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Buller '15 Reflects on Transition to WSC After Deployment

Published Friday, July 29th, 2016

David and Melissa Buller '15
David and Melissa Buller met at Wayne State College and married in 2013.

David and Melissa Buller '15 are proud of their WSC degrees and thankful for the support and understanding of the college while they were students.

The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had a drastic impact on everyone, including Staff Sergeant David Buller of Atkinson, Neb., who at age 11 knew he wanted to defend his country someday after seeing the World Trade Center Towers collapse on television. 

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, David enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard on Oct. 30, 2007, as a high school senior. He joined the 181st Engineer Detachment Firefighting Team stationed in Norfolk, Neb.

David was following his dream of serving in the military, but he still wanted to get a college degree. He enrolled at Wayne State College and started pursuing his double major in Construction Management and Drafting, Planning and Design in the fall of 2009.

“I chose Wayne State because I could get a four-year degree, and because they have a great drafting program,” David said.

It wasn’t long after that David met his future wife, Melissa Leaver, of Stanton, Neb., who was attending Wayne State College for Elementary Education and a K-6 Endorsement.

David and Melissa got engaged in December 2010, but a significant challenge lay ahead for both of them.

David withdrew from WSC in the spring of 2011 in preparation for a deployment the following fall. On Sept. 11, 2011, David deployed with his firefighting unit to Afghanistan for a 12-month mission.

“When I was getting ready to deploy, my advisor Don Buryanek ‘76 was very understanding of when I or Melissa had to be gone,” David said. “All of the faculty were very friendly about it.”

Melissa said being at Wayne State was also very helpful to her while she waited for her fiancé to return from his deployment. 

“If I wasn’t in college, it would have been a lot harder,” Melissa said. “It was easier to talk to friends, and I was able to stay busy by living on campus and staying involved.” 

David returned home on Sept. 7, 2012, to the open arms of family and friends, but still faced the difficult transition of assimilating back into civilian life.

The transition for David back to college life was very difficult, and he was about ready to drop out of school. After stepping back and taking a look at his future, he realized that earning a degree from Wayne State would be best for himself and his family. He stuck it out.

“What helped me was when I got back, I played intramural flag football with some friends,” David said. “It helped me gradually get used to being around people, and it was a fun way to stay involved.

“The Registrar’s Office was also very helpful. They helped me register for classes and handled my GI Bill. They were extremely helpful from day one when I started school as a freshman.” 

David and Melissa continued to pursue their degrees together and got married on June 8, 2013. In May 2015, they graduated together in the Willow Bowl. They said they are proud of their degrees from WSC and are thankful for the support and understanding of the college while they were students.

David is currently a team leader for the 1075th Transportation Company in Columbus, Neb., but will soon be transitioning to the 128th Combat Engineering Battalion, also in Columbus. He works as a mechanical drafter at EBM Corporation in Norfolk and Melissa recently accepted a 4th grade teaching position at Jefferson Elementary in Norfolk. They live in Madison, Neb., with their 13-month old daughter, Evelynn.