Afghan vet finds home in fraternity

Tuesday September 24 2013

 

Like most veterans, Tyler Faulkner ’15 can tell you exactly how long he was deployed. He spent 371 days in Afghanistan from May 27, 2011 until his return on June 2, 2012.

A member of the US Army National Guard, Tyler had his LC education interrupted by that yearlong deployment, and coming back to college life was not easy.

“When I came home from Afghanistan, I didn’t feel like I belonged,” the 23-year-old said. “I was dealing with PTSD really bad.”

Classmates don’t understand why he sits in the back of the classroom where no one can be behind him and he can keep an eye on all the doors and windows. “Other students don’t get it and it’s hard,” he said.

A Veterans Administration (VA) doctor recommended that Tyler try to get re-involved in campus life, as he had been before his deployment.

He rushed Phi Delta Theta and the fraternity welcomed him to a brotherhood that reminded him of the one he had left behind in Afghanistan.

“These guys made me feel back in that brotherhood,” Tyler said. “They really saved me.”

Tyler Faulkner
Donald and Crystal Faulkner visited their sons, Cameron and Tyler, during Parents & Family Weekend.

Though none of his Phi Delta Theta brothers are veterans, they provide the fraternal envelope he needs. It also doesn’t hurt that this year his younger brother Cameron ’15 transferred to LC, and they share a house with three friends.

A political science major with a minor in secondary education, Tyler wants to be a high school teacher. He hopes to one day feel that his job is as fulfilling as his military service, though he misses the adrenalin.

Tyler worked in convoy operations and security. He was a gunner, posted on top of a truck, traveling around Afghanistan. “We had to get things from Point A to Point B,” he said. “It’s arguably one of the most dangerous jobs over there.”

Tyler said he was injured when two oil tankers just in front of his vehicle were blown up. Both his knee and back were hurt when his truck plowed through the remnants of the explosion. Despite the injuries and danger, Tyler said he had mixed feelings about returning home. For one thing, he didn’t suffer the symptoms of PTSD as badly while he was in the middle of the action. He also felt he was doing something important.

“I feel it’s a good mission,” he said of the US war in Afghanistan. “We helped open wells. We helped open schools for girls.”

Tyler remains hopeful that the democratic reforms begun with the US in Afghanistan will remain, but he knows it could be dangerous, particularly for interpreters and others who helped our military, when the US pulls out. It could also be difficult for women who are perceived as too westernized.

Tyler met one of those women on his return to LC when he had a class with Husnia, one of the College’s two Afghan students. In a major small-world moment, Tyler discovered that he was based in Husnia’s hometown. (Husnia’s last name is withheld to protect her identity. Even members of her extended family are considered a threat.)

Natives of Delaware, Tyler and his brother Cameron are the first in their family to go to college. Tyler learned about LC from a mailing and came for a scholarship competition. “I walked around the Dell on a beautiful spring day,” he said. “I just fell in love.”

Tyler has gotten re-involved with campus life. He is a student senator for the Class of 2015, treasurer of the Spades Club he started, and a member of the Interfraternity Council.

He still has difficult moments. If he goes off his medication, he has anxiety attacks. And he has to take painkillers when his knee and back act up. But when he’s feeling well, he still manages to get an adrenalin rush — riding his Harley.