Harrisburg alumni veterans share their drive to serve

Gibran Jones in his Army uniform

Gibran Jones, Penn State Harrisburg alumni and U.S. Army veteran, shown during his deployment in Iraq.

Credit: Gibran Jones

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — As we celebrate Veterans Day and honor those who have served, meet a few of Penn State Harrisburg’s alumni veterans and learn more about their drive to serve their country and their college.

Doug Charney

Doug Charney attended Penn State Harrisburg on an ROTC scholarship. He graduated in 1982 with a degree in business administration.

Charney spent six years on active duty, serving in Germany during the height of the Cold War, and later as executive officer of a Long Island recruiting battalion. He transitioned to the Army National Guard for another six years, before serving the rest of his 30-year military career with the Army Reserve. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2012 as a colonel.

Over the years, Charney built a successful career in wealth management services and is now primary financial adviser and president of the Charney Investment Group. But he noted that his business degree served him throughout his military career, as well.

Among his military roles, he was a logistician, ran a commissary, managed a dining facility, and served as a shop officer in charge of garages that repaired tanks and artillery. During his time in the Army Reserve, he spent time with U.S. European Command (USECOM), where he provided logistical support, such as making sure aircraft carriers had the necessary food and fuel stocked. Also with the Army Reserve, he worked in West Point admissions and at the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership.

“Everything I learned in business at Penn State Harrisburg, I used in the Army,” Charney said. “I am really glad that I had a general business degree. … I had supply chain, I had accounting, I had marketing. I used every course.”

Charney now serves on the Penn State Harrisburg Board of Advisers and is chair of the School of Business Administration’s advisory board. He recently was honored with an Alumni Achievement award.

“I would say (the college) really prepared me very well to do what I did in the Army, and after that to do what I’ve done in the investment world,” Charney said. “I think being able to help students learn and do well in their careers is kind of like giving back to a place that really helped me out.”

Dave Hartman

Dave Hartman joined the U.S. Navy because he wanted to serve his country and see the world.

“It’s an amazing place we live. We’re very lucky to live where we do,” Hartman said. “You kind of want to give back … thank and serve the country that gave us what we’ve got.” 

He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2001 and saw over 30 countries during his next 11 years of active duty. His service included deployment on a Navy destroyer to the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, and he also spent about six years in South Korea, not far from the North Korean border, working with the United Nations and then with U.S. Forces Korea, in the communications department. 

In 2012, he left active duty to determine the next chapter of his life — and he’d always wanted to go to Penn State.  

He was accepted to Penn State Harrisburg to pursue his second bachelor’s degree, in computer science, and he quickly became involved on campus. He served as a mentor for international students, wanting to make them feel at home and welcome here. 

“After being all around the world, I know how uncomfortable it could be, being in someone else’s country,” Hartman said. 

He also helped reinvigorate XGI, the veterans’ organization on campus, which was close to becoming defunct at the time. For veterans attending college in different stages of life — some older, some working full time, some married with kids — the organization provided an important resource. 

“It kind of gave a place for veterans to sit down and talk, a place to vent, and just feel comfortable again,” Hartman said. “We’re all going through this together. It’s a whole new life experience.” 

After earning his degree in 2015, Hartman rejoined the Navy in 2019 and has been on active duty since, now stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Hartman joined the college’s Alumni Society Board in 2022, volunteering to be part of the student engagement panel for the board.  

Gibran Jones

Gibran Jones can’t pin down exactly why he decided to join the U.S. Army immediately after graduating from high school in 2000. But there’s a common theme that runs through his military, college and career experience — he enjoys working hard and achieving things.

And working hard was an expectation in the military. He was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, a historic unit that began as one of the all-Black units formed after the Civil War, and was deployed to Iraq in 2003-04.

“It gave me a good perspective on what hard work is,” he said.

At the age of 19, he found himself in charge of communications for 30 combat vehicles and 130 personnel. He had leaders who trusted him and expected him to do his job.

“I loved doing it with my whole heart,” he said. “It was a crash course in life.”

After his deployment, he decided he wanted to go to college and followed in his parents’ footsteps to Penn State Harrisburg.

He didn’t feel much older than his classmates, he said, though he said he probably had a better sense of duty and boundaries. Jones helped establish the campus chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, the oldest traditionally African American fraternity, and said he and his fraternity brothers became leaders and ambassadors on campus.

He earned his degree in information science and technology in 2008 and now owns Krimson Square, a digital marketing firm, and is lead trainer for Boot Camp Digital.

Jones was recently honored as one of Penn State Harrisburg’s People to Watch. In 2015, he joined the Alumni Society Board, and now serves on the college Board of Advisers. He wants to make sure students have a voice in the room and to make sure different viewpoints are reflected.

“I take opportunities as they come,” Jones said. “I can’t complain about myself not being represented in the room if I don’t take the opportunity.”

Jones still keeps in touch with veterans he’s connected with through campus, and he’s happy to reach out to veterans when asked. No matter their branch, rank or experience, he said, veterans relate to one another.

“It’s a bond,” he said. “Once you serve, you always serve. That doesn’t leave you.”

Greg Moreland

Greg Moreland had always thought about serving in the military, a desire that grew stronger after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which happened when Moreland was a high school senior. He decided first to earn his bachelor’s degree at Penn State's University Park campus.

In 2008, Moreland enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a paratrooper, first with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq in 2008 and 2009. He then reenlisted for the opportunity to work in Italy and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne, which then deployed to Afghanistan in May 2012.

In the meantime, Moreland had applied to and was chosen for the selective Green to Gold Active-Duty program, which would allow him to pursue his graduate degree and become a commissioned Army officer. He enrolled in Penn State Harrisburg’s master of public administration program and was set to leave Afghanistan in August 2012, in time for the fall semester.

But a week before he was set to leave, Moreland was injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. His injuries forced him to defer his entry into the graduate program and ultimately retire from the Army.

Suddenly, earning his graduate degree wasn’t about becoming a military officer — it was a new path forward.

“I’m not going to be able to serve in uniform anymore,” he remembers thinking. “But I have a strong desire for public service, so I figured let’s give public policy a chance.”

Graduate school wasn’t without challenges — Moreland remembers recording early lectures because his injuries had caused memory issues. After earning his degree, he spent several years working in the state legislature, including positions where he helped shape legislation as policy adviser to the speaker of the House of Representatives and then as chief of staff to a state senator. In 2021, he transitioned to the National Federation of Independent Business as Pennsylvania state director, serving as a voice for small business in the legislative process.

He joined the Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Society Board in 2021 in hopes of staying connected to the college and helping future students who might be trying to figure out where life is leading them.

“That was one of my hopes — [that] I could help in any way possible those students, some veterans or people interested in the military, and try to help them find their way,” Moreland said.