As we prepare to sit down before our home-cooked Thanksgiving meals, those of us at Thomas More College are grateful for the many blessings Our Lord has bestowed upon our families, our college, and our nation. Part of that gratitude is an awareness of the sacrifices others have made so that we can exercise our religious and political freedoms. We remain especially thankful for the continued dedication and sacrifice of those in the armed services.
In an article on the Marine Corps Association and Foundation website entitled, “Wanted: Critical Thinkers,” Major John D. Jordan, USMC, highlights the value of studying at Thomas More College. Major Jordan suggests that schools like Thomas More—only one of two Catholic liberal arts colleges noted for its “A” ranking with ACTA (Association of College Trustees and Administrators)—offer superior preparation for a military career. This is because they do not simply provide technical knowledge, but foster a comprehensive understanding of the human person. “A military decision is not merely a mathematical computation,” says Major Jordan. “Decision making requires both the situational awareness to recognize the essence of a given problem and the creative ability to devise a practical solution. These abilities are the products of experience, education, and intelligence.”
The following interview, which staff writer Torrey Culbertson, ’22, recently conducted with alumnus Second Lieutenant Andrew Fagan, USMC, highlights the strength of character and commitment to the Faith of a recent graduate of the college. May Christ and His Blessed Mother continue to watch over and guide him and all who seek to defend the interests and uphold the peace and security of our country.
Second Lieutenant Andrew Fagan, USMC, MACS-1 TAOC Detachment, graduated from Thomas More College two years ago, and is now training to become a Marine Corps Officer. Currently stationed in Yuma, Arizona, Second Lieutenant Fagan and his wife Anne (’18) recently welcomed their first child, daughter Eleanor.
While at Thomas More College, Second Lieutenant Fagan was a student in the upper-division tutorial offered by President William Fahey entitled “War: History, Theory and Reflections.” In this course, students studied the history of armed conflict in Western Civilization. One of the goals of the course was to “deepen appreciation for human dignity in the face of war’s trials, defeats, and victories.” In addition to participating in this course, Second Lieutenant Fagan drew upon his education and formation at Thomas More College in numerous other ways as preparation for joining the US Marines.
What is your current status and assignment?
I am currently stationed in Yuma, Arizona, where I will remain for the next three years. I will be promoted to First Lieutenant in May. My military operational specialty is Air Defense Control Officer. My job is similar to what an air traffic controller would do, except in a more tactical environment. I am also a Command Financial Specialist, which means I am a certified counselor for basic financial matters for Marines who need financial assistance advice. My command is Marine Air Control Squadron-1, aka “MACS-1”, aka “Falconers”. Since we control aircraft and direct them to targets, our job is akin to that of a medieval falconer who sends his bird of prey off to the hunt; thus our squadron nickname is “Falconers”.
How did your time at Thomas More help prepare you for a military career?
The greatest practical skill my education at Thomas More College provided was the ability to think critically. Being an officer requires you to make well-informed decisions on short notice in rapidly-changing environments. Because of my formation at Thomas More, I have been able to exercise good decision-making in military affairs. Public speaking is also a large part of my job. Whether delivering a brief to high-ranking officers about how I will conduct a training event or giving a safety brief before a holiday, I am frequently called upon to express myself verbally in formal settings. With structured oral evaluations like the Junior Project and Senior Thesis Defenses, Thomas More affords numerous opportunities to practice and hone your public speaking abilities.
How has your experience at Thomas More College helped you maintain a healthy family life in the midst of busy military training?
My time at Thomas More prepared me well for family life by encouraging good habits like attending daily Mass or praying a daily rosary. The community at Thomas More College is very devout; our experience at the College has enabled both me and my wife to recognize the centrality of the Faith in our daily lives.
Would you recommend a liberal arts education to those who are contemplating joining the military?
Absolutely. The greatest military minds (including former Secretary of Defense and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis) have always possessed a liberal education.
What advice would you give to any students interested in pursuing a military career?
I would advise that they get and stay in good physical shape, that they read military history and military fiction, and that they keep their grades up. I would also recommend that they read the story of Colonel John W. Ripley.
Any other words of wisdom or advice?
These words of Theodore Roosevelt are relevant to my personal experience with the Marine Corps, and to my life in general:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Our country needs men and women who will be that ‘man in the arena’—men and women who are unafraid of failure, who are willing to spend their very selves in service to our great nation.