The Air Force sent Cory Ahonen around the world. However, it was only after working in BSU’s Veterans Center that he found his calling.
Recently, the 29-year-old Sandwich native was selected as veterans’ services officer for the town of Easton.
“I saw the job posting and said, ‘I’ve got to apply for that,’” he said. “It just called to me.”
Mr. Ahonen was selected from about 20 applicants.
“It’s really similar to what I did in the Veterans Center here,” he said. “It’s about connecting people to services and learning something from them.”
He graduated from Bridgewater in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. In May, he’ll earn a master’s degree in public administration. Before stepping on campus for the first time, Mr. Ahonen had served his country with the Air Force from 2008-2014. He spent time at bases in Texas, Wyoming, South Korea and Guam. Usually his work involved corrections, security, and law enforcement.
Eventually, Mr. Ahonen felt it was time to come home.
“I knew I had to make some changes. I thought it was time for a fresh start,” he said. “I just wanted to see what else I could do.”
In some way, he knew he still wanted to serve.
“I had a strong feeling about that,” he said.
Yet after he earned his bachelor’s he wasn’t sure what was next. Helping fellow vets in the Veterans Center, however, showed him a way forward.
“Just by doing the work that I was doing there, combined with what I was learning in the classroom, it piqued my interest,” he said. “I knew I was naturally good at it, talking about what’s going on and helping them with their options. That to me is easy.”
He credits Michael Siegel, ’98, who serves as director of Military and Veteran Student Services, for teaching him much about the process and policies regarding veterans affairs.
“Michael gave me a job application and work study that was paid through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Mr. Ahonen said. “Instantly I just started taking on more things and asking what more I could do.”
During his time on campus, he was also president of the BSU Military Student Association and ran fundraisers that contributed to local veterans’ programs.
In his new position with the town of Easton, Mr. Ahonen will be working with a variety of veterans and service providers.
“Many are struggling to get by, and the benefits are there just to bring them even with everyone else and level the playing field for them,” he said. “We provide funds for things that are necessary for a decent quality of life.”
Help with housing, employment and money to meet the basic costs of living are the primary benefits Mr. Ahonen assists Easton’s veteran population with.
“Really, just helping people is the best part of it,” he said. (Story and photo by John Winters, G’11, University News)