By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – You won’t hear Jerromy Cissell complain about the stresses of finals week.
A few college exams are nothing compared to the pressure he faced while serving his country in Afghanistan.
Cissell, who enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve while attending North Platte High School, has twice put his University of Nebraska at Kearney education on hold to fulfill his military duties.
In 2012, as he was preparing to enroll in classes for the fall semester, Cissell was deployed to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan as part of a military police team providing security for a U.S. intelligence unit.
Three years later, in the middle of his fourth semester on campus, he was activated for another yearlong deployment, this time with a personal security team protecting a four-star Afghani general in Kabul.
Those experiences taught him a lot of life lessons, delivering a dose of reality and exposure to the world that lies outside Nebraska.
“It made me realize that it’s not about me,” Cissell said. “There are people out there who have it way worse than I do. My deployments really showed that. Here in America, we have it pretty easy compared to most every other country.”
The 28-year-old sergeant considers himself fortunate to be able to attend college, even if it means balancing classes with a full-time job and his responsibilities as a father and husband.
His ambitious attitude and positive outlook have earned the respect of his classmates and professors, as well as Chancellor Doug Kristensen, who selected Cissell to deliver the student address during UNK’s spring commencement, scheduled for 10 a.m. May 3 at the Health and Sports Center.
Cissell is graduating cum laude with a 3.77 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in athletic training.
Professor Scott Unruh, director of UNK’s athletic training program, called him a first-class individual who “demonstrates what it is to be a professional, civic contributor and family man.”
“Coming back from his deployment, he fit right back in with students and did not let his age separate him from his younger classmates,” Unruh said. “He deserves the respect provided him by his fellow students and instructors.”
Cissell joined the U.S. Army Reserve a decade ago as a way to find direction and make his family proud. It was also a way to pay for the college education he’d eventually receive.
He enrolled at UNK in spring 2014 and married his wife Blair, a UNK graduate, in October 2015 – one month before his second deployment.
The couple were able to plan their wedding around the deployment, but there was nothing he could do about classes.
“That was a little difficult, but all the teachers at UNK were very accommodating,” Cissell said.
They recorded lectures he watched during training so he could finish the semester before heading overseas and gave him a textbook, free of charge, to study in Afghanistan. When Cissell returned to campus in spring 2017, he was able to pick up right where he left off.
“My experience here has been awesome,” Cissell said. “If you do what they ask of you, then they’ll bend over backward to help you out.”
Cissell, who lives in Kearney with his wife and daughter Bexley, 1 1/2, views the athletic training faculty and students as his second family.
“I know I can come to those people later on down the line if I need anything,” he said. “They’re just great people and I know I have lifelong friendships from that.”
In addition to his athletic training studies, Cissell was also part of the Undergraduate Research Fellows program, UNK Barbell Club and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity during his time as a Loper.
In the community, he’s been active with New Life Church, Kearney Community Theatre, Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit that coordinates the distribution of food to people in developing nations, and Up with People, an educational organization that inspires young people to make a difference through volunteer service and a musical show.
After completing internships with Kearney High School and New West Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery, Cissell passed his athletic training certification exam in February.
However, he’s not done with his military career just yet.
Cissell transferred to the Army National Guard last year and accepted a full-time recruiting position. He has 2 1/2 years remaining on that contract, but he plans to maintain his athletic training certification throughout his service.
“It’s always good to have a backup plan,” Cissell said with a smile.
After all, he knows life can change direction in an instant.