From high school to the military, sophomore Ryan Lonergan has done more than most.
Lonergan, 25, graduated from Waterford Union High School in 2006, and upon graduation, joined the military.
Lonergan was sent to Georgia for infantry boot camp in April of 2006. Lonergan said he was unsure at this point if the decision he had made to join was the right one. Though he was excited to be a part of something big, Lonergan said boot camp is no easy time.
After graduating from basic training and serving for several years, Lonergan was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and served that tour until 2010.
During his time there, Lonergan worked on a Facility Engineering Team. His duties and actions consisted of jobs such as building water towers and distributing humanitarian aid.
At one point, Lonergan and his company were sent to a small town in Iraq which had a contaminated, insufficient water source. Their job was to build a functioning water tower that would supply the town with clean drinking water.
Lonergan said he was proud that he took part in something that immediately affected the local people so positively.
"Soldiers can see the best and worst the world has to offer and still have a smile on your face," Lonergan said.
While spending time with the Iraqis, Lonergan learned some Middle Eastern cultural history and Arabic.
Lonergan had always been able to speak a little German and French, but he said he had never had the opportunity to be as immersed in a culture with a different language as he was in Iraq.
Since his tour ended, Lonergan has spent his time earning a few degrees in welding, and an associate degree in criminal justice from Gateway Technical College in Elkhorn, Wis.
The biggest difference Lonergan said he could see between his technical college experience and a state university was the age gap. Many of his fellow students at Gateway were his age or older, while the majority of students attending UW-Whitewater are closer to 18.
The age difference Lonergan noticed has always been a difficult adjustment for most adult non-traditional students here at UW-Whitewater.
He has found a way to ease that anxiety by finding refuge in both the veterans lounge and the Non-Trad Pad.
"In addition to being an outgoing person and meeting new friends, Ryan has also forged connections with other veterans and non-traditional students on campus, which has helped eased his transition to UWW," Lynn Becker said, assistant director of admissions and nontraditional, veteran and online student coordinator.
Lonergan was diligent in his efforts to get back into school, making sure his credits were properly transferred and that everything was in order for his housing, Becker said.
"Ryan has an energy about him that will continue to propel him toward reaching his goals," Becker said.
Becker also said Lonergan was not too proud to take advantage of the services and resources on the UW-Whitewater campus.
Lonergan has spent most of his time back in school in the lounge set up in the Andersen Library for U.S. veterans. Lonergan said that veterans have a bond because of the unique experiences they all endured in the military.
"[We] watch each other's backs. Veterans look out for other vets," Lonergan said.
Lonergan is currently seeking his bachelor's in criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, after gaining an interest in the field while working for the Lake Geneva Police Department and giving out violation tickets.
Lonergan said his goal is to get a job in a federal agency, but he would settle for being a probation or parole officer.