Double alumnus and Navy vet proves anyone can dream big.
Growing up, Anthony Owens recalls eating sandwiches with only condiments because his family could not afford much more. A Navy veteran who has gone on to a successful post-military career, the Saint Leo University double alumnus is now sharing his story of overcoming adversity to achieve his dreams in a book, aptly called Syrup Sandwiches: Choose Not to Give Up.
Owens, 59, was born in Dawson, GA, but grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Now, he and his wife, Wanda, reside in Virginia. Married for 39 years, they are the parents of son, Shawn (married to Kate), and grandparents to 3-year-old granddaughter, Billie. Owens made it his mission to be a positive role model to his son, breaking the cycle of poverty and fatherlessness in his family.
While he faced many obstacles growing up, Owens chose a path to lead him out. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1981 to 2001. As a petty officer first class, Owens worked as an information technology specialist whose main duties included monitoring and troubleshooting the communication systems between Navy ships and land stations. He served in two wars and was deployed to the Mediterranean region.
“It was a great experience meeting people from all over the world and learning so much from them,” Owens said of his military career. “This greatly broadened my horizons. I’ve learned that we can be pigeonholed in our lives if we don’t branch out. I came out of the Navy being a better person than when I went in. I had matured, educated myself, and learned to respect others.”
Upon retiring from the Navy, Owens began his college education as an adult learner by pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sociology degree from Saint Leo’s former South Hampton Roads Education Center in Virginia. He also took some classes online. He graduated in 2008 and then continued his education by earning a Master of Business Administration degree with a specialization in information security management in 2011. He has countless positive memories about Saint Leo.
“I liked all of my professors,” he said. “They were very structured and professional. They also realized that, as military students, we had schedules that could change.”
Today, he works as a federal information technology specialist.
As for Syrup Sandwiches, which is available on Amazon, Owens said he felt compelled to share his story with anyone who might be able to relate to it or find encouragement in his perseverance. “The book is an inspiration for all who have endured childhood struggles and want to break free from limitations and social stereotypes to become the best versions of their selves,” an Indie Reader staff member wrote in a review.
In his book, Owens shares the story of his hardships and how he overcame them.
“My mom struggled to raise us, and we were on welfare,” he recalled. “Many nights, we went to bed hungry. We only had bread, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and syrup. We would make sandwiches using just these condiments.”
Thanks to family support coupled with internal strength, he never let his past hinder his future goals.
“I have been through countless traumatic experiences in my life,” he said. “I could have easily turned to drugs, gangs, gone to jail, or ended up dead. But I believed there was something better in life and refused to give up.”
His main message to others is, “I want everyone who has or is going through challenges to not allow those experiences to define or dictate who you are as a person now or who you will become in the future.”