Military Veteran Finds Purpose in Recreation

Military Veteran Finds Purpose in Recreation

11/15/2017 

SUNY Cortland senior Andrew Siciliano was installing solar panels and driving a delivery truck in 2013. The military veteran, 27 years old at the time, was looking for direction, having recently completed eight years of service in the U.S. Marines. 

The paycheck was steady but the work wasn’t fulfilling. Even worse, several of his friends from the Marines committed suicide around the same time.

“I asked myself, ‘What am I doing with my life?’” said Siciliano, now 31 years old and a recreation management major at the College. “I knew I wanted to try something different.”

He set a goal to try and improve people’s quality of life mentally, physically and emotionally. That’s what led Siciliano to college in his late 20s and toward a career in recreation, a field distinguished by the fulfilment it provides.

Through an online search, he discovered that Tompkins Cortland Community College offered an associate’s degree in outdoor recreation and that SUNY Cortland houses one of the longest-running and most respected programs within the discipline. He transferred to the College in 2016 and has flourished on campus as a non-traditional student. 

Siciliano has worked on the planning committee for the Cortland Recreation Conference and as an active member of Outdoor Pursuits, befriending other students through an appreciation for adventure. He recently organized a day trip to Howe Caverns, located two hours east of Cortland; he joined an outdoor expedition last fall that explored Algonquin Peak in the Adirondack Mountains; and this past fall he helped lead a group of first-year students in Adirondack Trail Blazers, the College’s unique outdoor orientation experience.

“I like to get involved with any community that I join,” said Siciliano, who grew up in Ocean Township, N.J., and served four years of active duty followed by four years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves from 2005 to 2012.

His service included an eight-month tour in Fallujah, Iraq, where he worked as a combat engineer performing security for military convoys. The dangerous work relied on Siciliano using a mine detector to sweep for weapon caches left buried and unsecured.

“It was stressful,” he said.

That’s why, a decade after his time overseas, Siciliano wants to help fellow military members cope with the realities and dangers of their everyday work.

Next semester, Siciliano hopes to complete the internship requirement for his degree with Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. Ultimately, he said he would like to work for a large state parks system or in Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) on a U.S. military base. The latter opportunity includes the wide range of programs offered to members of the Armed Forces and their families on military bases — everything from sports to entertainment to shopping.

“You assist people — military members — when they’re not at work,” he said. “You improve their quality of life through recreation. To me, that’s important.”

Siciliano is another reason why SUNY Cortland recognizes and celebrates dedicated students during annual Non-Traditional Students Week, which runs through Friday, Nov. 17, and features an array of activities.

The College will recognize notable non-traditional students throughout the week with a series of feature articles on the College website. You can nominate someone for recognition by contacting Non-Traditional Student Support Coordinator Cheryl Hines or by visiting the Non-Traditional Student Support webpage.

Read the stories of other remarkable non-traditional students that have appeared this week:

Julia West

Thomas Benedict

 Melissa Garrett

Kelly McKenna


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