CUH Students Credit Military Family Members For Success


Marion Tolenna

Stoney Tolenna (glasses) spending time with family two months prior to leaving for college.

For some Chaminade University students, Veterans Day is a brief vacation from sitting in class and climbing steep hills. For two particular students, the holiday is a reminder of the work and sacrifices made by all service members that got the two to where they are today.

Veterans Day, which takes place on Nov. 11, is a day celebrated annually in honor of those who have served and are currently serving in the U.S. military. Two students who have direct connections to the armed forces are second-year criminal justice and criminology major Jason Nowak, who is a descendant of a long line of servicemen, and first-year psychology major Stoney Tolenna, who is the son of a veteran. Both students use the day as an opportunity to pay respects to their loved ones serving the U.S.

“It’s a day that we want to make sure to celebrate to let [servicemen] know how much we appreciate them and what they do,” Nowak said.

Despite the two coming from separate environments (Nowak from Ohio and Tolenna from Micronesia), both grew up with at least one close relative in the U.S. military. For Nowak, it was his mother, father, and the fathers of both his parents; and for Tolenna, it was his father. Members of both families joined the military in hopes of providing their loved ones with enough resources to acquire a successful future.

“I credit 90 percent of my accomplishments to my dad,” Tolenna said. “He was my hero [with him] providing everything our family needed and more from financial support to moral support.”

In 2001, Tolenna’s father and Nowak’s father enlisted in the U.S. Army. Since then, the two students traveled across the country with Nowak moving in and out of seven states and Tolenna growing up in three. The constant movement gave them the opportunity to learn about various parts of the land that their family served.

“Growing up with military parents, you get to experience new types of people and new cultures and what it’s like to not just be in one place, but a state or country as a whole,” Nowak said.

The Tolenna family eventually returned back to Micronesia after Tolenna’s father was medically discharged in 2015 for an issue in his respiratory system. Since arriving home, his father continued to assist him through high school ensuring that Tolenna reaches college.

Nowak’s father came to Oahu in 2017 after being offered a position in Schofield Barracks. His father is still an active member of the Army and his mother is serving as in the reserves. Inspired by his parents, Nowak joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps college program the year he entered Chaminade.

To celebrate Veterans Day, the two students intend to spend time with their family as best as they can. Nowak plans to go to Schofield and catch up with his parents and siblings after months of school and military duties. Tolenna plans to call his father back home to give thanks for his father’s support.

“One day, I hope to give back to my dad as much as he gave to me and the family,” Tolenna said. “… Making him proud is the main reason why I try to push myself.”