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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Green Beret to graduation cap

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Photo by Photo courtesy of Chris Thompson

Chris Thompson stands on a trail with his family

College is not only about the degree, but the journey along the way.
For leadership senior Chris Thompson, his college experience has been anything but ordinary. Starting his journey at Texas A&M in 2000, Thompson said it was the only university he applied to his senior year of high school, with his dad having attended A&M.
“One of the first times I went back and saw my parents, telling them that I had no idea about the traditions and values and everything that Texas A&M had,” Thompson said.
Enlisting in the Army Reserves after high school, Thompson said he was not sure what he wanted to do, but after completing basic training, he knew he was passionate about serving the United States.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in life, and worst case scenario, the Army will teach me a little bit of discipline, make me a little bit better of a person and I’ll learn a skill,” Thompson said. “Second, if I hate it, I can serve my time and then be done, but what I found out is that I love the Army.”
After his second semester at A&M, Thompson said he decided to enlist full time in the Army, where he was reclassified as infantry and eventually went on to spend most of his time on the Special Forces detachment as a Green Beret. He went on to serve in seven combat deployments before beginning contracting.
With the opportunity to serve, Thompson said the military has taught him a magnitude of things, but what stands out most is earning his Green Beret. To Thompson, he wants to ensure he is earning his Green Beret everyday and said this sentiment translates to everything he does.
“To me, re-earning your Green Beret means making sure that you know your job really well, making sure that you’re physically fit, making sure that all your equipment is good and that you’re constantly improving upon yourself,” Thompson said. “When I look at my Aggie Ring, or at some point a diploma, to show that I’ve earned it each day while living out the Aggie Core Values, acting in a way other Aggies would be proud of.”
While serving, Thompson said he recalled the closeness of his teammates through working together, but also even when returning home.
“We spent more time together than we spent with our own families, because of deployments and when we’re gone for training,” Thompson said. “When we’re actually at home, we’re hanging out together, there’s just a very close bond that has been developed, and that’s something that’s super meaningful.”
After finishing his time in service, Thompson said he and his wife moved back to Texas, which is when he began to work toward his degree once again with encouragement from his wife.
“I’ve been to a couple other online schools, so I can’t really say what it’s like at other universities,” Thompson said. “But I’d be willing to bet that the network and community feel that you have here is very different than you would get anywhere else, so that’s what definitely had me coming back.”
While working on finishing his degree, Thompson has also become involved in multiple veteran nonprofits, where he spends his time giving back to service people much like himself. Currently, Thompson is working part-time at Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions, or VETS.
“They provide treatment grants for special operations veterans who are seeking treatment for traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder,” Thompson said. “The impact that they’re having on the Special Operations community is enormous and I’m super thankful to be a part of that team offering my small contribution, and having come from a community myself, being able to still kind of give back to my community in a way.”
Being an Aggie, Thompson said he resonates with the Core Values on a different level, especially with his prior service in the military.
“I love Excellence, being the best at whatever you’re doing,” Thompson said. “I love that and I love the culture of that. I love being around other people that are wanting to be the best. It’s very similar to my background in the military, I didn’t start out in special operations, it was something that as I started in the military learning, what is the best in the military — that’s what I want to go do and that’s the people that I want to be around.
“Leadership is so important. It’s what my major is, and the foundation for most anything. You can find leadership, not only in the business aspect of things, leadership is in the classroom. Leadership is being a parent, you can find it in that. It’s everywhere, and it’s really important to have a good foundation of that.
“Selfless Service is so, so important to me. It’s what I’ve done most of my life being in the military, as a contractor and in the Special Operations community. So, serving in that aspect and then being in the nonprofit space for so long, still serving others.”
As he gets ready to walk the stage at the end of the week, Thompson said while he is ready to receive his degree, he will miss A&M.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Thompson said. “I really, especially the last year and a half, have totally been fully present and enjoying each moment. I know that there’s some folks, they want to get it done as fast as possible, and I get it. But for me, maybe because I have this perspective of this going to take a while that I was like, I’m just gonna enjoy whatever aspect of it that I get.”
Thompson said not much will change post graduation, as he will still continue to work with VETS, but he will now use his free time to work on building his own business. Regardless of where his post-education life takes him, Thompson said being a part of the Aggie family has helped shape him.
“When I started school, initially, I would have said [an Aggie is] somebody who’s a student at Texas A&M, or has graduated from Texas A&M, but now it means something so much different to me,” Thompson said. “It’s being a part of a family, a very strong community. It’s something that I feel very honored to be a part of and very thankful to have had this opportunity to be a student for so long.”

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