Military students, staff reflect on their experiences


Photo provided by Steven Russillo

Lt. Col. Vic M Russillo, father of Steven Russillo, poses during his service in the U.S. Marine Corps. Russillo, Sr. fought in Vietnam, and his son, Steve, is now a science teacher at Northwest.

    Many Northwest faculty members and students have family in the military.

    Science teacher Terry Murphy’s father and mother were both in the U.S. Navy. Murphy’s father worked as a captain on destroyer class ships, and his mother was a nurse.

    “My dad was gone a lot; he was gone for six months of the year from (me being) a little boy to high school,” Murphy said. “My mom was reserve, so she was gone every weekend or so coming home on weekends for two years.”

    While Murphy never joined the military, his brother did. Murphy lived in a military-based area during his youth. His father was on the first ship to fire during the Gulf War and due to living where he did, they knew about the Gulf War two weeks before the war officially began.

That wondering every day if I would get news that my dad had been killed in action gifted me with a certain perspective on death and major tragedies in general”

— Steven Russillo

     On the other hand, science teacher Steven Russillo’s father served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 23 years. During this time, Russilo’s father served as “backseater” in the F-4 Phantom and officially was a RIO (Radio Intercept Officer). Russillo’s father served two combat tours in Vietnam, in 1966 and again in 1972.

    “That wondering every day if I would get news that my dad had been killed in action gifted me with a certain perspective on death and major tragedies in general,” Russillo said. “I’m always prepared for it; I will not be surprised by the death of a family member or close friend because I’m perpetually mentally preparing for it.”

    During Russillo’s father’s service, he moved every two to three years. Similarly, English teacher Andrea Julian moved every two to three years as her father was in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years. Julian traveled somewhat often but mostly stayed in parts of Germany.

    “We had the opportunity to travel,” Julian said,” but I had to adjust to new climate of peers.”

    Julian’s father served as a mechanic during his service. During this time, she would also be moved to places such as New York state; South Carolina and Creet, Greece.

    “(Creet, Greece) was the best time of my life. It was a small military community,” Julian said. “We were invited to holidays and traditions; it was an eye-opening, uncommon experience.”

    Junior Colton Ellenburg lives in a military based family with his father, both grandfathers, grandmother and both uncles having served in the military. Ellenburg’s father has served for 19 years in the U.S. Airforce.

    “I’m joining (the US Airforce) at 21,” Ellenburg said.

    The military is a voluntary career, thus the only time a citizen of the U.S. is obligated to join is during a draft.

    “(Serving our country is) paramount, for all the obvious reasons; we do not conscript young people into the military, we rely on a volunteer military to protect our borders and interests,” Russillo said.

    While the military provides opportunities such as paid higher education or on-the-job training, a person who enlists must be prepared to serve his or her country at any time should a war break out.

    “(If someone wants to join), they have to know their own self,” Julian said. “There is a chance of war, and (you should) think about it carefully.”