BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – At 18 years old, Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, Eric Stanton decided he was going to pursue a career in the military.
After graduating from Science Hill High School in 1988, he joined the United States Air Force.
What he didn’t know at the time was that he would be entering a more than 30-year-long career serving his country across various military branches and law enforcement agencies to protect and serve.
“Serve others and serve something bigger than I am. That led to me enlisting in the United States Air Force,” Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Eric Stanton said.
Stanton made the heartfelt goodbye to his family after traveling to Knoxville for basic training for the United States Air Force. His first assignment was on Incirlik, Turkey Air Force Base.
The Atlanta native said, “At the time, I had heard of Turkey but had no idea where it was. So, I immediately took down an encyclopedia off the bookshelf and started immersing myself and learning what I could about Turkey.”
He was there on a two-year assignment culminating the Desert Shield and Desert Storm, calling it “outstanding years.”
“The Turkish people were very warm and accepting, very hospitable. I lived downtown on their equivalent of Park Avenue,” Stanton said. “So I was living with the mayor and doctors and attorneys and all that good stuff.”
Stanton left with the rank of senior airman, also known as a buck sergeant, and entered the Air Force Reserves while he received his bachelor’s and master’s at East Tennessee State University.
“I can say this about my military career: I absolutely loved all 32 years of it,” the military veteran said. “Folks don’t understand unless they’ve been in the military, that bond that you form with those men and women while in service.”
He then joined the Tennessee Army National Guard as a medical platoon leader, ultimately switching to the Army reserve for higher ranking as a captain and stayed there until his recent retirement on April 11, 2021, as a Lieutenant Colonel.
The retired Army Lieutenant Colonel has gone from serving members of the community to now serving students.
“We, as professionals, owe it to our professions to get the best of the best after they’ve done their careers, whether it’s in law enforcement or teaching or wherever and come back to the classroom to teach the future leaders and future professionals,” Stanton said.
Eric Stanton has been introducing criminal justice to students as the lead criminal justice instructor at Northeast State Community College for more than a decade.
“I refer to him as a father figure. He’s a lot like a second dad to me,” Northeast State Community College criminal justice student Jack Fore said. “If you go to him, you know he’s going to take care of you as long as you do right by him and the program and you succeed, then he’s going to be there for you.”
Northeast State Community College criminal justice student Cheyenne Houser said, “He’s so honest and open, and he’s there for everybody. Even just in class, if you need assistance, he’s right there to help you that second.”
His students said his teachings of ethics within criminal justice are crucial during the climate we are in now.
“He’s a great professor,” said student Alicio Brice. “He’s kind of an example of what we need these days. A lot of controversy is out there, and Stanton’s like the man you know that kind of goes past the limits to make it a good classroom, good environment.”
As many college students across the nation receive their degrees in their respective careers, Stanton had a few words for those taking the criminal justice route:
Congratulations Retired Lieutenant Colonel Eric Stanton; this week’s Community Hero!