Aaron Struble (’18) is no stranger to difficulty. At the tender age of 11, Aaron had to become an adult in order to take care of his younger brother. When most kids were spending their time watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, Aaron was worrying about how to make a better life for his sibling. He had a purpose and he had someone to fight for – two things he would continue to search for throughout his life.
In 2007, Aaron joined the military as a medic. It was the perfect fit for him. He was already accustomed to hard work, and he found deep purpose in serving others. Over time, Aaron became in charge of a $14 million facility and managed up to 35 employees and 40 civilian staff. His position gave him something to fight for – the well-being of all who were under his care.
So, when Aaron was discharged for medical retirement in 2014, he suddenly felt like he had lost his purpose - until the first-generation college student started attending Lewis University.
“After the military, I felt like my entire purpose was taken away from me,” Aaron recalls. “It took me a couple of years to figure out what I really wanted to do – not just what degree to pursue, but the type of human being I wanted to be. Being at Lewis helped me focus on my passion, yes, but it also helped to redefine me as a person.”
When he started at Lewis, Aaron still didn’t know what career path he could pursue that would provide him with a sense of purpose and passion again. He tried multiple degrees that fell flat. But through each transition, and with the support and advice of Lewis faculty, he learned to focus not just on the career path itself or achieving a degree, but on instilling his path with a passion for serving others.
“The goal is not a career,” Aaron explains. “The goal is to serve the public and to be of service to people. Education, for me, was never about a piece of paper; it was about finding my purpose.”
And Aaron did just that. He rediscovered his sense of purpose in life through a career in human resources. As it turns out, it’s not so different than his work in the military.
“In my job, I get to be a voice for the people,” says Aaron. “I get to be the person who stands up to the bully and says that the employee deserves certain rights. It reminds me of being a soldier and saying, ‘sleep peacefully, America. We’re going to take care of it.’ I’m still a soldier – I just wear a different uniform now.”
Even with a set direction and a renewed sense of hope, the journey to the graduation stage wasn’t easy. Aaron was taking classes during the day and working full-time in the evenings, while still trying to set aside time for his wife and son. There were times when he had to work overtime and, as a result, had to miss a class.
While he received tremendous support from his wife and son, the rest of his family resented him for being the first to pursue a college degree. In fact, they ceased communication with him. Thankfully, a small “army” of Lewis faculty and staff stepped in to fill the gap, as they provided constant encouragement and direction.
“When I say that the support of Lewis meant a lot to me, I’m being 100% serious,” Aaron explains. “In addition to my wife, Lewis really was my primary support.”
With his support system beside him, Aaron graduated with his degree in human resources and took a job in Washington D.C. He has a purpose and he has people to fight for – just like he did at 11 years old. When it comes to his legacy, Aaron hopes to be an example of how to be of service to others.
“I think that it’s important to remain mindful that the measure of your life is not merely about the impact you can make on those who are close to you or on those who could possibly return the favor one day,” Aaron states. “The most meaningful impact you can attempt to make is for someone who will either never be able to repay you for the impact you have made, or who will never realize it was you who made the impact.”