A Patriot Finds His Path
By Miyuki Hino '12
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - For Jesse Reising '11, one tackle changed everything. After his sophomore year, the linebacker completed the first half of the Marine Corps Officer Candidates' School. He was on track to become a second lieutenant following graduation in May. When he suffered torn nerves during The Game last fall, he lost more than the feeling in his arm—he lost his dream of defending his country as a Marine on the front lines of battle. In a remarkable show of determination and persistence, Reising has discovered his own ways to protect the American Dream.
"After my injury, my body changed but my beliefs and my spirit did not," says Reising. "Especially after losing the Marine Corps, I felt there was more I should be doing to give back to my country."
To that end, he and classmate Nick Rugoff came up with the idea for Operation Opportunity.
Launching in early 2012, Operation Opportunity is just one expression of Reising's desire to serve. Operation Opportunity is a nonprofit organization that provides assistance with the college admissions and assimilation process to returning veterans and the children of fallen service members. One branch, the Gold Star Scholar Project, guides students who have lost a parent in combat through the college admissions process. The Warrior-Scholar Project helps veterans acclimate to life outside the military and reintegrate into the college classroom environment.
Reising and Rugoff envision Operation Opportunity as a comprehensive education assistance program including tuition assistance, peer networking, and college essay advice. Primarily funded through donations, students and graduates of top universities can volunteer their time as mentors in the Ivy Corps. Ivy Corps members are matched up with veterans or children of veterans and will work with them via instant messaging, video conferencing, and in person.
Reising chose this project with the hope that "those who have made great sacrifices on behalf of their fellow citizens have the greatest possible opportunity to pursue their dreams." He has teamed up with several other Yale graduates to get the organization up and running. However, Reising did not give up on his ultimate dream of representing America on the front lines.
Due to physical limitations, the opportunities for Reising to work in a war zone were severely limited. He had torn several major nerves in his arm and underwent a series of surgeries to regain feeling in his biceps and forearm. Nerve grafts were taken from his calf and hand, then redirected in his arm. He now has feeling in his arm, but still cannot raise his arm at the shoulder or bend it at the elbow.
"With regards to the pain, it feels like a highly corrosive acid is flowing through the veins in my arm and hand," admits the Decatur, Ill. native. "But it is a bittersweet feeling, because it is still better than not feeling anything."
Ultimately, Reising leapt at the chance to oversee construction of military bases in Afghanistan. Though it may not be what he originally imagined, he will still be able to contribute to American military efforts. Concerned about safety with his arm, the US government denied his medical clearance four times. Reising persisted, applying and reapplying for medical waivers.
His efforts paid off. Nearly one year after that tackle, he is finally Afghanistan-bound.