For as long as Jonathan Myers could remember, he dreamed of a military career. The spring 2020 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and second lieutenant in the U.S. Army spent his high school years in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and after graduation, he planned to join the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot. The medical exam, however, would derail his dream: Myers learned he was red-green color deficient, disqualifying him for service as a pilot in the Air Force.
Though his hopes of becoming a fighter pilot had been dashed, Myers refused to give up on serving his country. He earned the National Senior Army ROTC scholarship, which he used to enroll in EKU and join the ROTC program. During his time as a Colonel, he earned the President’s Scholarship, the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Gold Medal, founded Black Christian Student’s in Action and became EKU ROTC’s first African American Battalion Commander. He graduated with a degree in aviation management and as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
But it was that dashed dream, that forced change in direction, that led to success and a valuable lesson for Myers.
“I spent most of my time in high school and some of my time at EKU trying to fit the cookie cutter molds that others presented to me,” said Myers. “Everyone has their own unique set of obstacles to overcome. If you spend your life trying to achieve success the exact same way someone else did you will eventually run into a challenge they never faced.”
Myers is currently training at the Army Logistics University in Ft. Lee, Virginia. His days begin at 6:30 a.m. with a 3-4 mile run, then classes the rest of the day. When he finishes at the end of October, he will become a Transportation Platoon Leader at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
“My main focus is to ensure that I truly take what I’ve learned and apply it to my career,” said Myers. “For now, I would say my career goal is to be a military leader who cares for the troops, sets the example, and inspires others.”
When Myers accepted the ROTC scholarship, he made a commitment to join EKU’s ROTC program, and then the U.S. Army upon graduation. ROTC scholarship recipients then spend their college careers competing for the military positions of their choice. Perhaps that fact drove Myers to go above and beyond in accomplishment and leadership. His sophomore year, for example, he trained for the German Armed Forces test, a weekend-long physical fitness challenge, where he earned the gold medal. In his final semester he became the first African American battalion commander.
Another driving force behind Myers’s success, he said, was the mentorship of faculty and staff at EKU. Chief among them was Captain Joshua Pitcher, an Infantry officer and EKU alumni who became Myers’ instructor junior year. Pitcher immediately proved to the cadets that he was tough but fair, and that even with a missing leg due to a combat injury, he could often outperform them physically.
“He pushed my class to our absolute limit, and he did not play favorites,” said Myers. “Captain Pitcher demanded that we all meet and exceed standards regardless of who we were, who your parents were, what we looked like, or where we came from.”
Pitcher’s greatest impact on Myers, though, came when he heavily reprimanded another cadet for a racially insensitive remark. “At the time I had been in the program three years and this was the first time I had witnessed an instructor do that,” Myers recalled.
Training with Captain Pitcher paid off for Myers and his fellow cadets; they all received their first choice of jobs in the Army.
Besides his resilient spirit and the mentorship of role models like Pritcher, Myers cites his Christian faith as a primary factor in his success. His passion for his faith is part of what led him to co-found the student organization Black Christian Students in Action. “As a young Black man on EKU’s campus I could not find a Christian ministry that I felt 100 percent at home in,” he said.
Co-founders Grace Daleng and Zoe Lee, he found, were having similar feelings. The three of them worked with intervarsity sponsor Alex Kelly to launch the ministry in Spring 2020.
Through all his accomplishments at EKU and beyond, Myers has established himself as a competent leader. To those who wish to follow in his footsteps, his advice is simple:
“Write your own story. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.”