Jackson Grant doesn’t recall the primary reason behind his initial visit to the Military & Veteran Resource Center in Vickery Hall over the summer of 2022. But he remembers the impression it made on him as an enrolled student veteran navigating his very first day at Clemson University.
“Someone recommended the office to get help with my questions, and that’s where I met Emily DaBruzzi for the first time,” says Grant, who inquired about the feasibility of participating in the work-study program coordinated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The two hit it off immediately. DaBruzzi—who was still relatively new in her role as director of Military & Veteran Engagement—learned Grant was married with two young children. At the time, she was in search of a good daycare facility. Grant recommended the daycare he was using.
“It felt like such a really cool dynamic of what our community embodies,” DaBruzzi recalls. “He was literally helping me on his first day on campus. As soon as he was interested in the work-study program, I knew he would be a perfect fit for our program.”
Grant has spent the past 18 months as a perfect fit at Clemson, a school ripe with tradition and a proud military heritage.
BORN TO SERVE
Grant grew up in Clemson and graduated from nearby D.W. Daniel High School. His desire to serve was evident from an early age, as he was a member of the Boy Scouts of America. As an upperclassman at Daniel, he was active in the Lions’ Junior ROTC program.
Apprehensive of the lack of discipline he displayed academically, Grant pushed college aside and instead opted to explore a career in the military. He landed on the United States Navy and headed off to Great Lakes, Illinois for recruit training.
Grant was offered a position as a hospital corpsman, which required additional training—first in Texas for “A” School, and later California for trauma medicine and tactical emergency care. Hospital corpsmen perform a wide range of clinical and specialty medical tasks.
“All medical personnel in the Navy are hospital corpsmen,” he says. “You can go on to clinics, hospitals and ships. But the Navy can also send you to the Marine Corps because they don’t have medical personnel in their ranks. I was selected for service with an infantry platoon in the Marines.”
Grant served with the Navy from 2014-19, which included multiple deployments. He met his wife, Bailey, in Hawaii and was married prior to a 2017 deployment. Bailey was serving in the Marine Corps at the time. After leaving the Navy in 2019, Grant joined the Army Reserve and has accumulated more than nine years of service in the United States military.
TRANSITION TO CIVILIAN LIFE
Following active duty, Grant began working his way back toward the pursuit of a college degree. He and Bailey moved to Boone, North Carolina and started out at Appalachian State University. But between trips to Clemson every other weekend to see his parents and with a daughter now in their lives, it wasn’t working. Grant transferred to Tri-County Technical College to bolster his GPA and determine if Clemson was a viable option.
At the same time, Grant had to adapt to the things veterans sometimes struggle with … in essence, learning to be a student all over again.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Grant says of the transition from military to civilian life. “The reason departments like Military & Veteran Engagement exist is to help position people like me to succeed academically.”
Grant was accepted as a transfer and enrolled in 2022 and hit the ground running. He calls the resource center a “beacon” on campus for military-connected students. When he’s not in class, he can be found building sense of community in the resource center with students who share similar experiences.
He is an integral part of the Office of Military & Veteran Engagement, which assists military-affiliated students—service members, veterans and dependents using VA benefits—by connecting them to resources during their time at Clemson. In December 2022, he earned the Outstanding Student Veteran Award from DaBruzzi’s office.
In addition to work-study responsibilities, Grant also became involved with the Student Veterans of America (SVA). The chapter is open to anyone who supports student veterans through advocacy, peer mentorship and programming. Grant currently serves as treasurer for the organization.
“If I’m going through a tough time or have a problem, I have a plethora of resources within a shared community,” he says. “That only adds to me as a person and as a professional, and it’s a wonderful thing to have as a university.”
LEADER IN TRAINING
Assisting veterans and military-connected students is only part of Grant’s story. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology while also training as an ROTC cadet a few hours each week. Upon graduation, he’ll commission into the Army as an officer and continue his military career.
“I still have that desire to serve,” he says. “The ability to bring what I’ve learned into the ROTC dynamic while simultaneously learning from younger cadets is great.”
Grant relishes being part of a school rooted in so much military heritage. He represents multiple identities. He’s a Navy veteran and Army reservist. VA work-study student and ROTC cadet. Military spouse. Father of two.
And despite everything on his plate, you’ll rarely see Grant without a smile on his face or a willingness to lend a helping hand. It’s simply who he is and always has been.
“Jackson truly functions as a coordinator in our office, because we rely so heavily on student assistants,” DaBruzzi says. “On top of that, the leadership he’s shown the SVA has been instrumental. He’s the driving force behind their professionalism and provides peer mentorship on a daily basis. It’s incredible how he balances everything he’s doing.”