As a medic in the U.S. Army, it was Philip Nowlin's job to walk alongside his fellow soldiers and make sure they were cared for, not just in the event of a firefight, but all the time.
"We were affectionally referred to as 'docs' on the line so there's a big-time respect between the medics and their line guys. It's the small stuff, like making sure they've changed their socks or they're not experiencing battle fatigue or whatever," Nowlin said. "There's a multitude of things, so our watch is never done, even during rest periods."
More than a decade later, Nowlin is still looking after military servicemembers by starting a veteran's group at West Coast University-Dallas.
"I think there is just an unspoken bond between those of us who have served. When you're talking with another veteran, it doesn't matter what they are really talking about, you just get it. It's just something that's just there. And so I felt like we could probably elaborate on that sense of camaraderie a little bit more with the veterans organization whenever we can get that going, to just do a little more," the native Texan said.
Nowlin originally joined the Army for college money, but soon realized that it was something that he enjoyed.
"I was reluctant to join, myself. After the dust had settled I'm actually a third-generation combat veteran but beforehand it's not something that I really wanted to do. After the fact though, it's something that I don't think I would ever change because I learned so much from my experience," he said. "It wasn't always great but I learned a lot of what I didn't get growing up. I didn't have the greatest childhood so a lot of what I was lacking as a young adult, I learned when I joined the Army. I would recommend that experience to anybody. I think it's a wonderful thing to be a part of."
Nowlin served eight years active duty and was deployed for a year in a combat zone. Nowlin had never left Texas before joining the Army and ended up being stationed in Kentucky, Hawaii and Afghanistan — where he and the infantry unit he was attached to were based out of Kandahar Province.
"My intention was to do my four years and get out but I ended up doing the eight. A lot of me regrets getting out, but you never know where you would be if you had taken a different path and I'm happy with where I am. But I often miss that camaraderie," he said. "It's a big reason why I want to start the veteran's program because there are a lot of veterans that I've encountered just in my cohort alone, plus a few others in other cohorts. I mean, we already stick together as it is in the cohort."
After the Army, Nowlin drifted away from the medical field for several years. Eventually, he said, he started to feel the itch to teach and began "dabbling" as a CPR instructor on the side. A radio advertisement brought him in to visit West Coast University and in June 2014, he enrolled in the BSN program.
Two years later, he's four 10-week terms away from graduation with a long term goal of working in critical care and eventually becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
His other goal is to finalize his vets group at WCU-Dallas, elect club officers and try to help some veterans get through some of their day-to-day struggles like making sure their military benefits are correct, their housing allowance is coming or providing informational resources.
"The big reason I wanted to start the organization was to help eliminate the problems that we as veterans are experiencing — not only at West Coast — it's happening all over the country. But to be able to help our small little community here at West Coast-Dallas is something that I value," he said.