Putting down the rifle, picking up the books

It takes dedication and commitment to earn an education, traits that service members can utilize after service

Putting down the rifle, picking up the books

Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy study design plans June 22, 2016 for two homes they will build for the Navajo Nation. The cadets are participating in the Academy's Field Engineering and Readiness Laboratory, a five-week summer course for civil and environmental engineering majors at the school. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

I transitioned from U.S. Marine Corps FMF Force Troops at Camp Geiger North Carolina to Boston College at Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts  in 1956. So, my advice to those members of the military who are thinking about taking advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, I think you have a great opportunity to transition from military life to campus life. It will not be easy. But, then again, anything worthwhile never is. 

My transition included being accepted by Boston College and released by the USMC to return to college. My Commanding Officer also forwarded a Letter of Commendation to the Asst. Dean of the Business School at Boston College.

The Veterans Administration was also very helpful. They suggested I take the civil service exam and be given extra points in the exam score for being a veteran. Then I was given a part-time position at the Dedham Post Office. This extra income helped to cover some of the tuition at Boston College not covered by the GI Bill, which was only $115.00 per month in 1956.

I also believe that studying long hours in college and working part time helps one forget bad experiences in the military. You won’t have any spare time to dwell on things that may be unpleasant or traumatic. 

There are several other things that helped with my transition:  

  • I became acquainted immediately with other students who were also veterans. We formed a close group that shared experiences and also helped each during the freshman orientation week. 
  • I was fortunate to have a former chaplain offer his assistance with my transition at Boston College and he enjoyed the fact that I saluted all of the ROTC Cadets. 
  • I came to attention in class when called upon. I called my professors "sir" or "ma'am." He assured me it would only take a few weeks to become familiar with being a civilian again and not a Marine sergeant anymore. 

To summarize my transition time from the Marines to Boston College, I would say you must manage your financial situation, network with other veterans and have the support and guidance of a college administrator or professor who has served in the military.

Most find that after being in the military you will have been grounded in discipline and used to studying long hours to succeed in the classroom. I was fortunate to have attended several military schools, and had to burn the midnight oil because I wanted to be among the top in my class which helps to be promoted. This attitude can be applied to college life; it will help you get good grades and be successful.

In my case, being in the Marines for three years and then going back to college was an interesting transition. Without the moral values and strict discipline I learned in the Marines, I am not sure I would have been able to graduate from Boston College.

One should really consider going to college, vocational school, or community college as part of their transition from military life to civilian life. You have the GI Bill, so why not take advantage of it to better your life? Be a successful veteran who served one's country and, with a good education, can continue to do so as a civilian.