MxCC was my second chance at higher education.
But before that in 1985, I graduated from East Hampton High School and received a dual scholarship for soccer and baseball to attend Mitchell College in New London, CT, the next year. My major was business administration.
Unfortunately, I was more interested in athletics than books, and I did not do well that first year. Although I was due to return the next year, I decided to explore the U.S. Armed Forces. My brother is a Vietnam Navy veteran, and my father and uncles are WWII Army veterans. The thought of war did not pique my interest, but the concepts of the Navy and what it had to offer did. I decided not to return to Mitchell College and joined the Navy.
Leaving behind the opportunity to play the sports I loved was difficult, but I could also play in the service, and it absolutely fulfilled my needs. My first ship was a guided missile destroyer (USS Barney DDG-6) stationed at Norfolk, VA. Trained as an operations specialist, I used radar and tracking equipment in the ship’s Combat Information Center. We also had a soccer team that played teams in other countries as we traveled.
The Barney decommissioned in 1990, and I was reassigned to the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy CV-67. The Kennedy was like a floating city! We had 5,200 sailors on board and several aircraft. The Kennedy and its battle group were involved in the Persian Gulf War and assisted in missions across the Mediterranean Sea. Upon return from the Gulf War in 1991, the ship was docked for many months for an overhaul. While in port, the Kennedy team participated in the Norfolk Naval Base Soccer Tournament against some of the best athletes in the area. Keep in mind, Norfolk is the largest US naval base in the world. Our team won the championship that year going 10-1, and yours truly was named the most valuable player. Believe it or not, having that connection to the sport I loved kept me thinking about home. My parents were always big supporters of us growing up, and I truly missed them. I was only 24 when I separated from the Navy after four years, so I returned home to Connecticut.
Then I applied to the Middletown Police Department, not really knowing what to expect. Having matured over the years, I needed to consider going back to school. Law enforcement seemed like a natural option. I loved community, family, helping others and the uniform. My father was an auxiliary police officer in New York many years ago, and we discussed this decision. He had reservations but ultimately agreed, as did my mother. She also stressed that going back to school was very necessary, and that I would need my education going into this or any career. She was right. During my time in the military, I further understood the importance of a quality education and a solid foundation to which my life would be built upon.
So, midway through my law enforcement career I found all of that at MxCC! After working for almost six years in Middletown, I knew that it was time to get back into school. When I began to consider options, I knew that my veteran status would be helpful. MxCC was the perfect choice for me. It had been many years since I had set foot in the classroom, and this was my second chance at college. I tested exceptionally well for placement, but I knew that a smaller, close-knit, environment was the best thing for me. The advisers who I worked with initially were like family. Always helpful, always there to answer questions, always took the extra time to clear up any concerns. I often wondered, “What took me so long to get here?”
We jump-started my educational journey with the Portfolio Development course which allowed working, experienced students like myself the opportunity to turn documented life experience into good, quality, educational credits. I earned 33 credits that semester, so coupled with my transferred credits from Mitchell College, the military and the police academy, I was well on my way to my associate degree. What also worked out well for me at MxCC was the veteran tuition waiver, and the City of Middletown reimbursed me for books and fees. I must admit that living nearby was also a plus. Finally in 2009, I proudly received an associate degree in criminal justice.
The staff at MxCC has been so helpful, trusting and vested in my future that our personal relationships continue to this day. Whether I am invited to campus for a meeting or a special event, the filming of a commercial, or as a special guest of President Wasescha on her radio show, I have always been blessed to have such great support around me. My experiences at MxCC have played a major role in my advancement in law enforcement. All my career successes have been supported by my education from MxCC.
Finally, I am extremely proud to have worked with the MxCC’s criminal justice coordinator, Rebecca Rist-Brown, on a very important topic—internships. Together, we have reshaped our agencies’ relationship. MxCC interns interested in law enforcement now work hand in hand with Middletown detectives in the Investigative Services Division, which I oversee. The experiences and relationships that have been formed under this new initiative have been invaluable.
I would like to thank everyone at MxCC for being my solid foundation!
Written in 2017
Gary retired from the Middletown Police Department in September 2020. He is now the director of community engagement and relations for the Community Health Center (CHC) based in Middletown.