It was a scorching day at Fallon Naval Air Station – a sprawling 240,000-acre base in Nevada with 3,000 active duty personnel complete with bombing and electronic warfare ranges – and Petty Officer Second Class Brandon Griffith was getting ready for his upcoming deployment. But something was wrong.
“It was 120 degrees and I was feeling cold.”
After nearly a decade serving in the Navy as an aviation mechanic, Brandon was now coming to terms with a leukemia diagnosis. Doctors told him it was likely related to the exposure to toxic chemicals in his work. At 26 years old, Brandon was watching his career in the military collapse around him.
He started chemotherapy and was transferred to a naval hospital in Bremerton, Washington, tasked with making eyeglasses, a far cry from his previous role helping greenlight F-18 fighter jets as mechanically sound before takeoff.
Less than two year later Brandon was medically retired.
“I was like, ‘Oh crap, what do I do now?’” he said.
After a trip to visit his aunt in Denver, Brandon fell in love with Colorado and decided to stay. He began looking into pursuing his education, something he hadn’t considered before enlisting.
“In high school I never really applied myself,” said Brandon. “I never ditched classes, but I never quite got it.”
So, he began looking for a school with a strong support system for veterans. Touring different campuses, he kept noticing that veteran support offices seemed to be hidden down obscure hallways or in the basement. When he came to tour Colorado State, he found the Adult Learner and Veteran Services office at the heart of campus, prominently placed in the student center.
“That really stood out with me,” Brandon said.
He earned entry into the College of Business and pursued a computer information systems concentration, after discovering his fascination with computer networks and all the ways they could help make businesses more efficient. He also found that that his experience as a veteran was respected.
“When I spoke and asked questions, the teachers and students actually listened,” said Brandon.
“As a non-traditional aged student, he brings wisdom backed by enthusiasm for new learning,” said Bill Shuster, a clinical professor in the Department of Management.
After working with the Career Management Center to connect with employers, Brandon began applying to positions with Lockheed Martin and landed an interview, instantly connecting with the company’s culture when someone in the HR department ended a phone call with a brisk, “Roger that.”
“It didn’t feel like an interview at all. It was a normal conversation,” said Brandon. “When I got the call that I got the job, I knew that all coursework and late nights were worth it.”
After graduation, Brandon will be joining Lockheed Martin’s space division in Colorado Springs, and starting a new chapter in his life, bringing him back a little bit closer to his roots in aviation.