Returning from military service to civilian life and transitioning to college life is not an easy endeavor. Which is why Loyola Marymount University’s Veteran Programs office, housed in Student Success, supports students in this transition by providing services and programs specifically for those who have spent time serving.
Veteran Programs collaborates with various departments and organizations to create a campus awareness of LMU’s veteran population. This week is Veterans Appreciation Week, LMU wants to honor, celebrate and create awareness of those students and alumni on campus who are also veterans. Ericka Salary ’19 came to LMU for the opportunity to work towards a career in the film industry and the support for student veterans.
Ericka Salary, ’19
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Ericka was working multiple jobs at the time when she first looked into joining the Army. She wanted to study film and video production. Joining the Army would help her pay for her schooling. In 2008 at the age of 22, Ericka joined the U.S. Army as a 68W Health Care Specialist and held responsibilities similar to that of a nurse.
After completing training in South Carolina, she spent four years working at the Regimental Aid Station and the Medical Simulation Training Center preparing soldiers for deployment. Ericka said, “Being an instructor and teaching other soldiers first aid and lifesaving techniques was one of the most memorable experiences from my time in the service. It was a point where I felt like I belonged and I was making an impact in the lives of others. I lost six people I knew while serving and being able to help soldiers learn those techniques that could be critical to saving their lives on the battlefield.”
Before her service, Ericka would not have described herself as a very social person. However, after serving with fellow men and women who shared similar experiences, she soon made lasting friendships. During the holidays, she always opened her home for 30 or more soldiers to come and enjoy a meal together, something she credits to her grandmother who made holidays because a time to come together.
Ericka finished her requirements for an Associate’s Degree in General Studies while serving at Fort Hood in Texas. And she completed
seven years, two months and twenty-nine days of service.”
She decided to follow her passion for filmmaking and began classes at Brooks Institute: a film school in Ventura County. Ericka then transferred to LMU starting in fall 2017 to major in Humanities.
Ericka has been involved with the Students Veterans Organization since starting at LMU and attends networking events when she can to connect with other student veterans at LMU. She believes it has been important to connect with other student veterans on the bluff and she wants the LMU community to remember, “Student veterans are normal people too. We are just trying to find our place back in the world. It’s important to appreciate the gravity of the situation. For myself and so many others, I sacrificed time with my children and my family to serve my country. Nobody can give me that time in my life or the lives of my children back, but you can show respect and support those who make that sacrifice.”
Since starting at LMU, she has focused on her studies and continued to work on her screenplays in her free time. Ericka also spent this past summer studying abroad in Greece where she learned about the local culture and finished her first screenplay. She’s completed work on her screenplay called Destined. “Merlin and Morgana are reimagined as sisters and key holders to the magical source of the world. With Morgana seeking to change the world, it is up to Merlin to stop her. With mortal, Deon caught in the middle, the future of the world hangs in the balance. Will Merlin stop Morgana at all costs or will she be able to get back the sister she knew?” Additionally, she’s developing two other scripts which she’s titled Torn and Sevan.
She’s even involved with a networking group called Veterans in Media and Entertainment where she attends events to meet people working in the film and entertainment studios. After undergrad, Ericka would like to pursue a Master’s program at LMU for Film and Television Production, work in the film industry and sell her screenplays.
For Ericka, her most important role is being a mother to her “heart and souls” her three children, Amira age 17, Ronin age 11 and Killean who is 18 months old.
She sums up her experience both in service and in life with one phrase, “Embrace the suck.” It’s a phrase she learned during her army basic training and something she continues to remind herself of today, “no matter what it is going on around you and when bad things are happening in your life,
you need to deal with the situation and keep moving forward.”
It’s a lesson she’s applied throughout her service that she carries with her in her academic and professional journey as she looks towards graduation this coming spring.
Learn more about LMU’s Veteran Programs.