Soon after José Arango-Murillo ’21 arrived at Stony Brook University to major in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, he found the time to assist his fellow veterans.
Arango-Murillo and his wife, Paola Meneses, are both natives of Colombia and settled on Long Island to be close to his mother. He said he chose to study at Stony Brook after serving in the U.S. Army because his research told him it offered one of the best mechanical engineering programs in New York State.
When he first applied, he was denied entry. His wife convinced him to follow up on his application and find out why he had been rejected; admissions told him there had been a misunderstanding and he was accepted right away.
Arango-Murillo had never taken a college-level class in a different language other than Spanish and he initially felt anxious, but that insecurity passed as he took every course he could and embarked on a non-stop academic schedule that spanned Spring 2018 to his graduation on May 20.
In his first year, he joined the Veteran Students Organization (VESO) and helped them organize many events, including Tent City, an event to raise awareness about the plight of homeless veterans, as well as plan Memorial and Veterans Day celebrations and volunteer at the Long Island State Veterans Home.
He became part of the Office of Veterans Affairs at Stony Brook, joining a team that informs fellow veterans about their educational benefits. He also served as secretary for VESO for more than two years, and vice-president of Pi Tau Sigma, the Mechanical Engineering Honor Society.
Arango-Murillo was in college in Colombia majoring in electronic engineering when his mother offered him the opportunity to emigrate to the United States. After arriving here in August 2010, he decided to better his English skills and become more fit so he could enlist in the military. He did both and joined the Army.
He was a wheeled vehicle mechanic and became an E-4 (Corporal), and was assigned to the Fort Drum military base before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2015-16. The icy winter temperatures of Fort Drum, in upstate New York, were a shock to his system, and from there he went to Kuwait, baking in temperatures that reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Thankfully I was only there for a week before shipping out to Afghanistan for a total of seven months on Operation Enduring Freedom,” Arango-Murillo recalled. “I was a good and reliable mechanic in the army.”
He served the 1st Squadron 89th Cavalry Regiment of the 10th mountain infantry for his entire stay in Fort Drum and was awarded an Army Achievement Medal thanks to his dedication and planning on the maintenance for all the vehicles of 1-89. He eventually decided to leave the military in 2017 for health reasons due to back, knee and shoulder issues and pursue his career in higher education.
“I am proud to say that I just graduated with a grade point average greater than 3.5 in a challenging career that requires you to innovate every day,” said Arango-Murillo, who has hopes to someday work as a designing or manufacturing engineer for Tesla, Space-X, or NASA. “In a very short time I shall start my master’s degree in mechanical engineering as part of this achievement called The American Dream.”
— Glenn Jochum