By Jakiyah Haywood
A University of Mississippi senior inspired to help his country after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, is determined to have a career in the U.S. Air Force.
Ruleville native Evander Ward, 23, said he joined the Air Force for two reasons.
“The tragic 9/11 incident motivated me,” he said, “but most importantly, I wanted to become something in life. The town I’m from is impoverished and not many people make it.”
Ward grew up in a small town in the Mississippi Delta with a population of around 3,000 people where the poverty rates are high and school performance is low.
Before entering the Air Force, Ward was a member of the ROTC.
“The ROTC is a process of commission into the Air Force,” Ward said. “What I’m doing now is different. Even though I’m in school, I am a member of the Air Force. The Air Force Reserve is when you’re already in the Air Force, but part-time.”
Ward said the ROTC is a great foundation for a military career.
“At ROTC, you had to do personal training at 6 a.m., so I got up at 5 a.m. every morning,” he said. “Personal training usually lasted for an hour, so we got out around 7 a.m. I had to rush home to take a shower for my 8 a.m. class.”
Ward said he loves the college experience, but his routines differ from many UM students.
“When I get out of class on Fridays, I have to drive six hours away for drill, and it’s a struggle,” Ward said. “On Sundays, we leave drill at about 5 p.m., and I make it back home around 11 p.m. It’s hard getting up for class the next morning, because I am usually exhausted and restless.”
UM student Charlotte Smith is a longtime friend of Ward and one of his roommates. She thinks he’s doing an excellent job balancing school and the military.
“Balancing the two doesn’t seem to even stress him out at all, because he makes it look incredibly easy,” she said.
ROTC member Karanviar Singh has worked with Ward on several occasions and describes him as “hard working.”
“I’ve been in the ROTC with him for numerous years,” he said. “What shows is the work ethic he puts into everything that he does. He is one of my really good friends, and I can trust him with anything.”
Regardless of the struggles Ward faces daily balancing school and the military, he said it’s worth it because the country needs him.
Lately, athletes have been kneeling instead of participating during the National Anthem to make a statement about police brutality. Ward said many soldiers are devastated by this because they feel unappreciated.
“To me, the National Anthem is a song that interprets equality and freedom,” he said. “Every time I hear the National Anthem, it brings tears to my eyes because that song is the military men and women’s pride and honor.
“It’s great that they’re (athletes) passionate about bringing attention to the problems faced in America, but the National Anthem brings unity, meaning we must stand together instead of pulling further apart,” Ward said.
Ward said every student should stay humble, and that nothing is too hard to accomplish.
“You have to be able to distinguish between priorities and things that are unimportant,” Ward said. “You should reach for the stars, no matter how far above they may seem to you. God has a plan for everyone, but you must do your part in order for God to cooperate.”
Even though balancing school and the military can be challenging, Ward said the bright side is being able to protect his country.