May 2, 2024

Karissa and Joshua at UIWBy Devin Castillo

Karissa Ramos always felt the presence of unwavering patriotism throughout her childhood. As the daughter of a Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, she looked up to her father as a role model who embodied what it meant to be passionate about one’s career and honor the country he swore to protect. To her, the value he placed on the U.S. military and his role within it was undeniable.

Being a military child comes with unique challenges, though. Moving from Arizona to San Antonio during the middle of her freshman year in high school was one of them for Karissa. Though she liked her new school, St. Anthony Catholic High School (SACHS), she worried that because she transferred in the middle of the year, she would struggle to find connections, as most other students had already established friendships and community.

She was delightfully surprised – and relieved – that the first person she met would not only end up being her first friend during a new beginning, but also the person she’d ultimately choose to spend a lifetime with as her husband.

Karissa met Joshua (Josh) Ramos in her first-period class. In a room full of unknown faces, Josh spoke up and offered her the seat next to him. One kind gesture helped Karissa feel welcomed and planted the seed from which their relationship began to grow.

During the next four years, the pair remained good friends. They shared similar friend groups, a devotion to faith and service, a military family background and a mutual admiration for one another. As graduation neared, the makings of a romantic connection laid just beneath the surface of their friendship.

 Josh Ramos

In the summer of 2012, after they graduated from SACHS, Josh enlisted in the Navy. He had aspired to become a pilot since he was a child. His grandfather, a Vietnam veteran, was a constant role model who inspired Josh to pursue his dreams of achieving a successful career in the military. Enlisting was just the first step in making his dreams of flying a reality. But now his dreams also included the presence of his best friend, Karissa.

“Josh told me he was taking off in January for basic training, and he suggested that we spend time together until then to see where it goes. By that September, we were officially a couple,” recalled Karissa.

Josh completed basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago before being stationed at Dam Neck Naval Base in Virginia Beach for intelligence specialist training where he trained to become an imagery analyst.

During this time, Karissa began her studies at the University of the Incarnate Word in pursuit of her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts. She was astounded by her program and fell in love with its educators and expansive opportunities. In addition to having found a community within her degree program, she also found a community within University Mission and Ministry.

During her undergraduate years, she worked as a student employee alongside the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI), whom she admired for their continued devotion to service. Under the guidance of Sr. Walter Maher, CCVI, UIW’s vice president of Mission & Ministry, this role allowed her to nurture her long-standing religious faith and helped strengthen her connection to God.

The couple was reunited at the end of 2013 when Josh was assigned to a reserve unit at the Joint Intelligence Center in San Antonio. While he fulfilled his duties, Karissa continued her studies, ultimately graduating in 2016. She decided to immediately carry on with her education and began graduate studies in pursuit of a Master of Arts in Communication Arts, while serving as a graduate assistant for Mission and Ministry.

“I got so much support through Mission and Ministry and from my program,” stated Karissa. “[It was a] wonderful six years of my life where I just felt so at home. Those in the Communication Arts program were always doing everything they could to make sure that we, as students, got to the finish line, and that we were getting the knowledge, resources and skills that we needed to succeed in the real world.”

"Karissa and Josh are the best examples of how servant leadership, diligent work and a passion for serving others will not only lead them to success but will lead others to success."

Couple at weddingIn 2017, after a year at Fort Bragg in North Carolina where he worked with Joint Special Operations Command, Josh returned to San Antonio and decided he was ready to pursue the four-year degree required to be commissioned as a Naval Officer with the ambition of being a Naval Aviator. With the University’s top-rate service to active-duty military members and veterans, and of course, the enthusiastic recommendation of Karissa, Josh could think of no better place to earn his degree than UIW.

“UIW helped a lot during my education, especially the School of Professional Studies (SPS) program,” shared Josh. “I was active in the military from Monday to Friday. It was a full-time job that spanned morning to afternoon. The SPS program helped to accommodate me and give me time to do courses in the evenings and online.”

In 2018, Karissa and Josh were – some would say, finally – married. By 2019, the pair had both earned their degrees, found an extensive community within UIW and were moving up in their professional careers. It was then that Karissa realized that her calling was to serve her country just as her father, and now husband, had. Rather than joining the armed forces herself, she chose to serve by helping the brave service members like Josh who were ready to pursue their higher education journeys at UIW. Karissa started with UIW and its Military and Veteran Center (MVC) in her official role as the veterans service specialist in 2019.

Karissa knows firsthand what a difference a supportive institution can make in the lives of military members pursuing an education and is grateful to have the opportunity to aid others in the journey her own husband took. She feels that her position – and her personal experiences as a military daughter and wife – allows her to serve both the UIW and military communities with compassion, empathy and a unique understanding.

“It really is a full circle moment for me,” she reflected. “The military has found a way to be a constant presence in my life. I get to use my past experiences to empathize with students and demonstrate that I understand what they’re going through. My job is a big blessing and honor.”

In September 2020, Josh’s longtime dream started to come to fruition when he was accepted into the Navy Pilot Aviation Program. He officially began the program in June 2021. From there, he attended Officer Candidate School (OCS), completed a six-week air indoctrination course at Naval Aviation Schools Command, attended primary flight training and progressed towards advanced naval flight training.

Josh in the militaryJosh completed his naval aviation training to become a P-8 pilot in February 2024. At a special ceremony held in Corpus Christi, Karissa was front and center and had the honor of pinning the “wings of gold” onto her husband’s uniform. Although the honor was his, Josh’s gratitude towards Karissa, friends, family and the UIW community who supported him throughout this journey was evident. He felt especially proud to have followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, achieving what his role model had always hoped for him.

“It's been a long time coming. I've been waiting for this moment for a while and it's finally here. It's a little bit surreal,” shared Josh, proudly and gratefully, as he looked back on the long journey to this moment.

Having been part of his journey since high school, Karissa knows that her husband’s honor reflects his unwavering dedication and commitment. She never doubted that he would one day achieve his dream of becoming a pilot. She trusted that his love for aviation, drive to serve his country and the role models, mentors and supporters that he had to look up to along the way would guide him. In the military, Josh had the privilege of working with many officers that helped him develop his skills, modeled a level of pride for service and pushed him forward throughout his training. At UIW, community members including Jonathan Lovejoy, U.S. Navy veteran and senior director for Military and Veterans Affairs, mentored and guided him throughout his process of earning his degree and becoming a pilot. Lovejoy provided insight into his own Navy experiences and helped Josh to look forward to what his future as a pilot could hold for him.

“Karissa and Joshua are an inspiration to all,” remarked Lovejoy. “Their dedication to St. Anthony, UIW and their country is truly impressive. Karissa inspires all with her passion and drive to support UIW’s Mission, her country and military-connected students and their families. From the day I first met Josh, I could see that he set himself up for success by accomplishing his academic goals and working tirelessly to achieve his dream of serving his country and becoming a Naval Aviator. Karissa and Josh are the best examples of how servant leadership, diligent work and a passion for serving others will not only lead them to success but will lead others to success.”

As the couple continues to reach new heights together, they remain grounded by their shared values, trust in God, and by one another, both grateful for the role that the other has played in their lives.

“I'm just so incredibly proud of the man Josh has become and the things he's accomplished,” Karissa expressed. “I think that God has blessed him so much in this life, and he really does not waste that blessing.”

“She has been a very big support throughout my career and that hasn’t gone unnoticed,” shared Josh. “I love her for all she’s given me and us ... I hope that I can show her that same level of support and motivation for anything that she must go through in life.”

While it’s unclear what the future holds for Karissa and Josh, what is clear is that love, faith, and a passion for serving their nation and others will be ever-present in their lives.


Photo Credit: Blake Purcell, Purcell Images