Student featured in local newspaper

Steve Allen, of Marysville, who served in both the Navy and Army, graduated from Columbia College in Marysville.
Columbia College–Everett/Marysville student and recent graduate, Steve Allen, was featured in the July 20th edition of the Daily Herald:

Marysville man adjusts after cancer ends military career
By Kristi O'Harran
Steve Allen served our country for 22 years, eight months and 29 days in two branches of the military.

His country is paying him back for some of his sacrifices. Thanks to the Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights, Allen receives money to attend Columbia College in Marysville.

This is a man who deserves every possible benefit. He was injured in Iraq, so severely he said he doesn't like to relate his stories of pain.

After his service, he put one injured leg in front of the other to further his education.

The Marysville man entered the Navy straight out of high school.

"I loved the Navy," he said. "I served on several ships."

At age 34, he said his career seemed stalled. The petty officer first class said he didn't see any promotions in his future, but he wasn't finished serving his country.

"I went into the Blue to Green program," Allen, 42, said. "I went straight from the Navy into the Army."

The program offered a lateral transfer for certain pay grades.

It also offered the chance to go to war.

"I did three trips to Iraq," he said. "I was a radar operator."

Anticipating his fourth deployment, Allen got what he thought was the flu. He said he just didn't feel right. His lungs filled with fluid.

It was Hodgkin's lymphoma. Formerly known as Hodgkin's disease, it's a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. As Hodgkin's lymphoma progresses, it compromises the body's ability to fight infection.

"I was in bad shape," Allen said. "At one point I was terminal. I figured I was done for."

He was sent to Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma. He was there for almost four years in the medical holding unit.

Allen was discharged from the Army in 2009, and his cancer isn't officially in remission. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Marysville.

He resumed his education with vigor. Allen has earned two associate degrees from Columbia College at the Marysville branch. At Columbia, members of the military, or anyone, may advance their education.

For Allen, it's a place where furthering his education is as important as keeping in contact with other veterans or those still serving.

His adviser, Patti Samsel, said Allen started with Columbia in June, 1999, while he was stationed at Naval Station Everett.

"I am always happy to sit and talk with him," Samsel said. "I know that he was wounded in combat, recovered from a cancer scare and all through this maintained his happy disposition."

Samsel said Allen is in the process of earning his bachelor of science in business administration with dual minors in computer information systems and psychology. He recently participated in a graduation ceremony for his associate degree in science and business administration.

Allen said taking classes at Columbia is like having mini reunions. He seems to know someone in every class on the small campus. Allen aims to transfer to the University of Washington where he wants to study to receive a degree in civil engineering.

"I'm interested in wetland conservation," he said.

When he served at Naval Station Everett, Allen said he fell in love with this part of the country. His family enjoys visiting the zoo, camping, hunting and fishing.

The veteran takes a slow pace outdoors. He said he can't manage wearing a backpack anymore.

Allen has medical tests every six months to check the cancer. He regrets the disease ended his military career.

"Every day I wish I was back in," Allen said. "You love the soldier beside you."

He said it haunts him that he didn't make his fourth assignment in Iraq.

"The guys went without me," he said. "I didn't decide to get cancer."

These days, his strength is zapped. He said he can't pull the cord to start the lawn mower. His lungs are damaged from the cancer treatments.

"My left leg is pretty useless," he said. "I still have nightmares."

Steve Allen wore a cap and gown when he received his diploma -- and a beard to cover scars from a war.