Dennis Torres served with the Marine Corps Reserves in Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, he is the Veteran Outreach Specialist at Queens College.
Born in Jamaica, NY in 1985, Torres is the youngest of three siblings. His parents were from Ecuador and his father was part of U.S. special forces near the end of the Vietnam War to gain citizenship.
“I grew up hearing stories of camaraderie. [My father] went to Cambodia for a little bit, and, hearing his stories, [it] made me want to experience it,” Torres said.
Inspired by his father’s tales, Torres enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves after graduating from St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, NY.
“When I was in boot camp and was faced with a difficult situation, I just thought, ‘my dad did this at 17, and English was his second language,’” Torres said.
Torres worked as field radio operator, a job that ensured effective communication between units in the field and high command. He needed to operate and establish radio contact in a proficient manner, while being resourceful with radio technology under tight deadlines.
He stressed proper communication is important during combat operation.
“In my first deployment to Iraq, I was responsible for communications for a company of around 100 to 200 Marines,” Torres said. “I had to make them realize that this radio can save your life.”
In Fallujah, his company conducted daily security patrols at a time when many soldiers were returning to Iraq.
Moreover, there was the threat of the Sunni Triangle, a region of northwestern Iraq with Sunni militants.
“I got my first gray hair from that deployment. It was a stressful time for me,” Torres said.
Torres remained in the reserves until 2014. He attributed his work ethic, drive and focus on values instilled while in the in Marines.
In 2010, Torres earned a bachelor’s degree in labor studies from Hofstra University. Thanks to the federal government’s GI Bill, which funds the education of veterans, he later earned his master’s degree in industrial organization psychology from Adelphi University.
Torres worked as a consultant at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. But, because Hurricane Sandy shut down the place for months, he looked for employment elsewhere.
“I was on Craigslist, of all places, looking for jobs. There was an opportunity at a public career center looking for a veterans’ specialist to help veterans find jobs. That’s how I transitioned,” Torres said.
Eight months ago, Torres joined the Veterans Support Services at QC. His job sets up veterans and their families for success before and after graduation. Torres worked with Workforce1, a New York City job agency, and found employment for 350 veterans and their family members.
Lorraine Rosenfeld, the Veterans’ Affairs school certifying official at QC, spoke highly of Torres and highlighted his accomplishments.
“Since Dennis started as our Veterans Outreach Specialist, he really made things happen. We have orientation each semester, the Veterans Club [gained] new members and he arranged a number of events here at the college for veterans and service members and plans even more in the near future,” Rosenfeld said.
For Torres, he enjoys his time and job at QC.
“It’s been an awesome opportunity. I’m happy and grateful to be here every single day,” Torres says.