Jordan Bird -- Goucher College

When Jordan Bird crossed the stage at Goucher College's commencement ceremony Friday, he wasn’t wearing a cap and gown. The Hamilton resident and Anne Arundel County native got his diploma, though. Instead of the robes his classmates wore, Bird donned what he is most comfortable in, and proud of -- his U.S. Marine Corps uniform, along with a white-bordered black hood signifying his bachelor of arts degree in sociology. Bird's route to the graduation stage was long -- he started at Towson University in 2003 but, feeling aimless there, felt a pull to the Marines. After tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he returned to college at Goucher with new motivation. Eventually, he realized he could use his education to continue to honor his military roots. "I was at a time in my life where I didn't know what I wanted to do," Bird said of his decision to abandon college. It was an adjustment when he decided to come back, but "when you start something, you just have to finish it," he said. Along the way, his ambitions became clear. Bird, 26, is a 2003 graduate of Arundel High School. At that time, while he was intrigued by stories of a friend's brother enlisting in the Marines, he followed the typical path to college at Anne Arundel Community College and then Towson. He shifted from majors in accounting to criminal justice to sociology, but after three years, he still felt aimless. He walked into a Marines recruiting office and enlisted at age 20. After training at Parris Island, S.C., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., he spent seven and a half months in Fallujah, Iraq. A year later, he went on to Helmand province, Afghanistan, both times working as an artillery surveyor, helping to direct fire. When his service was up, Goucher was a friendly option to resume his studies because he would often drive to the Towson campus from Camp Lejeune to visit his girlfriend, Susie, who was studying education there. Susie Bird is now his wife and a teacher at City College high school in Baltimore. While studying at Goucher, he found a new passion volunteering with Talmar Gardens and Horticultural Therapy Center, helping the nonprofit launch a program providing treatment to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. He plans to do more of the same after completing a master's in social work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where he will enroll in the fall. -- Scott Dance
Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun
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