‘He’s definitely my hero’

Political Science student deployed to Middle East

Every semester contains a unique set of stressors for students. Some semesters are writing-intensive, others may have a difficult core class or a dreaded 8 a.m. class throughout the week. For most students, each of those issues can be overwhelming. For Micah Stanko, however, those worries seem laughably insignificant compared to his current duty.

Stanko, a junior political science major, devoted student, son, friend and fiancé is currently deployed in the middle east.

Stanko signed a six-year contract to serve the United States through the Air National Guard in 2014, approximately when he began dating his now-fiancée Kelby Rudash, a senior nursing major.

“I have been here with him through it all,” Rudash said.

According to Rudash, Stanko had always mentioned enlisting in the Air National Guard as something he wanted to do.

“His whole family has been in the military, including his mom, dad, aunts and uncles, all of them have been a part of the air force,” Rudash said.

Rudash admits that it’s “difficult” to plan a wedding when the groom is halfway around the world, particularly since communication is “very limited”.

“It’s definitely hard,” Rudash said. “When you love somebody, you do what you have to do, and I support him. No matter what I will be here waiting for him. Even though waiting here is really tough and stressful.”

Their communication, which has been largely through texts dependent on Stanko’s base’s unreliable Wi-Fi, is also restricted by the 8-hour time difference between the two. As Rudash finishes her commute home following her nursing clinicals at approximately 3 p.m., Stanko is finally resting after work at 11 p.m.

Stanko, when deployed, set aside his political science coursework to work as a mechanic on airplane hydraulics with a ferocious work schedule consisting of 12-hour shifts with one day of each week.

Stanko’s no stranger to or intimidated by vigorous work, according to Lawrence Stratton, associate professor of ethics and constitutional law.

“By now I have lost track of the number of courses he has taken from me,” Stratton said.

Stratton, who describes Stanko as a “passionate and intellectually curious person”, has had the opportunity to get to know Stanko as both a student and person through his participation in the student senate and Stover Scholar program.

“He is the kind of person that when he speaks, people listen,” Stratton said. “He always has a comment or two that shows depth. He digs deep in any analytical situation.”

Rudash notes his devotion to his academics.

“He definitely likes being a student,” Rudash said.

Stratton serves as advisor to the student senate where Stanko previously served as academic vice president.

“He has a great commitment to America, he is very patriotic and he is committed to the constitution so it is perfectly fitting that he would serve in the military in the midst of his academic pursuits,” Stratton said.

Stanko was deployed once before, during the summer of 2016, so his service to his country didn’t interfere directly with his schoolwork. Due to his current deployment and previous commitments to the Air National Force, Stanko, who would’ve otherwise graduated in May of 2018, is set to return to campus during the fall 2018 semester as a second-semester junior.

“He does very well with balancing school with work even though it is very difficult,” said Rudash, who is set to see Stanko when he returns in March. Though his deployment is currently interfering with his ability to attend school, according to Rudash, Stanko’s supervisor does try to work around Stanko’s collegiate commitments.

Stanko, during his typical semesters, travels to his base in Pittsburgh on a monthly basis as well as maintain his academic standing. According to Rudash, other than their wedding, which is set for July, Stanko is unsure of what to pursue in his future.

“He has mentioned the possibility of law school and a couple different things. He is definitely intending on receiving more schooling on a graduate-level but he hasn’t specifically picked something yet,” Rudash said.

As his March return approaches, Rudash can expect easier communication with her groom, and Stanko can anticipate a break from consistent 12-hour work days serving the United States through the Air National Guard. Stanko will be able to rest over the remainder of the spring and summer to return to campus and back to his studies in the fall.

“I am really proud of him and, I would say, very supportive. He is definitely my hero,” Rudash said.