Francis Despres, Navy Veteran (image credit: Molly Graves)

Francis Despres is a Navy veteran who is studying here at Southern New Hampshire University. He spent four years as an aviation technician where he spent most of his time fixing the wiring on F-18 jets. Despres got lucky and was placed in a training squad with over 50 jets available to work with as opposed to the 12 that other units usually receive.

Although he did not officially deploy, he did multiple ‘temporary deployments.’ This is when a person in the military goes about 100 miles off the coast for 2-3 weeks so the pilots can practice taking off and landing on the boat. Despres was quick to mention that his favorite part during these training events were the stars. Being 100 miles away from any city or air pollution meant that he could see the whole sky. As a result, he saw stars that he didn’t even think existed.

Although many of his memories of the military were difficult and unremarkable, he made a lot of great friends in the Navy and he was provided with the opportunity to embark on some awesome adventures. For example, Despres and one of his friends got to drive all the way from New Hampshire to California while on duty. This was one of his greatest memories because he got to see most of the country, including places he wouldn’t have seen had he not been given this opportunity.

When he got out of the Navy, Despres was unsure if he wanted to go to school at all. With two kids, he found it nearly impossible to juggle a job and school. When the G.I Bill changed and offered a stipend while he is enrolled full-time, the idea became more feasible for him. He spoke about how he would ultimately like his children to attend college as well, so he is trying to set a good and positive example for them.

When Despres first enrolled here at Southern New Hampshire University, he really wanted to study software programming, as that is what he wants to pursue after graduation. Unfortunately, that program was not open when he first started here, so he decided to major in business management with a concentration in technology. As a 34-year-old college freshman, Despres says he feels a slight disconnect with the younger students but also appreciates that they don’t treat him differently. He says that being an older college student allows him to appreciate this experience more than he would have at a younger age. Despres is expected to graduate in the May of 2022 and is glad that he decided to come to SNHU, as it is much different than his expectations.

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