During his sophomore year at FSU, Justin had joined the Florida National Guard. He was able to get more advanced training by being a member of the guard while still in school. That first semester, his unit was called to duty and assigned to spend a year in Mosul, Iraq. Justin did not have to go with the unit as he was still in college. He told his family that he was not going to deploy, even though he wanted to be with his unit. His plan was to stay put. Justin would later write that he just could not let his unit go off without him, knowing he was part of the team and could help the unit. He said he was driving past the armory one day and something came over him that he had to go. He turned around and went to his CO and told them he was going. He had made up his mind. Justin made the most of the deployment, earning the only Bronze Star given to an enlisted man. He would say it was valuable experience as he began the deployment as a private, thereby doing what his men would later do. He could see their struggles having been in their shoes.