California State University, Long Beach
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A Life Changer

Published: November 3, 2015

Wendy Lewis thinks it might not be such a bad idea if everyone served at least two years in the military. After all, she acknowledged, it turned her life around.

“I feel like every person should have to do at least two years in the military,” she said. “It builds you as a person. It accelerated my life and gave me a fast track to growing up. I don’t believe there’s too many places in the world aside from the military that prepare you so that when you come out everything else seems easier. I don’t know who I would have been without it. I don’t know if I would have been as assertive, motivated or a self-starter.”

After an eight-year stint in the Navy, she is prepared for anything, including her full schedule. As a mom of two children—including a 5-year-old son with autism—, a wife, serving as Associated Students, Inc. treasurer and being a full-time student, Lewis is a very busy woman. Still, she makes no excuses and noted her military experience has enabled her to handle whatever comes her way.

“I don’t know if I’d be as strong. Being in the military has been an asset and an anchor to everything I’ve done in my life since,” said Lewis. “There’s always something from the military I can apply to my life, from relationships to communication, to school work, to being in this position as ASI treasurer, to being a mom and a wife. There’s something the Navy taught me for each aspect of my life. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have that experience.”

Growing up in Los Angeles in a less-than-ideal family situation and surroundings that could have very easily tugged her in the wrong direction, Lewis decided to take matters into her own hands.

“For me I was going into the military to get the G.I. Bill,” she said, “We lived in such a bad area and I felt like I needed to get out of there and find my own way. I was blessed that I had an escape route, because not everyone in that situation did.”

At first she was going to join the Army with one of her close friends, but they backed out. Then one of her best friends suggested joining the Navy through the “buddy system,” and then they too backed out. Those two minor setbacks turned out to be a blessing.

“At that point I was like, ‘I’m going.’ I can’t have people holding me back and I’m so glad I went on my own,” said Lewis. “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

Wendy Lewis at work in her office in the University Student Union.
Wendy Lewis at work in her office in the University Student Union.

She served in the Navy from November 2001 to April 2010 and was fortunate to spend a majority of her time in San Diego, with a number of deployments mixed in. She worked in aviation doing supply, customer service and budgeting, landing a key position with the three-star admiral who controlled all the finances on the West Coast—Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and California.

With that location stability, she was able to take advantage of the Navy College Program and attended two community colleges in the San Diego area, eventually earning an Associate of Arts degree from Grossmont College before coming to CSULB in Fall 2014. She is set to graduate in Spring 2016, after which she has her sights set on attending medical school and becoming a family practitioner.

“I’m hoping to be a doctor one day,” she said. “I have a great husband who is supporting my dream so I’m going to pursue it. I do know that I’m a fixer, so when someone tells me something hurts, something’s wrong or if something’s off, I always try to find a solution for it. I definitely want to do something in primary care because it’s generally the first contact a patient has. I want to be that first line of defense. I love babies and older adults, so maybe family practice.”

And don’t question her ambition. Her days generally begin at 6 a.m. and include going to school, working her ASI job, and taking care of her husband and kids. Occasionally, she even finds a little time to sleep.

“Sometimes my days don’t end until 1 a.m. and I really don’t mind it,” she said. “It’s kind of what I’m trained for.”