In this series of blogs, I’ll be talking about colleges: why to go, where it’s best for Veterans and, of course, how VA can help you pay for it. First let’s look at why you should consider getting a degree even if you think you’re too old to be a student.

Although nothing can replace the leadership lessons learned in uniform, you’ll be proud to have that degree. When asked what college we went to, I know we Soldiers love to say the “School of Hard Knocks” or “Watsamata U,” Or maybe we can choose one of The 25 Best Fictional Colleges.

My personal favorite is Clint Eastwood’s response as Marine Gunny Highway in the 1986 movie “Heartbreak Ridge.” He tells the college-educated Lieutenant Ring that he went to Heartbreak Ridge (i.e., combat). That was a good lesson to college grad Lt. Ring who needed to become a seasoned leader. That emerged when he had to help rescue college students on the island of Grenada. Trapped and cut off from communication, Ring figures out how to use a credit card phone call to reach Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. And the combat experience transforms him. Similarly my service experience has translated into great lessons learned that I use every day. But it also meant a lot to me at the age of 48 to have that piece of paper. In future blogs, I’ll discuss how VA can help you take that step.

In the next blog, I’ll discuss a second reason for college: the value of making contacts for networking.

Check out the Education & Training programs you can take advantage of when you Join VA.



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Published on Oct. 20, 2015

Estimated reading time is 1.4 min.

Views to date: 104


  1. Ann van Hemert November 8, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Most of my friends and acquaintances tell me that they have a hard time imagining me, a mother of four, who spent many years as a stay at home mom and just graduated from college at the age of 49, as a veteran. Once they grasp that I was indeed in the Army at the beginning of my adult years, they assume that out of my military service came substantial financial aid to finish my degree. Although my recruiter talked about the Army College Fund and the $25,000 that was available for college, by the time I was about a year in, I realized that at most, I was getting $5400 in help through the Veteran’s Educational Assistance Program. It was a matching program. For every dollar I contributed up to $2700 the Army matched $2. By the time I finished my military obligation and was honorable discharged, I was married and expecting a baby. I spent an additional 13 years as an Army wife before my husband also got out of the Army. I had ten years from my ETS to use the VEAP funds. I didn’t know how to access the funds….(we didn’t have the internet resources that we have now) and was told by the education officer on our base as I got close to the ten year mark our base that if I didn’t go full time I could not use the funds at all. I had two little ones then and lived a distance from the nearest college. (We didn’t have the online options either.) My husband had a hardship tour and after six months they gave him the opportunity to live off-post because of barracks overcrowding. The distance was wearing on our family, so I cashed in my part of the VEAP so that we could go over to him. I am well aware that I made that choice to sacrifice that help for my education to save my marriage. I continued to stay at home and take care of my family for another ten years. At the ten year anniversary of that trip to that country, my husband returned to that country as a civilian contractor and began an affair that led to the end of our marriage. Then the clock really began ticking as I realized that I needed to be able to support my self and finish raising my children. People told me to look at the local base for a job and I realized that I needed a bachelor’s degree to even be a secretary there. Weighing the pros and cons of returning to school, part time or full time took me another few years. I returned to school full time at great sacrifice to myself and my children and finished. I am carrying a lot of debt and just beginning a new career when most people are thinking about retirement. As I look into the issue I am finding that people of my generation, especially women, had a hard time completing a degree. Only 36% although I am sure most of us meant to access financial aid resulting from our military service. 10% of the women from my generation of military service live in poverty. That is little better than the general population, when our military service should have helped us get into good jobs. More of us have been through a divorce. We were at a disadvantage when it comes to completing a degree within a ten year period when you think that in those years of service we were more likely to get married and start having children. The largest group of people who have large loans and are not able to finish college are nontraditional students with children.
    The news is full of military members being taken advantage of, even when they do have GI Bill assistance. We need to be very honest about the hardships and pitfalls of pursuing a degree when you are a single parent.

  2. Perry November 3, 2015 at 11:34 am

    This is a great idea for a set of blog posts. It is so common for Veterans to think they are past it, over the hill, and that college is no longer for them. But when friends of mine started taking classes last year I noticed how much of a difference it made in terms of their confidence, happiness, and well being. It’s great to consider education at any age, at any status.

  3. CHRISTINA M. DUNCAN October 20, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Mr. Sherrard,

    I’m the director of Veteran Services for The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC0 and would love to talk to you about this blog if you wouldn’t mind.


    • Darren Sherrard October 20, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Christina, please send me an inquiry to Thanks!

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