That is the big question. Do you need college? Maybe not, there are programs such as battlefieldstooilfields.com, and training for welders, auto technicians and other trade workers, all of which one can use the GI Bill for. Maybe one has experience gained from on-the-job training (OJT) or military training. There are many career choices that do not require college today.
With that said, many of those jobs are physical and labor intensive—often great for young adults in their prime and good health. But what happens when an injury or illness impacts your ability to hold a weld line in 90-degree weather? Or if you are like me, you spent your younger years abusing your body and the wear and tear has caught up to you. I was watching a program on TV last week that featured Fort Bragg’s Airborne training. The instructor informed the guest that the equipment for a 150 lb. person, would likely be about 250 lbs. What long term impact would that have on a hard working Veteran? And this is just one small example of the ongoing abuse Veterans inflict upon our minds and bodies.
So approaching 50 now, I saw three options for myself. Get a degree that allows me to have a well-paying office job, start my own business or win the lottery. I was fortunate—I had previous experience that allowed me to get hired into a Program Manager position without a degree. However, seeing the light, I enrolled in college and completed a Bachelor’s Degree as I never wanted to be in the position of seeking a career without one again. It was tough. I have now realized that if I desire to remain competitive with my peers and grow, I will likely need to pursue a Masters as well.
I am sharing this with fellow Veterans as I am seeing a common trend. Either we get to college or we do not. If we do not, it may be because we do not believe in college education the same as private sector. It may be we are fearful of sitting in class with non-Veterans. We may disagree with some academic teachings that place science higher than all else. Or it may be that we are just lazy.
I love Clint Eastwood, but when Gunny was asked what college he went to and he replied “Heartbreak Ridge,” he did no soldier a favor. While I value my military experience over college and any other position I have held, I believed those words for decades and that attitude has limited many a Veteran since.
Another dilemma I have seen many struggle with is online vs. on-campus education. No matter your thought on it, many Veterans want one on-campus class only to be able to receive the full the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Online only cuts in half the BAH and many forego even starting, “hoping” for a better time to start on-campus classes. If you want to be on-campus, do it now. If that does not work for you, then online-only is fine, and the BAH is an added benefit that will help. I attended college online full-time with a full-time job and a wife and kids, etc. There are no more excuses, pick your degree, your school, and get that degree. You may be surprised how much you learn about yourself and your interests. I find myself more excited to learn now than I was before.
Lastly, we need Veterans to be the next leaders of America. Politicians, CEOs, Hiring Managers. Just as the World War II Veterans changed America with the GI Bill, we owe it to our future Veterans to pave the way before them to make their transition that much smoother than ours.
Ruck up, and get/stay in college!
PS: Before you give your future to your kids, consider this.