Lovelace strives to help veterans who are transitioning to college, with his ultimate goal to increase the number of student vets on Grounds.
“When you get out of the military, you have this sense of identity that is very tied to being a member of that organization,” he said, “and when you step back from that, you’re a little unsure what to do with it. And so in that way I relate to the student veterans. Working with them and being able to be around them, for me, has helped fill a lot of that gap.
“Sometimes I worry they do more for me than I do for them, to be frank with you. The energy that they bring to the table is pretty amazing.”
Born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Lovelace lived all over the world as a child – including Alaska and Korea – as his father moved from one assignment to the next.
“Being an Army brat was sometimes hard because you had to leave your friends and things behind, but there was a wonderful culture of support in that community,” he said. “You’d show up somewhere and you’d have a new best friend that day because everyone was used to that being the life. People were very welcoming wherever you ended up going.
“There was a little bit of a tradeoff with not having as many lifelong relationships, but getting ample opportunity to see a lot of amazing things. … I got to expand my perspective on the world and its complexities, but also got to see many similarities between people, too. This experience gave me an interest in learning more about people with different perspectives and different backgrounds.”
Initially, Lovelace, who graduated from a high school in El Paso, Texas, considered attending UVA on a Navy ROTC scholarship before a visit to West Point convinced him to follow in his father’s footsteps.
While a cadet there, Lovelace was inspired by the idea of “supporting something bigger than yourself.”
“I knew it was going to push me mentally, academically, physically, and I wanted to embrace that challenge,” he said. “It just seemed like the right fit.”
Lovelace’s first tour of Iraq was primarily in the Fallujah area; his second in the northeastern part of Baghdad. He worked with airborne infantry units, trying to detect where threats were coming from and who was disseminating misinformation.
Lovelace said there were definitely some scary moments, but he never questioned his choice. “I think there are times when you feel like, ‘Man, I would really love to be back home,’” he said, “but you develop this deep sense of connection with the people who are around you and have a shared commitment toward each other.”
“When you’re with people who are dedicated to values and I think the greater good, you don’t get that sense of, ‘Why am I here?’ You just want to be the best that you can to support your brothers and sisters who you are serving with.”
To a certain extent, Lovelace said he has experienced a similar camaraderie during his time as a management professor in the McIntire School.