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Monday, September 25, 2023


Veterans share their cultural stories


Having served in the U.S. Army for about four years, Paul Kuskos recounted his culture shock when he was stationed in South Korea. | Courtesy of Paul Kuskos

Various stories are told with a common voice at the Veteran’s Service Office.

Whether it is overseas or in the United States, every member is assigned to a duty station. Memories are formed and bonds grow stronger. Kinesiology sophomore Paul Kuskos served about 4 years in the U.S. Army. Kuskos was stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., and Camp Humphries, South Korea.

In Fort Bragg, many soldiers drove an hour to Raleigh to experience the nightlife and sights, while others drove two hours to Charlotte or Wilmington. Of the two stations, Kuskos said he enjoyed South Korea the most.

He was 19 when he traveled to his first station and was in culture shock. Nevertheless, he settled in and loved it.

“I like to be around a different culture (which is) completely different from what I grew up around,” Kuskos said. “(Korean is) a hard language to learn. It really is.”

Kuskos and his comrades took the train to Seoul with the Korean soldiers as tour guides. Because he was stationed for only a year, Kuskos said that he did not have enough time to see everything.

The Korean soldiers brought Kuskos and his comrades to the demarcation zone, the border dividing North and South Korea, which stretches 155 miles. Guards on both sides protect the border day in and day out.

“Being somewhere that had a lot of history and seeing how it has grown over the years was really interesting,” Kuskos said. “It was also interesting being somewhere that is at such odds with another country, right across the street from it.”

Geology junior Mark Ferguson served seven years in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.

“The nearby town outside of base was Clarksville. Everything closed at 6 or 7 p.m.,” Ferguson said. “The only thing open past that time was Wal-Mart.”


Mark Ferguson served in the U.S. Army for seven years. His service in the Middle East created lifelong friends and numerous memories. | Courtesy of Mark Ferguson

Soldiers found entertainment and activities by driving to Nashville, Tenn., including a Tennessee Titans football game.  However, Ferguson found the hour-long drive a hassle.

“There really wasn’t a lot to do on the base. You have to go far to do anything fun,” Ferguson said.

While he was deployed in Iraq, the soldiers did have some down time. There was a recreational center and a coffee shop at the base.

“You can’t go out to the city; you can’t go exploring,” he said. “Movies were the biggest form of entertainment, and I watched films from my laptop.”

Though he worked in a combat-zoned country, the experience was worth it.

“I enjoyed the friends that I made,” Ferguson said. “You’re in a situation together where you have to make friends. You’ve got that bond that (you) would not normally have anywhere else in the world. That bond was truly unique.”

Kuskos has also served in the Middle East, and he said he has built strong friendships throughout the years.

“When we go through the same thing, that’s when you build that trust,” Kuskos said. “When it comes to combat zones, together you don’t have a choice by the person next to you.”

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