After speaking with Richard Costa about his work as project manager for Construction Services, you’re likely to have a newfound appreciation for every door that you see on the sprawling University of Texas at Austin campus. On any given week, he’s juggling over 100 projects—from door installations to fire code and security inspections to structural maintenance. For nearly 15 years, he has played a vital role in keeping our campus accessible and safe—and his commitment to service is not just a job. It’s a family affair. Working alongside his wife in the Construction Services office and with his twin brother, an expert in locks and keys, Costa doesn’t have to venture far to be with family.
We caught up with Costa to learn more about his service to the university and his country. Read on to learn more about his passion for helping others—and how he aims to provide a valuable resource for veterans with the newly established Military/Veteran Faculty & Staff Association (MVFSA).
Could you please tell us a little bit about your military journey?
I left my hometown of Sacramento, California in ‘86, and served in the U.S. Army from ‘88 to ‘98. Some of the places where I was stationed included Berlin, Germany and Washington DC. I served in the Old Guard [the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment] and in the Reserve Drill Sergeant Unit. Among my duties, I served at more than 3,000 military funerals.
In addition to recruiting members, what plans do you have in store for the MVFSA?
In the future, I’m hoping to get some speakers from other VA associations to come and talk to the group about resources and benefits. I’m also looking for ways to coordinate fun runs, golf tournaments and other events that can be enjoyed by those serving in active duty, veterans and their dependents. We’re working with several other veterans’ groups and organizations on campus in an effort to bring us all together for various events. Another future project is to put together a webpage with links to veteran-owned businesses on our site as an added resource.
What advice would you give to a veteran who’s transitioning back into civilian life?
My best advice is to take everything one day at a time. There is help available for you, just don’t be afraid to ask. We’re all here to help each other, and the military—despite our jokes and rivalries—is just one giant family.
In addition to finding resources, what are some other benefits of joining this group?
We really want to bring the whole military community together so people can have someone to talk to. It’s so important to connect this way, and to show people how to take advantage of the resources provided by the VA, which can be difficult to navigate on your own. A lot of vets won’t seek help, or they don’t know where they can.
It’s also so important to meet with other vets who all have these shared experiences. They know what you’ve been through, and they’ll understand your sense of humor or stories. For the longest time, I kept things bottled up and was able to distract myself with work. When I had to stay home during the pandemic, stuff started coming out. My wife saw how this was affecting me, so I went to group therapy, which really helped.
What are some valuable skills active military and veterans bring to their work at UT Austin?
When you’re in the military, you learn to work with a group and how to get everybody trained from the bottom up. You learn leadership skills just by paying attention to detail and by working with others in a group. In terms of work ethic, you learn to show up— not just on time, but ahead of time. Every job you do needs to be done right because it’s important to be proud of the work you have done. It all boils down to discipline, and that’s what the military enforces.
What is a fun fact you can tell us about yourself?
I hate to run, but my wife and I love doing mud runs, spartan races, zombie runs and night-time runs. In fact, I helped to build a haunted house set for a charity in Manor, and it has been seen in the TV show “Fear the Walking Dead.” I used to build sets and structures for events benefitting nonprofits and good causes. My wife and I also do a little dog grooming on the side.
What message would you like to convey during this time of national reflection?
It would be nice for people to look at us and see that we don’t all think and act the same way, and that we’re such a diverse group of different nationalities, religions and creeds. We’re just like everyone else, but we’re special enough to get a lot of veteran’s discounts! Another thing I’d like to mention is that it always feels good when someone says thank you for your service.
More about the Military/Veteran Faculty & Staff Association
Established in Fall 2022, the Military/Veteran Faculty and Staff Association is a University Resource Group that facilitates the inclusion of veterans, military members and their families into the university community in order to enhance recruitment, retention, networking, camaraderie and professional development in collaboration with other organizations. Visit the MVFSA website to learn more.