When Jake Messier dropped out of college in his junior year to join the U.S. Marine Corps, he promised his dad two things: that he would see the world and that he’d finish his college education.

Messier became a Marine and spent the next nine years as a combat correspondent, traveling to 43 countries from Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, covering stories about fellow servicemembers.

When Messier was assigned to Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, Japan, he knew that would be his last assignment ― and his last chance to make good on the second part of his promise. He enrolled at UMUC on base and set to work completing a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

“What started off as strictly utilitarian, in terms of just getting a degree, turned into a love of sociology and a pursuit of knowledge,” says Messier. “UMUC made it easy and accessible. All I had to do was put in the time.”

As a civilian, Messier applied what he’d learned to various roles in TV, public relations, and marketing, broadening his skills along the way. He’d even received offers of partnerships, but turned them down, opting instead, as he alway has, to do things his own way.

At age 45, Messier founded HEARD Strategy & Storytelling, a marketing firm in Worcester, Massachusetts. He also launched Olderpreneur Coach, a consulting service focused on supporting and encouraging older entrepreneurs like himself.

“There are no excuses or passing the buck,” he said. “Accountability starts and ends with me. And it’s truly wonderful.”

This profile is part of a series by University of Maryland University College that will run throughout May in celebration of National Military Appreciation Month. Read more stories and share your appreciation at

University of Maryland University College was founded more than 70 years ago to serve working adults and servicemembers. We're an online state university that offers undergraduate and graduate programs...