Brothers in Arms

Cyclones Everywhere

Written by Matt Van Winkle

Tom Hall (Left) and Pierre Aka

Tom Hall and Pierre Aka

Enlisting in the military wasn’t on Tom Hall’s radar until his best friend became a Green Beret.

“I was really mad,” Hall (’15 political sci­ence) remembers. “I went down to the recruiting office with my friend to talk him out of it. I walked out, and I had enlisted, too. It was during the surge in Iraq, and Afghanistan was heating up. I couldn’t let my best friend go off to war on his own.”

Now a senior program manager at Veritas Technologies in Minnesota, Hall started training as an Army Ranger in January 2008. He was deployed to Afghanistan twice before being honor­ably discharged in 2012.

That year, Hall — a diehard Hawkeye fan — shocked his family when he chose to attend Iowa State.

His first year, he joined the football team as a defensive end — becoming one of only three veterans in the country at the time to play at the NCAA Division I level. He recalls fondly sharing stories with his teammates about his time in the military.

“Many football players want to go do something that’s perceived as really bad ass,” Hall says. “Physically, you’re going to get pushed in a completely different way in the military than you are in foot­ball. Mentally, you might break.”

Due to injuries and classwork, he would end up only playing one season, but those stories would forever change the life of one Cyclone.

Teammate Pierre Aka (’16 liberal studies) would go on to don a Green Beret just as Hall’s best friend had years before. Hall flew out to Fort Bragg to show sup­port for his now brother-in-arms during Aka’s graduation this summer.

“He went down one of the hardest, most challenging routes,” Hall says. “It just made sense to go see him.”