. And Angela, I'd like you to go first, what was your experience as a woman, specifically in that immediate post 9/11 world.

Angela Gregory  12:41  
Um, I would say that as a woman in the in the military, specifically in the in the Marine Corps, I felt very empowered, I was ready at that point to kind of fulfill my duties. As a service member, I would did not shy I did not shy away from wanting to serve. And my my unit was activated in January of 2003. Under Operation Enduring Freedom. And my counterparts, the male counterparts I had I was attached to a combat unit ended up being sent overseas, they ended up going to Iraq, because it was a combat unit, I ended up staying back, I was not allowed to go with him. If I had been attached to a motor t unit or communications unit, it would have been different. So my role changed. I became the peacetime wartime support individual. And in that situation, what would have happened is if we did have somebody who died in combat, I would have been the person that would have gone to the door to inform their family members of that.

When my unit came back, it felt very kind of isolating. I felt very disconnected. Because these are people that I served with for five years, and their experiences throughout this were drastically different than my own. So I had difficulty after that time kind of connecting with them. And I ended up getting out ultimately, because of it about 18 months after that.

Unknown Speaker  14:16  
And just as a quick reminder, it wasn't until 2015 that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter formally announced the lift on the ban of having women in combat so it's still a relatively, I mean, it's only been five and a half years roughly. 

And Malia, you joined at a very different point in time. In fact, you just recently got out of the service. And I think in February of 2021, Yes, that's correct. So what was your experience like as a woman,

Malia Rose  14:48  
So I think we've come a long way since when she came in to 1997, you said, 9898, I think we've come a long way women are allowed to deploy, combat whether or not just recently, last year alone, it was the first year to actually allow women in infantry. So that did come down in October of last year, just want to make sure that's clear on that, but my experiences in the military, I just feel like there was a lot of pressure. Overall, feeling that I had to do twice as much than other people, it's still a male dominant organization. So there's the inbalance. Overall, with everything going on, and just trying to prove yourself and making sure you're the same or equal. And I was just giving an example yesterday, you know, trying to tell people what to do or anything, whether you're in a supervising position, they don't really take females still seriously To this day, I mean, I have to scream, I have to yell, I have to do extra stuff, to get them to listen, where a male can go over there and tell someone go over and do this. And they're taken seriously. But I don't regret any of my decisions that I've made. And it's made me who I am today.

Angela Gregory  15:58  
I will say that I shared this previously, and that in boot camp, we had all women that were in my boot camp for the Marine Corps. And I distinctly remember them telling us the drill instructors, they said, so you're either going to be known as the bitch, you're going to be known as the whore, you get to decide which one you're going to be. And that was really eye opening. Because you kind of saw, like how you were going to be perceived like that, that culture, that environment. And so you immediately put up walls, you know, everybody that talks to you kind of become defensive. You, you're skeptical about what people's intentions are, you know, knowing that right off the bat and wanting to be seen with respect. 

Vilma Fuentes  16:20  

Malia Rose  16:50  
And like she just mentioned before, like some things that we've done, like I worked really hard, I got promoted very quickly. It's taken away, because we were saying that, oh, you had to do certain things, we sexual things, you know, to get that position. Is that a taking me and saying, you know you'd heart You worked hard for that position, you deserve that position. So that's definitely in the takes too.

Vilma Fuentes  17:06 
Malia were you deployed overseas? 

Malia Rose  17:10  
Yes. Where was deployed? I was in Kuwait in 2017.

Vilma Fuentes  17:14  
So and I'm just curious, like, Did you get out? Did you? Were you able to mingle with regular Kuwaitis? And if so, did you ever reflect on the status of women in your host country? And how that reflected what that said to us as Americans?

Malia Rose  17:33  
Yes, I did get out actually was in the city, I had to be covered because I do have tattoos on my arms. And so in the Muslim country, the woman has to be covered at all times. So going out, I was in jeans, I was in a blouse. And I was definitely at a place I could say everyone was staring at me, even though I was completely clothed at all times. And I think that was the first time I was like, Okay, this is a different society. This is not the same as what the US is.

Vilma Fuentes  18:05 
Do you think they were staring at you because you're black? Or because you're a woman?

Malia Rose  18:08  
I think they were staring at me because I was a woman in the way that I was dressed. And I think in their eyes, I wasn't considered dress properly. 

Vilma Fuentes  18:15  
Right. Got it.

I'm curious, David, or, Brian, if you have anything else you want to add on this topic, any other insights from the male perspective,

Brian Sullivan  18:25 
just with what the story, Angela was saying how the I don't want to say guilt, but the feeling you had of watching your fellow co workers, military personnel go to deploy overseas to do your job. And then you have to see them come back and be different. I know, a handful of team dues, it does have that guilt of not being able to go do their job. And I had that on my last one. I extended my contract to get into the deployment. And I happened to make a mistake in life and I didn't get to go on it. But all my teammates, didn't it, it eats up for me because that's I mean, that was my job. That's what I was. That was I was there to do so I can kind of have that feeling of that. I don't know. To me, it's guilt, of not being able to go do it. So I couldn't imagine like being not only having that but being another sex and having to experience that that had to be a tough.

Vilma Fuentes  19:23  
Yeah, David, 

David Durkee  19:24  
Um, I actually was thinking kind of Angela's situation. And and I imagine your your ratio was was very sparse as far as the number of women to the number of men. And as far as serving to have someone that has kind of been through what you've been through to kind of attach to and to learn from, and how difficult that would be in, when women are so sparse in the service, you know, to have kind of that mentor that's done it and given you good, that now can give you good advice and relevant advice. So

Angela Gregory  20:00
Yeah, Malia, I talked a little bit about this in a previous conversation, and I think

it was sparse. There were not that many of them, but it also felt at times, and I think Malia can can speak to this as that they held you to a higher standard, like even women, seniors, that you had they held you to a higher standard. 

Malia Rose  20:24 
Yeah, I definitely agree that it's mixed emotions with that. I do think since they weren't, they grew up harder times than I did. They feel they have to be tougher on us. So we can have that toughness installed in us. I remember that incident, I was getting yelled at and I wanted to cry. It's really embarrassing. But one of the seniors like brought me into a room and she was like, Don't you ever allow a male,  see you cry again, don't give them that satisfaction.

Vilma Fuentes  21: 21
I'd be in trouble. 

Malia Rose  21:26  
You need to suck up your tears, you need to get back out there and don't let them see you, you know, fall. And so I did. And I've done that quite a few times where I'm upset, and I just want to go cry, but I can't, I can't do that I have soldiers, I have to continue moving.

Vilma Fuentes  21:05  
So those of us back in the US? Often, you know, heard in the media that you know, Americans are helping to educate and provide more freedom to women in Afghanistan, we're helping to liberate them. Did any of you ever reflect on how much progress we've made as women in America and certainly relative to what was happening in Afghanistan, like here, we are preaching to them about how they treat women. 

Angela Gregory  21:32  
I never, I never really compared the two. And I think maybe because I acknowledged the liberties that we do have a kind of acknowledge like how far we had come compared to the restrictions that they were under what they were facing. So I don't think I ever felt bad or felt sorry for myself in terms of the limitations are placed upon myself because I had far greater opportunities available to me than what they would have had.

Brian Sullivan  22:06  
So I mean, for me, I think it was a double edged sword, per se, because we wanted to advance women in our society. But we'd say, oh, it could be worse, you could be over in the Middle East. So it was kind of like, instead of advancing, we're just saying, well, maybe we shouldn't advanced, I mean, but you should you already have it good because look over here, they don't have it as good. Whereas we shouldn't be doing a comparison. It's not how you make your way to be the best. You don't compare yourself to others, you just do better yourself.

Vilma Fuentes  22:35  
Right? Don't let excellent stand in the way of improvement.

So I'm curious, what interactions Have you had with Muslims or Middle Easterners? Or what interactions Did you have with Muslims or Middle Easterners during your service?

Malia Rose  22:52  
So for me when I was in Kuwait, definitely was Muslims there and everything. I think the biggest thing for me was the times that they pray every day at noon, they go and they wash their feet. So typically, you know, first coming in, using the bathroom, everyone knows, you know, do not use the bathroom at noon, because everyone's going to go in there, they're going to pray, they're going to wash their feet. So that was something that you had to adapt to. Also Ramadan, as well, we need to have that. And I never even heard of Ramadan until I went over there. And then also, they were telling us certain times that we couldn't eat or drink or anything having that out to be respectful of their religion. So that was different. And that was cool at the same time to be able to witness that.

Vilma Fuentes  23:36  
Brian, I distinctly remember in a previous conversation, you talked about the experiences you had in your first deployment to Uganda and how that was so different from your experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. Can you talk about that.

Brian Sullivan  23:52  
Yeah, so my experience of going to Uganda is more of as almost like a not that we were at peace time, but more of a peacetime operation, because we're going there to establish like assault zones, where you could land aircraft, fixed wing or helicopters. So we're flying around South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Uganda itself, and then we liaison with the Ugandan military, but we'd be on the local populace living in out of the hotel, going out to the clubs and partying, you know, just doing our thing. Sometimes I didn't know this in Kampala, they had casinos, we went gambling that was that was that was a trip, you know, things you've learned when you're traveling you don't think are there because of what your mindset is going to a country. But then when going to Afghanistan, Iraq, you're there to go against an enemy that has been training to kill you. So it's a different you go into that mindset, not that we didn't have like, a defense posture mindset. But in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was a lot more heightened, you're a lot more dialed in, because there is no, you're not living out of a hotel, you're living in the dirt, you're not going gambling, well, maybe with your teammates, you know, throwing some dice or something, I don't know, maybe some card games. But so it's a it's a lot different experience. And my first one, like real one in the military. With the Islamic phase would probably when I was leaving that deployment, my first one to Africa. And we had to connect in Kuwait. And we are flying from Ethiopia, to connect in Ethiopia flying to Kuwait, and our plane gets totally delayed, we miss it. So we had to hang out in the airport for 24 hours. But walking off into the air walking off the plane into the airport for the first time was very shocking and eye opening. Because it's 99% Muslim. So you have the guys in there get up. And then the women total, most of them totally covered like in the black outfits, like just totally head to toe. And it was it was very like, I don't know how to explain it. The emotion of it of like, oh, man, because I haven't been around it at all. And you train and we're talking about the before, like when 9/11 happened, you have all these people that get portrayed in the media. And now you go in your round it and you it almost breaks that wall down of having that, that fear, that intimidation, to be defensive. And you understand that these are just they're just people that you're around. And yeah, it's a different culture, different religion that they're following the rules to that were established. And whether they're right or wrong is that is really up to that society to establish for itself. And that's that was, that was a very shocking moment for me walking in that airport.

Vilma Fuentes  26:45 
David, what about you? So my recollection is you got deployed to Iraq in 2003? I mean, we we entered Iraq in 2003. We started our military intervention there with the removal of Saddam Hussein.

What did you get to interact with? Iraqis, Muslims, anything?

David Durkee  27:00  
So my I, my position, I stayed on base pretty much the entire time I was at LSA Anaconda, we were building Balad airbase within LSA Anaconda, through one of the first Air Force attachments in there. So, my interactions with Iraqi's were limited, some Iraqi's would come on base, and it was not necessarily working with me, more a of a tangental thing, we also had TCNs, Third Country Nationals that staffed our dining facilities and would help around the base that I'm not certain where some of them came from, kind of another ouside force to the US. My interactions were limited, it was interesting though, because I did notice because, and we were kind of talking about this amalgamous thing before, there was a distrust from the general populous or the other people I served with, sometimes even third country nationals. They weren't even from these areas, but they weren't in us. And because the enemy was kind of this bigger idea of a vague there was kind of a little built in mistrust, kind of even interacting with them. 

Vilma Fuentes  28:35 
So it makes me wonder, like, how much can we really understand the other? How much can we as Americans understand Afghans, Iraqis, Kuwaitis, or whoever is there, you know, how can Christians understand Muslims and vice versa? If there's this fear of there's this war in the middle? I mean, do you think you as individuals, or we as a country have, like, made some progress on this?

David Durkee  29:00  
I think that on a on a micro scale, I think along the lines of what you were saying earlier is, the more exposure that you have, to this unknown entity, you The more you see that it's just you from another place Are you with a different background? while I was at Santa Fe, you know, my, my best friend and running mate was Amin Abu Zaidi , who, you know, as a Muslim, his family's Muslim, and he's, you know, just like me, you know, there's, there's not really much different, maybe some, some practices, but just a person trying to live their life and, and so that colors in the picture, and it kind of erases some of the fear associated with the unknown is just kind of exposure to it, and, and understanding.

Malia Rose  29:55  
So I think also, we've come a long way, I think from what you guys are talking about from 2001, I do think that there's a lot more diversity. However, I'd like to say that I think that we do have a long way to go as well. Educating and educating on the different cultures around us. And I think we cannot rely on social media, to give us our culture and give us our history, we have to go beyond that. Go beyond get a book, and educate yourself, because that's the problem. We're using social media to determine our education.

Vilma Fuentes  30:35  
You know, some of us have observed subtle acts of discrimination, or maybe even racism against Muslims or Middle Easterners during the last few decades.

I'm curious, how have you observed it? And? And if so, how does this compare to the racism that at least some African Americans claim to experience in America today?

Malia Rose  31:00 
So I think there should be no discrimination towards anyone. But I, I think the comparison is, is that based off someone else's idea of what their interpretation was, what able them to discriminate towards other and it's the same thing with African Americans based off the history and what everyone was taught that sort of allowed them to believe a certain way off of a certain individual or a certain type.

Vilma Fuentes  31:36
Angela, you are not deployed to the Middle East? Do you think you have been able to learn more about Muslims, Middle Easterners, just people outside of the United States during the last two decades? In other words, you know, what have you done to gain global competence if anything at all?

Angela Gregory  31:55 
So I, I haven't probably been as active as I as I should be. I do watch the news. I have very little interaction with social media. I think that despite not being deployed, not going overseas, I think the the greater thing to keep in mind here is that humanity has no borders. So you, you have the ability, especially at a time like now you have the technology to reach out and experience other people's cultures, you have the ability to do that through their music, through art. I have two young children. And before COVID happened, we would oftentimes go to the Harn, and we would get involved in those types of like art activities, oftentimes that involved other cultures. So although it may not specifically be Islam, or dealing with Muslims, in particular, I think the thing that I would like to pass on to them is to give them a more global perspective of the world and not inhibit their curiosity, that they continue to ask questions, and instead of just kind of give a blanket judgment on what they hear in the news.

Vilma Fuentes  33:21
Well think for a second impressions like sometimes, I mean, I'm going to share an impression for me, I have had, I have traveled dozens of countries all over the world, many continents. I've I've traveled extensively throughout my life, but I've had limited interactions or traveled to and interactions with people in the Middle East.

I distinctly remember going to Egypt in 2019, and I was trying to be so good. You know, like I bought us a shawl. I was wearing a hijab. I was going to go visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Cairo, and I might be off on that. Anyways, when I get there. There's this big picture of like, how a woman is supposed to dress before entering a mosque and I was like, Oh, yeah, I got it wrong. And there's this big X like, if you're dressed like this, you can't come in and

I'm like, oops, like I was trying, I was really trying. 

David Durkee  34:20
So did you just turn around and go home? 

Vilma Fuentes  34:23  
I just, I think I entered but I was really paranoid that they're gonna kick me out.

David Durkee  34:28  
Ah, you flipped a coin. I like it.

Vilma Fuentes  34:32  
And it's like I kept, I kept my, you know, my head covered and all. It was like, I was covered. I was in pants, anyways, I tried. 

David Durkee  34:38  
No one ringing bells yelling shame at you. 

Vilma Fuentes  35:24  
But it was very clear. I tried, you know, but yeah, clearly, I'm the foreigner in the group.

Here's another big one in Egypt. I walked around, and little kids would talk to me, and they would say hi, hi. So I would look at them and say hi. And I would respond until somebody stopped me and said, No, do not talk to them. You know, they're, they're flirting. They're learning how to flirt. And he gyptian woman would never look at a man in the eyes. Like, oh, cuz I've been like flirting with me.

So, yeah, these little things. Anyways, those are my stories. I will hear your stories.

Brian Sullivan  35:20  
I mean, I was at a muy Thai camp in Thailand. And this German kid that was there asked me, it's like, why are you so proud to be an American, and I didn't have time to respond to this Canadian friend that I made friends with. He was like, why you aren't proud where you come from? Just answered for me. And we were totally different. He had a Hindu religion background, and he was an engineer, and I was just, you know, out of the military contracting, and it was just, it was really weird to hear, like, him have that shock of how proud I was just to be, I wasn't like shouting it. I mean, I have my only had this tattoo on my side at the time. But yeah, it was interesting to see like, how people weren't proud of where they were from. Like an Olympics, you know, that kind of stage not just like, shouting at people, but like, Hey, this is who I am. This is what I represent kind of thing.

Malia Rose  36:17  
I've always been the odd one out, honestly, because most of my friends are completely different than I am. My best friend is Haitian, other friends African. So for me, I feel like I'm always messing up. It's just like normal. Now at this point, they sort of just get it. I remember eating fish for the first time with the whole thing on it. And I asked them when they're gonna slice it for me because I never had like a whole fish with the rice or whatever that they were having. So I was waiting for it. 

Vilma Fuentes  36:50  
Who's taking out the eyeballs?

Malia Rose  36:52  
Yeah, I was wondering, so they put it in front of me. I was like, Okay,

What, what are we going to eat now? What are we going to eat and they are looking at me, and they are laughing, so I just don't want to say that I don't know how to eat this, so I just started with my fork trying to take it out myself, so after about the fifth one, after about five mintues, my friend came over let me help you out, this is how we eat the fish , but this was my first time, I was like okay, I had never eaten fish like that before. So that was very interesting.

After being in Kuwait for like 9 months I had difficulty adapting to the meat, like the meat that was over there, I didn't ask, sometimes you just don't ask what you are eating, I learned that that is just better.  You just eat the food, it tastes good, don't ask where it came from. But coming back it was just the different spices and stuff, the different spices, eating lamb, I had, it is hummus?

Vilma Fuentes  37:36  

Malia Rose  37:44  
I had hummus for the first time over there which was good, which was different. 

A couple different meats. 

Vilma Fuentes  37:52
So So do you eat hummus now? 

Malia Rose  37:55 
I have done that a couple times. Okay. Yeah, I have done that.

Brian Sullivan  38:00
Yeah, I would say from traveling. my palate has definitely grown. Breaking down pallet pallet walls, and just trying stuff from all different corners of the world. My favorite is still tacos. 100%. I've tried food all over the world and still tacos number one. But yeah, it's it's a it's a pretty wild experience going somewhere and trying a food. Like having the fish put down the whole fish. And I remember that. I was like, Alright, why don't I kept eating bone? I'm like, irritating. Can I pay extra have the bone taken out next time? Yeah, I don't mind the eyeball. But yeah.

David Durkee  38:44  
I think it would be about 300 pounds. If I lived in Greece. I got addicted to their taziki sauce. Yeah. And there gyros over there.

Brian Sullivan  38:52  
 So I grew up in Tarpon Springs, and it's a it's a great town. So you have Greek stores, Greek restaurants all over the place. I never thought in my wildest dreams growing up as a kid. I would ever make it to Greece. And I ended up working over there. And so I go to get a euro. And I'm like, Oh, I love these things. And there were two euros that get two euro. They're cheap. I'm like perfect. And I'm looking like the only selection that I have is chicken and pork. Well, growing up in Tarpon, it was always lamb we always ate lamb. And at the first place, I'm like, oh, maybe it's only because it's two euro here. So I just ordered the chicken then another spot, same thing. I'm like, Okay, then finally like the third one. We had a restaurant I was like, okay, definitely restaurant will have it. No, like, so I finally asked him like, why don't you guys have it with lamb? Like lambs too expensive here. Ohhhh. Wild. So literally, I had grown up in like a I don't want to call that, a lie. That I thought Greek food had laminate. When all this time they don't do it, because it's not to say they don't. But they don't have it at restaurants or predominantly in the main food because it's more expensive. So it's more chicken and pork. Interesting. But yeah, I love I love me some gyro and some taziki.

Vilma Fuentes  40:05  
So after completing your military service, all of you decided to come to Santa Fe College. Why?

David Durkee  40:15
 Well, I was actually in the military and my mom had passed. She was sick, actually, towards the end of my service. And I decided that I wanted to become a doctor. But I had always had a passion for football and always been a gator. So I decided, hey, that's what I'm gonna do. I'm going to go to USF. When you're in the military, a lot of people don't realize your eligibility cloud to play NCAA sports is suspended, like so you can actually serve like play sports later on in life. So I had, like, Oh, this is exciting. So I started training and I separated. And essentially, the first month I had gotten out, tore my ACL. So that was kind of off the table. And then it was just about going to school and in Santa Fe was a great first step as far as to kind of start that process.

Vilma Fuentes  41:16
Brian, what about you?

Brian Sullivan 41:17
Because it's close to the beach. Away from the beach. 

Vilma Fuentes 41:21
Two hours away from the beach, but you know.

Brian Sullivan 41:22
I grew up here in Florida. And it's funny because Gainesville is actually the furthest city from the beach in Florida. But it really isn't that far. You can go to the west and get a little closer to the beach there. know, for me, it was always wanting to be a Gator. I know I'm at Santa Fe College, but it's a feeder for the University of Florida. And as someone who's getting out of the military, you don't have the the transcripts to just get into us right away. And that's why I think after having gone to Santa Fe for a little bit, I would even if I could have gone into u f right away, I don't know, I think I still would have chosen the Santa Fe route because of the how much closer you can be to the professor's and just me having that influence as well with some student, some of my students, some of my classmates, because I have that life experience. I want to be able to share that. And but like, Oh, I met someone that had his experience, because I remember hearing when I was alone, that college age, this guy who was a veteran, he worked in subs, but he wasn't Honestly, it just kind of like, share yours, he didn't want to share his experience, he didn't want to talk like his is very closed off. And you could have brought so much more to other people to learn from. So I try to bring that with me to each of the classes I attend. Now some classes, you know, you can't really put in there like the accounting, that doesn't really work. But, you know, I try to learn as much as possible.

Vilma Fuentes 42:51
It's true accounting doesn't work for this, but I will say as someone who was taught and fully enjoyed teaching, like international relations, and actually I was teaching it right as we were starting this intervention in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq, I remember on multiple occasions, talking to students about Afghanistan, Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And I remember this one time, having a high school dual enrollment student that when I mentioned al Qaeda, she asked what's all kinda and I just thought, Oh, my God, how could you not know this? Like we're in the middle? We're just starting this. It's like all over the news every day. But it was really beautiful, because there was a military veteran there. They just, you know, turned around and said, Well, let me tell you all about it. And I I didn't have to do anything except observe and maybe moderate. But Malia Why did you come to Santa Fe?

Malia Rose  43:49 
So it's funny that you asked because my battle buddy. I'm putting quotations around that. For people that are the military, but she is actually at Santa Fe. And so I was in the process of actually transitioning out of the military. So I was I came in October of last year to actually Tampa first Because I wanted to go to Tampa, but after recognizing all the crazy driving, I said, I'm not going to make it. So the last day, right before I had to go back to base, which was Fort Drum, New York, I had to come up here because she was at school. And so I came here. And she kept saying it was a town. So I'm from a different area, and you say, a town. It's a small little place. It's a small. So I came up here, and I was like, This is big, this is huge. This is in a small place at all. And then she was like, why love Santa Fe? And I said, Why do you love Santa Fe, and she's like, I love it, because it's military friendly. And it's really big for people are, they're coming out to make sure they have the GI Bill, make sure they're able to provide understand for that. So I looked up the website for Santa Fe, and just noticing how hands on and how they actually help their veterans. I thought it was really good. And then I looked at the professor's rate my professor calm. And I looked at and most of the ratings are pretty good. So I decided to enroll the Santa Fe and I don't regret it.

Vilma Fuentes 45:15
Well,  we're happy you're here. 
Malia Rose 45:16
Thank you.

Vilma Fuentes  45:17
So for all of you, how has your time in the US military and then more recently, at Santa Fe College help you become a global citizen. Now, Angela, you have a very different experience, because you're a Santa Fe employee. Now. Do you think as an employee, you've been able to continue to grow and learn or as I've been phrasing it to become a global citizen.

Angela Gregory  46:21 
I have. And I initially graduated in 99. But I actually came back before being hired at Santa Fe as a student in 19, or 2019, I came back. And I did that because I was working as a freelancer. I was at home, I was very insulated. I wasn't around a lot of other people. And so I was looking for opportunities for career change. And I was always creative. So I decided to enroll in art classes. And so the classes that I enrolled in, I feel like helped me become a better global citizen, because a lot of the classes dealt with iconography, and things. And so the students that were in my classes were from all different cultures, we had a gentleman from the Philippines who decided to build a shield for a dancing performance. And we had another person who decided to, to build a type of drum that you would sit on and play. And so I think those classes, and having that exposure to those diverse cultures prompted me to want to be a part of this campus. I think that's more so, than finding the actual specific career job that I wanted to do, I think it was more the environment of the college, and how it would allow me to be exposed to things that I may not be looking for. It would allow me to kind of expand my own knowledge of the world around me.

Vilma Fuentes  47:07
David, my recollection is after you left the military and came here, you even joined Model United Nations, didn't you? 

David Durkee  47:40  
I did. And I had an advisor that was this really intense. So yeah, my time in the military, I got to travel a little bit. And we got to see parts of the world. And I think the big part was, you know, painting the picture. And understanding that, even though there was sometimes language barriers that everyone is motivated by, roughly, are generally speaking the same things, obviously you have outliers, but, you know, most people just trying to get by and coming to Santa Fe was a great opportunity, because it's, you know, a decent size school. And there's so many active ways for students to get involved, including Model UN, where you really get to dig into policy and you're kind of role playing and get your you're actively putting yourself in the shoes of people that are looking out for these other groups of people, you know, you're thinking of policies that are going to be beneficial for them. And so it's, it's a unique perspective. And then of course, just the landscape. at Santa Fe, you're exposed to people from from all over the place. So it's a wonderful way to just immerse.

Vilma Fuentes  48:25
Brian Did you have a similar experience with ethics bowl?

Brian Sullivan  48:28  
Yeah, last year, I was on the ethics bowl team, and I wouldn't have done that. Like David I was more into sports, like hardcore into sports was gonna do that. But with, you know, the virus, those are all closed down. So my wife, who's more academic than I am. She always gets in those academic clubs, or whatever. And she said something about the ethics balls like, okay, I like ethics. I like debating conversation. Let me try this out. and ended up being a great experience. It opened my world up to so many different things and understanding, I thought I knew a lot, which I like about the world and people but you have to really research to understand someone's perspective on something, someone's opinion, you have to be not you have to be an active listener, and not so much be someone that wants to just verbally assault everything that you know, at someone else. So it really developed a way to have a conversation, be civil about things be able to disagree civilly, because I mean, we should be able to do that we shouldn't all have to be the same. Like, we should all have different opinions, different hair, different styles. It just everything. So I really, really enjoyed my time with that. I wouldn't change that for anything.

Vilma Fuentes  49:52
I mean, what one of my biggest reflections right now is, it almost seems to me that maybe I'm wrong. So being in the military, gave you all exposure to countries and people that I've never seen, and I've never been to, right. But it was always in a very antagonistic form of like you versus them. And, and it's here at Santa Fe, it's back here back home, where if you, if you're willing to try, you're willing to create these opportunities, you can befriend, a Muslim, you can visit a mosque, you can try different foods that you've never tried before. And now it's just about you being culturally curious and trying to learn about the other. I think, 

David Durkee  50:38
I think, I mean, we have the settings like oftentimes, when you're deployed, you're in that situation where, okay, there isn't like you we're saying these, they're around certain people. And that's still not even the majority of who you're around. But there are there's a combat element, there's a danger element, where you can't really interact as much. But, you know, I was also, you know, lived in Portugal for a few years. And that's more of, you know, the immersion and getting to experience, you know, most of us probably had non-combat, TD wise, two different places. I went to Germany for three weeks. And, you know, I think there were opportunities to get a little bit of that, you know, peace time, hey, these are just people and get to see that it's not just, if I'm around other people, it's, it's kind of it's a adversarial relationship necessarily.

Malia Rose  51:35  
I just, I think that people are still stuck in their bubble. And I think because of the fear that you're talking about it, like makes us segregated more. I don't think it leaves the curiosity, where we've had opportunity to experience and say culture is not necessarily bad, it's actually can be good and you can embrace that. But to say today, in specially in society, I don't see that I don't see people wanting to learn more. In fact, I feel people running the opposite direction. People don't want to have these difficult conversations, and try to understand the different cultures. And that's part of the problem.

Vilma Fuentes  52:09 
Well, let's hope we can create more spaces to have those challenging interactions while we're here at Santa Fe, and even outside in our community. Excellent. Well, I want to thank all of you for your time for sharing your experiences for helping us commemorate the September 11 terrorist attacks and reflect on how we as a country have been transformed during these last 20 years. 

Malia Rose  52:35
Thank you.