United States Air Force veteran Nick Soughley, 30, of Winchester, Massachusetts became interested in joining the military because he wanted to become more disciplined and was interested in increasing his job prospects. Though he considered himself a rugged individual, Soughley experienced intense anxiety the night before he shipped out to Lackland Air Force Base for basic training.
A few weeks in, Soughley began to form bonds with the other cadets in his unit and his anxiety faded. A year into his eventually six-year stint, Soughley was dispatched to the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. Looking back, Soughley credits his Alaskan deployment with getting him out of his comfort zone by forcing him to adapt to an unfamiliar environment, a process that he described as making him into a “stronger, better person.”
In Iraq, Soughley served as an intelligence analyst for hundreds of Air Force convoy drivers. In that position, he assessed a variety of threats to determine the safest possible routes every day for 165 days straight. Though he found the experience incredibly stressful, Soughley forged deep bonds with his fellow airmen. “I met the best man at my wedding in the military,” said Soughley. “And I probably wouldn’t have survived the six years I was in without him.”
In 2010, Soughley left the service. He met the woman he would later marry and decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill to further his education. Soughley is now a Project Superintendent for the Ad Meliora real estate investment firm and is pursuing his master’s in Construction Management at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Still a hometown boy at heart, Soughley’s favorite football player is former New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork.
Looking back on his military service, Soughley said that the most important thing he learned was a sense of integrity. “For me, integrity means doing the right thing when no one is looking. That’s really played a crucial role in my life, in school, with my family and with my job. It’s easy to say ‘I don’t want to do this now or I’ll do this later,’ but that foundation of integrity gave me the ability to always do the right thing, which has enabled me to succeed.”
Soughley credits having a strong support system waiting for him when he got home as the reason why he was able to transition back to civilian life so successfully. But he understands that not everyone has that experience. As such, he chose to contribute to the Game Time Salute project to raise awareness of the hundreds of thousands of people transitioning back to civilian life who are in need of jobs. “It’s not easy for everybody. We need to help those around us, even when they aren’t asking for help.”
Mario McKellop is a freelance writer who has covered the pop culture beat since 2010.