Like many Vietnam Vets, I “got in a little hometown jam” and ended up entering the Army on my 17th birthday in November 1966. After basic training and AIT, I was assigned to the 1/79th Artillery, 7th Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea. I earned my GED through the USAFI program and actually graduated before my class in the spring of 1967. After my tour in Korea I was assigned to an Honest John unit at Ft. Lewis, Washington. After a couple of months of tedious stateside duty I was able to get re-assigned to the 972nd Signal Battalion that was preparing to ship out to Vietnam. As I approached the end of my tour in Vietnam, I began to consider if and where to go to college.
As a resident of Illinois I was eligible for free tuition at any state college or university, so I applied to the University of Illinois and was accepted. My father had returned from three years in the Pacific during WWII and went directly to the U of I, so it was sort of a family tradition that I started college 10 days after returning from Vietnam. Another part of the tradition was that at that time, September, 1969, the monthly stipend for the GI Bill was almost the same as what my father received some 20 years earlier. While I was not ready for the demands of a Big-10 university at the time, I did manage, with the help of the local junior college, to eventually graduate from the U of I in 1978. In 1984 I moved to Georgia and pursued a master’s degree in the field of Recreation and Leisure Studies. After nearly 17 years of working in municipal recreation programs I returned to the University of Georgia to work on a doctorate in Adult Education. My experience in the Army with the GED and the many soldiers who were drafted under the “Project 100,000” program (a program that took 100,000 recruits a year in to the military without being able to meet basic military educational standards) gave me a great interest in the area of adult literacy education and the GED. I completed my doctorate in 1998 and have worked in higher education in the State of Georgia since that time.
It is encouraging to see that the educational benefits for today’s Veterans are such that pursuing further education is possible for many. I hope that efforts such as this blog can help encourage and assist these vets as they move forward.
Mark Johnson, Ed.D., served tours in both Korea and Vietnam and is currently with the Office of Faculty Development with the University System of Georgia.