Becoming a Voice for Veterans Everywhere

By Tommy Switzgable

“It’s the difference between who do you want to carry you over the finish line—someone who has never worked hard for something or someone who will give you everything they’ve got to get the mission done,” replies Melanie Spears, CPS’19, when asked about the value of a good work ethic. It’s no secret that hard work is a cornerstone of her personality, as proven repeatedly through her experiences in the military and Northeastern University.

After making the decision to drop out of college in 2011, Spears enlisted in the United States Army, achieving the rank of specialist. Her duties included ensuring that her unit was mission ready, and food, water, and ammunition made it to outposts while working as security for NATO forces. She remembers her time in the service fondly, especially given that it scratched her itch for travel, stating that it taught her “every country, city…place I visited, people were proud of where they came from, just like I am.”

However, Spears is unfortunately no stranger to adversity, from navigating the difficulty of living as a sexual assault survivor to beating a colon cancer diagnosis rooted in exposure to toxins while serving. Despite this, Spears chose to use her experiences as a catalyst for inspiration. “Being a survivor of sexual assault, peace is a higher measure to reach than justice. Getting and beating colon cancer…I’ve met people who truly taught me what vulnerability is.”

With a new perspective on the world, Spears used Northeastern’s Yellow Ribbon program to achieve her master’s degree in homeland security. “I knew it was important to me to serve my country in a different capacity,” she says. While attending, she utilized Northeastern’s Dolce Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Service members to grow her network and create personal connections through a series of events, which helped her become a Wounded Warrior Fellow and obtain her current role as a partner business development manager at Cisco Systems.

By using the comprehensive leadership skills developed through her degree program and leveraging the resources provided to her through Northeastern’s veteran network, Spears has made it her personal mission to become an ambassador for spreading awareness of the variety of issues that many veterans face. “Veteran advocacy gives a voice, an image, to who protects and serves the country and the freedoms we have today. It makes it so the younger generation can see that sacrifices come at a price, and what it takes to ensure that those we love…is protecting us from the evils, and if we advocate, we can better protect them when they choose to hang up the boots.”

You can learn more about Northeastern’s master’s in homeland security program here. If you wish to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project, you can do so here.

“Be bold, take risks. The Northeastern community will be there to pick you up if you fail at something.”

Melanie Spears, CPS’19