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Red, (Brown and) White, and Blue

Let’s say you are a student at an academically demanding university, and you play a varsity sport, AND you take part in the rigors of an ROTC program. Now, imagine having never lived in the same place for more than three years because your father had to relocate your family due to his profession. Or, what if your brother was the leader of an army unit that found a weapons cache in the city of Najaf, Iraq?

Although those three scenarios may sound strange or even unbelievable, they have all happened to students at Lehigh. For senior golfer Liz Eaton, freshman basketball player Jose Olivero and senior cross country runner Todd Scurci, they view life from a different perspective than someone who has no relation with the United States Military.

A role model

Liz Eaton doesn’t have a lot of free time on her hands. How can she? A political science major with a 3.40 GPA, a member of the women’s golf team, and numerous duties toward her ROTC involvement ties up most of this senior’s time. But she doesn’t seem to mind. Her political science background gives Eaton a leg-up on others in the ROTC program with the knowledge and understanding she gains about current political issues. And the physical demands of the ROTC program keep her in prime physical condition, not to mention enhance her leadership abilities.

“I do see myself as a role model,” Eaton explains. “I’m disciplined, organized and have great leadership abilities. I think that doing ROTC only helps to develop these qualities to their fullest potential.”

Eaton decided to join ROTC because her two sisters, Lieutenant Shane F. Eaton and Captain Katherine A. Eaton, are both involved in the military and it was something that caught her attention. It allows her to receive an education and at the same time live like a soldier. However, it is tough nowadays with both sisters being away from the family: Shane in Iraq, and Kate, who is pregnant, in Germany.

“I think that is the toughest encounter with the army I’ve had so far is not seeing my sisters. We are all very close and having them stationed overseas and not seeing them for months and sometimes years at a time is tough,” Eaton says. “Shane is stationed in Iraq, on a full year rotation, and her safety is a huge worry of our family. We just pray each day that no guerilla warfare has hit or injured her or her soldiers.”

Around the world

Jose Olivero has been from Panama to Uruguay to Costa Rica to Tampa and finally to Washington D.C. And this was all before his 19th birthday.

His father, Jose Raul Olivero, is a colonel in the United States Military who has been stationed in Afghanistan since March, and will be there for another six months. His involvement with the military has forced Jose and his family into new situations, but the younger Jose looks at both sides.

“It’s tough because you know you won’t be staying in that town forever, so any friendships you make will only be for a short time, but I have learned to adapt to new situations, people and environments real well, which will only help me down the road,” Olivero explains.

Despite bouncing from country to country, Olivero has managed to keep a level head, always keeping academics and athletics as his main focus, which is evidenced in the 1300 he scored on his SAT’s and the exceptional skills and speed he possesses on the hardwood.

“When I was growing up, my father was strict with us (Jose has one brother and sister) about schoolwork and made sure it was our number one priority,” Olivero says. “My work ethic definitely comes from him. He has to deal with being away from us every single day.

“He missed my high school graduation and my send-off to college, but he doesn’t want to split up the family or force my little brother to transfer high schools so he continues to do his job.”

Even though his father is half way around the world, Olivero says that he has learned to deal with his father’s absence and understands that it’s part of his duty.

Trust and dedication

Todd Scurci is a senior captain on the cross country team and before the season, he received a little advice from someone that knows a thing or two about leadership. His brother, Brent, is the Reconnaissance Platoon Leader for the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). In simpler terms, Brent Scurci is a platoon leader for a 19-man unit that conducts reconnaissance and sniper missions.

While Todd and his family miss Brent, they are behind him all the way and Todd says that the support received from the Lehigh University family has been outstanding. “I came up with the idea to send a package of supplies overseas to soldiers, and the help from fellow students, athletes and staff was outstanding. It was great to see everyone come together and help out our soldiers,” Todd says.

Lt. Brent Scurci misses home and says, “It is tough to be away from home especially for the married soldiers with young children. But my soldiers performed magnificently during combat operations and continue to work hard every day to make life better for the Iraqi people, even after enduring 180 continuous days in Iraq.

“The bond that soldiers form in battle is unlike anything else in humanity, and is a much closer bond than family or friends. By trusting themselves, their fellow soldiers and their leaders, my men were able to fight and win. On the battlefield, the price of that trust is simple: life or death. Mistakes can be fatal, and that is why it is so important for soldiers to trust one another. I trust my soldiers with my life, as every good leader should.”

It was this trust and dedication from Brent’s troops that spearheaded the seizure of a large cache of weapons in the city of Najaf. “My brother was interviewed on the CBS nightly news back in March (after the seizure),” Todd Scurci recalls. “It made my family extremely proud to see him on television, protecting the ‘blanket of freedom that we live under’ as he calls it. I think that prior to 9/11, people took what the military did for granted. Even in the Patriot League, with Army and Navy being members, people just didn’t understand how much work the armed forces did for us to have the freedom and lifestyle that we do. But now, it’s great to see the troops, like my brother, get the recognition they deserve, because finally there is a deeper appreciation of the work they do.”

Many people have been affected by the United States involvement overseas, like Jose, Todd and Liz. These three have not seen their family members for months at a time and for Liz, she may eventually be in the same shoes as her sisters, away from home for extended periods of time and in the line of battle.

But these three do not let this affect them. Each is intelligent, stone-willed and determined to be the best at whtever it is they are doing. The lessons that they have learned, like those of trust, responsibility, and perseverance, will benefit each tremendously in the future, wherever life may take them.

Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2003

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