Shannon Smyth - Graduate

May 10, 2011
Shannon Smyth
Shannon Smyth - Graduate

Shannon Smyth’s first semester in college changed his life.

That fall, Smyth had watched the events of 9/11 unfold on television, and had decided to leave school for the Air Force. “I knew there was more responsibility out there, and I knew there was more I could do to help my country, but it wasn’t really focused,” Smyth recalls.

The Eugene, Oregon native served two rotations as an aircraft mechanic in the Middle East, where his curiosity extended beyond ailerons and turboprops. “After the invasion of Iraq, I really got interested in foreign policy and why we go over to foreign countries and help and assist them.”

The day after returning from his active duty enlistment and second Iraq tour, Smyth started a political science degree program at the University of Oregon. His focus was U.S. foreign policy.

Because an injury he had sustained in the Air Force made a military career difficult, Smyth decided to pursue an academic life. But adjusting to laid-back college life proved difficult after having dealt with life-and-death situations. Smyth saw that other veterans struggled too. “I thought I had it pretty good in the Air Force, but then I came back and saw that hundreds and thousands of veterans are having difficulties.”

Smyth volunteered with a group that helps veterans and their families adjust to college life. He also started working for Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon as a veterans aid assistant. It was here that his military background taught him to be mission oriented and take a systematic approach to problem solving.

Shannon Smth completed his fellowship in January 2012 and transitioned to a permanent staff position in the office of Congressman DeFazio.