By Jefferson Geiger
Junior Cory Perry has lived across the world due to his time in the military, but thanks to Wagner College, he’s putting down roots on Staten Island.
“I belong here,” Perry said. “I can make a home and be a part of my community. They’re my neighbors.”
The 35-year-old grew up in the small, rural city of Adrian, Minnesota. He was motivated to join the military because of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and — eager to join the action — he went to basic training for the Army between his junior and senior years in high school when he was 17.
He has been deployed or stationed in places such as Fort Hood, Texas, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Fort Drum, New York, over his 17-year career. But after meeting his wife, Allie Cossack — who is originally from Staten Island — he requested to be in Fort Lewis, south of Seattle, instead of being deployed again.
After getting married in 2020, Perry began shifting his focus to a field outside of the military. However, he didn’t want to follow the common path to law enforcement. Instead, he did two and a half years of medical training at Fort Liberty in North Carolina in an attempt to join the Army Special Forces. During a clinical rotation at Tampa General Hospital in Florida, Perry had a moving experience with a girl who had suffered burns in a fire.
“It just instilled within me that I’m on the right path of doing the right thing and that I can make a difference in this career field,” Perry said.
Perry’s bid to join the Green Berets fell short, but rather than give up on his medical training, he set his sights on nursing. The affordability, proximity to his wife’s New York home and small class sizes of Wagner College attracted him to the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing. Perry said he has been studying the fundamentals while improving his medical and nursing diagnostic skills. He will probably pursue working as a nurse in a surgical room, but after getting more clinical experience, he intends to return to Wagner to become a nurse practitioner.
Perry is also a Sergeant First Class in the New York Army National Guard and an advocate for mental health for soldiers. A key lesson he’s learned over the years is creating an environment where everybody — whether that be students, veterans or civilians — feels welcome.
“Being able to go to Wagner helped fulfill that, where I can be a part of a community and have some stability in my life,” Perry said, adding that he’s been fortunate to connect with other veterans and nontraditional students at Wagner. “I hope Wagner can bring in more veterans in the future because I feel like as vets, we have a lot to offer and can help our fellow students, offering points of view.”
Wagner’s 13th Annual Veterans Day Recognition will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 9.