He slips on his sunglasses as he strides out of WSUV’s library building, his backpack hanging off a shoulder, an extra-large tumbler of coffee in hand. He’s sporting a black kilt, a thick, black, button-up covered in buckles, his beard braided and long hair pulled back in a ponytail.
A student walks by, interrupts my conversation with him and asks, “Excuse me, can I take a photo of you? I absolutely love your outfit!”
Taken aback at first, he agrees and dramatically poses, but not before finishing his humorously animated rant about his metal band producing its first CD.
David “Doc” Koon is studying Integrated Strategic Communications at WSUV. In my second class with him, I’ve learned he is a veteran who transferred from Clark College.
It wasn’t until he said he was interviewed by the Indy in 2014 for a story, “Student Homelessness on the Rise,” that I learned Doc lived out of an old van for two years while studying at Clark. Knowing of his recent successes in school and life, I took him up on his offer of a follow-up interview on the subject—but instead for an extended Veterans Day piece for Humans of Clark College, the Indy’s latest social media side project.
“Ya know it was crazy, because starting the whole college thing—I mean twenty plus years after high school… I didn’t do well in high school. Dropped out my senior year. Then I got my GED and went into the army.
So starting back, it was just like, I don’t wanna go to school, there’s a reason why I’ve been in logistics and truck driving and warehousing and things like that. While I wasn’t very bright, I could lift heavy things. So I just did that for twenty years. And then I drove a wrecker, and that was great. Driving a tow truck—that was me helping people out. Getting into college, I mean it was frightening. I know I didn’t learn well, I’ve got ten layers of concrete over ten layers of steel before you even get to the thinker.
I think it was 2014—that winter, just before Christmas, I wound up in the hospital. Mental health. I was found on the wrong side of an overpass above 205. I don’t remember this–I remember bits and pieces.
I remember hearing voices, quite distinct. I remember sitting on an overpass, and it all seemed like a dream-state to me as it was. And I remember getting ready to jump off the bridge. But there was a voice that said no-no, wait for the big truck. Apparently, my thinking was, there’s no surviving the big truck. You might survive the fall, you might survive getting hit. You’re not surviving the fall and getting hit by a big truck. The big truck never came, but a police officer did. And then I was taken over to the mental health hospital, and spent about a week there getting myself together and getting my head back on my shoulders.
Eventually, I finished up [at Clark]. I’m no longer homeless, no longer living out of a van. It was just pure determination, knowing this is what I had to do. I’ve gone from having nothing, and now I’ve got an Associates under my belt, working on my Bachelors. No longer homeless, living like a rock star. I don’t know, I think I’ve come full circle from where I was when I first started this whole journey.”