Logan Walker is a veteran who helps his fellow veterans. Walker is a counselor in New York State’s Division of Veterans’ Affairs where he annually assists hundreds of veterans applying for state and federal benefits. “I see a little bit of myself in every veteran who contacts me. I enjoy helping them understand all of their options. It’s an example that was set for me when I started taking classes at OCC.”
Walker grew up in Butte, Montana where the military played a prominent role in his life. He was a member of the Montana National Guard Youth Challenge Program. He completed the program and went into the Army at age 17. Following basic training he was stationed at Fort Drum. Walker was deployed to Kosovo in 2002 and Iraq in 2003.
After returning from Kosovo, Walker began dating Kelly Masello of North Syracuse. They married in 2003 shortly before he went to Iraq. Walker left the Army in 2004 and began working for a construction company at Fort Drum. “I enjoyed what I was doing but I missed the brotherhood of the Army. As I saw friends getting deployed again I wanted to join them representing our nation.” One year later he would do just that and go back into the Army.
Walker was deployed to Iraq two more times before leaving for good in 2009. He was fortunate to exit without any physical injuries. “God kept things in my favor all four times I rolled the dice. When I came back after that last deployment I knew it was time. My wife had stuck with me through the first three deployments and we knew the fourth was the last. We wanted to start a family.”
As Walker pondered the next phase of his life he decided to visit OCC. His wife’s siblings had gone to school there and had told him of their tremendous experiences. While touring campus Walker stopped in to the Veterans’ Affairs Office where student-veterans receive supportive assistance and information as they adapt to life on campus. That’s where Walker met Program Coordinator Paul Holzwarth who had been at OCC since 1980. “If it was not for Paul Holzwarth I would not have graduated from college. I may not have even pursued education. Paul was an absolutely huge factor in me attending school.”
Holzwarth and Walker clicked instantly. “I remember when he came in the office the first time,” said Holzwarth. “He was very well spoken and down to earth. His focus was on getting his education and getting into the job market. We helped him get started.”
With the support of the Veterans’ Affairs Office, Walker pursued a degree in Criminal Justice. He loved the diversity he found in the classroom. “The students were all different ages. You never felt like an outsider even though you were older than the traditional student.”
Outside of class Walker found people who helped him improve academically. “I was never a great test taker but I always worked hard. I spent a lot of time in the library and got as much help as I could. Every professor I had was always more than willing to help me after hours.”
In between classes and endless hours at the library Walker was also becoming a fixture at the Veterans’ Affairs Office, working as a student-veteran peer counselor. “He picked up on the job very quickly and worked very hard. He was very reliable and a natural born leader. Logan was very charismatic and people were drawn to him. When you find someone like him you want to hire him right away,” said Holzwarth.
Walker enjoyed the opportunity to help fellow student-veterans. He understood the impact his actions had on them. “It was a great experience to be able to help people who were going through what I had been going through previously. As a veteran coming in it is invaluable to get information from a fellow veteran. There’s a level of trust there initially that may not be there with a regular civilian.”
Walker earned his degree in 2011 then took a job counseling veterans, a job he still holds today. He says Holzwarth was the model for what his life would become. “Paul was a great guy. He would help you with anything. He was the friendliest face you could ever meet. He could always answer any question you ever had. If he didn’t have the answer right away, he knew where to go to get the answer. He knew how to make you feel comfortable. The example he set for me certainly set me on my career path helping fellow veterans.”
Walker’s long-term goal is to open an assisted-living facility for war-time veterans. He visits them regularly when making presentations about veterans’ services. “I had a grandmother in Montana who was in an assisted living facility and learned to love the environment. I’d like to create something similar for eight to ten veterans and provide a friendly atmosphere for them.”
In the meantime business has picked up at home for the Walker’s. Their first child, Cade Anthony Walker, was born November 22, 2014.