Voices of Oswego Veterans

A Sit Down With Ken

Ken Cisson

Photographer: Eric Adsit

Featuring: Ken Cisson

In this interview, we get an insight into the experience of a vet as he makes the transition from soldier to student.

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About Ken Cisson

Born in Tampa, Florida, US Army veteran and SUNY Oswego alum Ken Cisson is one of many everyday heroes this country is lucky to have. He was born in 1982 and was raised in Jacksonville, Florida. His hobbies include fishing, golfing, and both playing and watching sports with his loving family. He has three children: 12-year-old Kaelyn, 2-year-old Dax, and his newest addition to the family is 5-month-old baby Charlotte. Ken’s life outside of his family includes his nonprofit involvement with Clear Path for Vets and he has his own business named Impact Tape Solutions. Ken Cisson graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2015 after serving eleven great years with the US Army.


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Leah: Hello everyone, welcome to “A Sit Down With Ken” and thank you for listening. I’m Leah

David: and I’m David. And today we have a very interesting guest here to tell us his story and experiences about being a student veteran here at SUNY Oswego.

Leah: Born in Tampa, Florida, US Army veteran and SUNY Oswego alum Ken Cisson is one of the many everyday heroes this country is lucky to have.

David: He was born in 1982 and was raised in Jacksonville, Florida. His hobbies include fishing, golfing, and both playing and watching sports with his loveable family.

Leah: He has three children: 12-year-old Kaelyn, 2-year-old Dax and his newest edition to the family is 5-month-old baby Charlotte.

David: Ken’s life outside of his family includes his nonprofit involvement with Clear Path for Vets. He has his own business named Impact Tape Solutions.

Leah: Ken Cisson graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2015 after serving 11 great years with the US Army.

David: Very excited to have him here for this interview, so let’s get started.

David: Tell us a little bit about the places you’ve traveled with the US Army.

Ken: Within the states I’ve gone to Georgia, California, back to Florida for recruiting duty then upstate New York in Fort Drum, New York which isn’t too far from here. For the overseas it was Kuwait and Iraq.

Leah: What influenced your decision to join the US Army?

Ken: Partially was my grandfather, he’s a veteran himself. He was in the Korean war. He told me a bunch of stories as I was a kid. And of course stories that had more detail after I was in the military. The other one is, you know, I just didn’t feel that I was ready to go on to college. I didn’t want to join the regular workforce either, I wanted to be a part of something and you know the military was something that I decided to do. But I think what really locked it in for me is when I was a kid ten, eleven years old the first Persian Gulf war kicked off and instead of watching cartoons or I think Power Rangers had first come out at that point, but instead of doing that stuff I was watching CNN and the coverage of the war. And from that I ended up just really locking in the idea that this is what I want to be a part of.

David: What made you choose the Army over every other branch?

Ken: Again I think that was my grandfather, he was in the Army and he was an infantryman. And as they know about the infantry those are the guys that are out there in the frontlines or what people call bullet sponge or knuckle draggers because we’re the cavemen of the military and I wanted to do that and the only two branches that were actually offering that position were the Army and the Marines. So of course, family tradition we didn’t have any Marines in our family, so I went with that one.

Leah: What was your first day like away from the US?

Ken: I think it was a bit surreal and it hit me when we got in Kuwait. On the flight there you’re just trying not to think about that and being away from your family. And the only thoughts that were cycling through my head over and over was the incredible responsibility that I have now that I have these soldiers that expect me to provide purpose, direction, and motivation but most of all ensure that they get home to their families safely.

David: How long were you stationed overseas?

Ken: I was over there for 13 months. Most of that was in Baghdad and the other part was in Bosra which is in southern Iraq next to the Iranian border.

Leah: What were some of your accomplishments and accolades while you served?

Ken: While I was on recruiting duty I enlisted 94 men and women into the service. And it earned me the recruiting ring, the coveted recruiting ring as they say. And that got me notoriously promoted. Also while I was in Iraq and various locations I conducted over 300 security and combat missions while I was there. And that was all without loss of equipment and more importantly, the soldiers beneath me.

David: What were some lessons that you learned on the battlefield that you didn’t learn in the classroom?

Ken: I think some lessons are the seriousness of responsibility and being responsible for yourself ultimately. And the fragility of life. Just how fragile that is and seeing things over there, you come to love every moment of life. The other thing is, I’ve learned true leadership and management skills. Those skills were tested over there and that’s just something you can’t do in a classroom.

Leah: Speaking of the classroom, what was your experience like transitioning from soldier to student?

Ken: I definitely said that the transition was a bit daunting. It was because I went from something that was incredibly structured into something that seemed very unorganized. With any of that, that came about, so in the military, with that structure, I knew my entire day, I knew my entire week, I knew my entire month. Throughout the entire day, I knew what was going on because it was laid out for me. So here I am now, making my own schedule, and that kind of throws people off. Also, people instinctively seek out what’s familiar to them or gravitate to something that’s familiar to them. And all of us do it, I’m sure you guys did that while ya’ll were at orientation. You try and find somebody that’s from your hometown or if you’re an athlete you try and find another athlete that plays the same sport. Or you try and gravitate towards someone who has the same beliefs or ideas that you do. And that’s no different from the military guys. When we do our orientation, and it’s great because we have a wonderful Veterans Service Coordinator, we know where the veterans are. Of course we’re going to seek out the veterans because they’ve shared the same experiences as us. Some of them are from our hometown so everything is very familiar with them. And as we go into this unfamiliar environment it’s always more comfortable to have somebody right there with you.

David: How drastic do you think the differences are with the services provided for vets at Oswego today, are they different from the services provided when you attended?

Ken: I’d say it’s not really drastic at all. It’s been pretty even. I’ve been a part of everything that goes on with the veterans here on campus or within our community. Oswego has easily the most knowledgeable Veterans Service Coordinator by the name of Ben Parker. And if there are services out there, Oswego has definitely provided those above and beyond for any of the veterans. Whether it be active duty military, reserves, National Guard or their family members. They take a lot of passion into providing services. The other thing that is great about the school is Oswego was named the best for vets college by Military Times for 2017 and 2016. Military friendly school by Military Advanced Education for the past 5 years. Military friendly school by GI Jobs for the past 4 years. US News and World Report placed Oswego number 25 on the list of best colleges for veterans for universities in the north. They’ve definitely been doing their part and have been since I’ve attended here and it’s only grown.

Leah: What are you doing now in the workforce?

Ken: Currently, I own my own business. I’m also invested in a couple of others. My business is adhesive tapes, athletic tapes, trainer’s tapes you name it, that’s my business. The other thing I do is part time, I work at Clear Path for Veterans. Which is a nonprofit organization in Chittenango, just outside of Syracuse. I work as a talent acquisition so what I end up doing is going to different companies and sell to them the reasons why they need to hire veterans. Once they decide to agree to it, my hunt begins with finding veterans to fill those positions. I would definitely say that the education that I received here at Oswego plays a role in every aspect of my life.

David: Is there any advice or information that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Ken: Do your homework when choosing a school. Find the ones with proven experience that provide the proper support and resources needed for our demographic. Seek out your veteran brothers and sisters, don’t become a hermit crab and shy away from everybody. And be open to finding new friends.

Leah: If you’re interested in more veteran stories visit our the Oswego website and search Veterans of Oswego for more stories.