Every story has chapters. At this stage of life, my own story has several chapters. Most recently, I have added the founding of a YAL… well, YAL Chapter I guess to that story. While the YAL Chapter of which I am currently president was formed in the summer of 2017, it had started to be written long before that. This would be the first steps of a liberty journey.
I retired from the military after several combat tours as an infantry soldier. While most of my body was still relatively intact, the fact was that war is hard on the body, and accumulated injures eventually lead to the US Army deciding it was time for me to be put out to pasture. Unfortunately, the country I returned home to was a very different country than the one which I had left. It was my view that individual liberty had withered as more and more laws meant to “protect” Americans were passed. For a while, I feared that I was the only person who felt the way I did about the state of America. In time, I would slowly come to find that I was wrong, and that time came to a climax as I was also trying to make a decision about which college I should attend.
Part of my transition from soldier to civilian involved putting a lot of thought into what I should do next. Attending college seemed like a natural choice, and I had explored the idea of attending Lycoming College near Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I was on the verge of signing a lease for an apartment and moving to that area so as to attend Lycoming; my life was changed by meeting someone who was a fellow veteran and someone who would eventually become one of the officers on my YAL Chapter: Joe Glunt.
Joe was attending Penn State Altoona, and we happened to meet through a combination of chance and mutual interest in a hobby. In time, he became someone I considered a friend, and his advice concerning how best to use my veteran benefits for college and his educated opinions upon what life was like at Penn State lead me to schedule a tour. Meanwhile, I also met Andrew Kurtz through Joe; Kurtz is also someone who is both a veteran and someone who would become one of my YAL officers. Perhaps most importantly (in the context of this story), Andrew is also a very liberty-minded individual, and it was his advice I sought when first considering founding a YAL chapter.
So it was that I scheduled a tour at Penn State. As might be guessed, I did eventually decide to choose Penn State over Lycoming. I finished my first semester. I attended YALCON 2017 in DC during summer break after being contacted by Liz Spayd and deciding to found a new chapter. The experience changed my perspective; quite honestly, I was skeptical of YAL (despite Andrew’s insistence upon the organization’s legitimacy) until I attended YALCON. Being around other liberty-minded individuals helped me to realize that I was not alone in wanting something different for America. I was not alone in feeling as though the state of the country I fought for was being pulled in directions I did not like.
Returning home to Pennsylvania, rejuvenated and motivated, I put the liberty movement in motion in Altoona. I, John, am the president, and my first two officers –the two other founders- are Joe and Andrew. Currently, we are a small chapter, but we are a strong one with a solid foundation of liberty. All three founders (myself included) spent time with boots on ground elsewhere in the world, working toward liberty around the globe. All of us felt passionate about coming home and promoting liberty in America. Andrew’s knowledge of the constitution has been instrumental in my ability to approach problems with educated liberty-minded solutions. Joe’s willingness to put in work and excel in everything he does raises the bar and helps to keep me accountable to a standard. For my part, I’ve reached out to connect with a variety of organizations on the Penn State Altoona campus, and I am working toward growing our small chapter into something which stands the test of time. Most recently, we added a fourth member; there are several more currently in the process of joining.
The spirit of liberty grows a little more with each day at Penn State Altoona.