It was 1975 and Bill Gunning had retired from the U.S. Air Force after more than 20 years of service. The senior master sergeant, who had deployed during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, wondered what he would do next with his life as he moved his family back to his hometown of Carlinville, Illinois.

One night, while sweeping the local high school basketball court after a game, he asked himself out loud, “What the heck am I doing here?”

The next day he set out to find a new career path and learn more about his benefits.

“There wasn’t too much call for radar operators or machine gunners,” Gunning told VA News during a visit to Washington, D.C., with an Honor Flight group from Illinois. “I went back and talked to VA, and VA guy said, ‘we’ll give ya pay for your college and give you a check to boot.’  Well, I couldn’t turn that down.”

Gunning-2Gunning used his GI Bill benefits and graduated from the nursing school at Lewis and Clark College in 1980. He went on to work as a nurse at local intensive care and emergency rooms units for 20 years before retiring for good.

According to Gunning, his success in life because of the education he received was so life altering that his sons also followed in his footsteps and used their GI Bill after their 20-plus years of service in the U.S. Military.

How has the GI Bill changed your life? Make sure to leave a comment below.




Share this story

Published on Jun. 19, 2014

Estimated reading time is 1.3 min.

Views to date: 58


  1. steve June 21, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I went in the US Navy in 1981 & retired in 2004, I was told by the va that I didn’t qualify for any GI Bill

  2. Howard Gunning June 21, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Bill Gunning is my dad. It was a pretty brave move for him to go into nursing (he was the only male in his graduating class). I couldn’t find a job when I retired from the Air Force in 1997. I used the GI Bill and an Illinois Veterans Grant to get bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. That opened the door for me to start as an adjunct instructor at Southwestern Illinois College (near Scott AFB) in 1998, and move into a full time teaching position with the college in 1999. I’ve been there ever since. Great benefit–if you use it!

  3. David A. Dugan June 20, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I served from 1969 to 1975. the GI Bill allowed me to go to industrial computer School in Kansas City and I had 20 years working in the semiconductor field.

  4. Rafael DiCristina June 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks to the GI Bill (Ch. 34) I was able to complete an MBA in Management while simultaneously working in the Education Services Unit of the Veterans Administration.

  5. THERESA AVANZATO June 20, 2014 at 3:57 pm


    • Yvonne Levardi June 23, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Hi Theresa. Visit: and select “I am a dependent/survivor” from the dropdown menu on the top left, and you can see which benefits you are eligible for. The home guaranty and GI Bill are benefits only for the servicemember (except for the post 9/11 GI Bill).

  6. carmelo diaz June 20, 2014 at 10:12 am

    It is inspiring to hear that there is a future for those that wants to continue contributing to the people. I’m asking,… now that I’m seventy years young if there is an opportunity for me in the GI Bill, please, let me know. TY Carmelo Diaz

  7. Ana Cuebas June 19, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Retiring at 60 from the US Army Reserve, 346th CSC, 49th Med Bn, I was facing getting a full civilian life transition. I already have a BA in Arts, Labor Relations and a Doctor Juris. Yet, I felt now is the best part of my life to serve my country. I guess my father taught me a lesson being born when he was 60. After all, President Lincoln ended the civil war at 60. Kennedy said, some people ask why, I ask why not?? With these giants inspiring my heart and soul, it was difficult if not impossible to stand still. So I registered with the University of Puerto Rico, my alma mater, going for a Masters Degree in Social Work concentrating in Programs Administration. I will get back to you 2 years from now and let you know whether my goal and dream of administrating a government program up to the highest standards of excellence, came true.

    • Rafael DiCristina June 20, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      As a fellow Puerto Rican I commend you and wish you success. The University of Puerto Rico is also my Alma Mater (BBA 1966). My MBA in Management (1977) is from InterAmerican University, San Germán.

  8. Concerned veteran June 19, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I posted a comment under a previous blog about what the secretary is doing about the wait time and stating there will be monthly reviews. Why has my comment not been posted yet? When Patricks comment above has been posted and I submitted mine before the time he did? I know they have to wait for moderation but they should post them in the order received. Not pic and choice which ones go first ? Please post my comment under the secretary’s comment about scheduling review. Thank you

    • Yvonne Levardi June 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Hi – sorry about that; we moderate comments because there’s a lot of spam that comes into these. In the meantime, we’ve been a little busy today and I hadn’t yet gotten around to comments. I see your comment and by the time you see this, it should be approved. In some cases, the comment filter allows comments through (and honestly I don’t know the specifics as to how the program works) which may be why Patrick’s comment has already posted.

  9. John Terpening June 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    It gave me a BA and MA in geology from UCLA in 4 1/2 years with no debt on graduation. – long time ago.

  10. patrick jahnke June 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    It help my son and daughter in college it help them out also.

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • In the aftermath of Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, VA has benefits and resources for Veterans and families impacted by this natural disaster.

  • In 2022, VA set a goal to house 38,000 homeless Veterans. With only a few months to go, how are we doing?

  • Under the PACT Act, Vietnam era, Gulf War era, and Post-9/11 Veterans have extended eligibility for VA health care.