Buies Creek, N.C.—On Friday, May 14, Distinguished Campbell University ROTC graduate Yuri S. Grigoryev waited patiently for his wife Natalya and his mother Julia to pin on the prized gold bars designating him a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. But not everyone knew that the journey that brought Grigoryev to this moment started half a world away in the former Soviet Union.
In 2000, Grigoryev was just another student in his native country of Estonia, a former Soviet Republic. It was the third time his parents had applied to the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery program which grants 50,000 permanent residence visas annually to people who meet the eligibility requirements. This time Grigoryev’s family was lucky. He, his mother, father and brother were among the winners.
“I came to the United States with the idea of making as much money as I could and returning to Estonia,” Grigoryev said at his commissioning ceremony. “But I fell in love with the American way of life and today, you are witnessing the most important day of our lives.”
Grigoryev, who came to the U.S. in 2000, joined the Army in 2003 as an enlisted man. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg and received airborne training at Fort Benning, Ga. After graduating from Airborne School, Grigoryev received an assignment to the 18th Field Artillery Brigade at Ft. Bragg and, two years later, was sent to recruiting school at Ft. Jackson, S.C. where he learned about the Green to Gold program. Green to Gold is an Army educational program that gives enlisted men the opportunity to attend college and become officers through the Reserved Officers Training Corp or ROTC. In order to become more competitive, Grigoryev rushed to complete his high school diploma at Fayetteville Technical Community College even though he already had a General Equivalency Diploma (GED).Following his graduation, he moved to a recruiting assignment in Brooklyn, N.Y. Grigoryev was there for five months before learning he’d been accepted into the Green to Gold program and would be enrolling at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. in 2006.
“I was very happy because I always wanted to get an education because I know how hard it is in the civilian world,” he said. “I always wanted to be an officer too. So I had this opportunity and I took it.”
Not only did Grigoryev take advantage of the educational opportunity, he excelled, graduating with an overall grade point average of 3.97 and being named a Distinguished Military Graduate of Campbell’s ROTC program. Along the way, he also discovered he had a passion for science.
“At Campbell, I just wanted to get the easiest degree possible and become an Army officer,” he said. “But some of my professors inspired me above and beyond those educational goals and I discovered my true passion here, robotics engineering.”
Grigoryev proved to be a talented engineer, designing a robotic toy missile launcher that could shoot a rocket 300 feet into the air. He also picked up a double major—computer science and mathematics and plans to pursue a master’s degree in robotic engineering while serving in the military.
Meanwhile, Grigoryev will remain with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg which will most likely be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan soon.
“The Campbell ROTC program and my education at Campbell has been very challenging, very emotionally challenging and very time consuming,” Grigoryev said. “But at the end, it’s been worth every second of that time.”
A total of 36 cadets from the Campbell Battalion, which includes ROTC units at Methodist College, Fayetteville State University and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke received commissions this spring.
Photo Copy: Army 2nd Lt. Yuri Grigoryev.