Justin Strine had a dream of becoming an officer in the Army. He joined the Penn State Army ROTC to help him with his goal to become a pilot, like his father. He wanted to continue a military legacy, much like many of his family members held before him.
On the night of November 9, 2011, he and a few of his roommates headed downtown after the news broke that Joe Paterno was fired from his post as football coach. He found himself with the mob of people flooding Beaver Avenue, headed towards one of the news vans parked on the street.
All he did was put his hands on the hood of that van, and moments later, it flipped. Huffington Post reported that when Strine put his hands on the hood of the WTAJ van, it was enough to charge him with felony counts of rioting, as well as criminal mischief charges.
He himself did not push, but pleaded guilty. Pleading guilty led him a 30-day jail sentence, a suspension lasting one semester and he had his felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Until 2015, he will also be either on probation or on parole.
“No one ever looked at me as an individual. They looked at me as 5,000 Penn State rioters,” he said to Huffington Post.
His charges were also enough to get him kicked out of the ROTC program, and he will have to pay back $34,000 in scholarship money. This is on top of the $8,500 he owes in court costs and fines.
If he were officially in the Army, his guilty plea would be very similar to a discharge in lieu of a court-martial. The military holds its members to a higher standing, one where rioting and giving their alma mater a bad name or reputation is unheard of.
Strine is only human. He made a big mistake. A big mistake that cost him the chance to carry on his family’s military legacy.