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May is Military Appreciation Month – a great time to show our gratitude and appreciation for past and present troops. Thank you to all who serve and have served! We thank you for our freedom and safety.

Have you thought about joining the military?

Whether it’s the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard, or Space Force, the armed forces are a great place to build your character, skills, knowledge and career.

The military offers to pay for education expenses through various versions of the GI Bill, through the Yellow Ribbon Program, and other benefits. After serving in the military, you could go to college completely paid for. Some even choose to get their education while serving.

I talked to two veterans who both went to college.

Cody, the college student who joined the Army National Guard

Cody entered university right out of high school. He took a year off between sophomore and junior year to join the Army National Guard. After basic training he was able to come back to UNL, continue to serve in the Guard and earned his B.A. in History and Geospatial Science/Geography. Although he couldn’t use his GI Bill on his undergrad studies (because he hadn’t served prior to college) – in the future he will be able to use the GI Bill for grad school.

“It made me a much better person.”

Cody says, “The military made me a much better person. Growing up I struggled with discipline and authority. It took the Army three days to break those bad habits and mold me into a selfless and honorable person. I became more organized, adaptable, and well-rounded. It gave me skills and perspective that helped immensely in college, my career and life in general. I learned to critically think in ways I never thought I would have. It gave me a sense of security and trust in my ability to defend the things I love. That is something I will have for the rest of my life, and will never take for granted.”

When I asked what he would say to someone who is considering the choice of military or a traditional college path, he said, “It IS possible to do them at the same time; look into the Guard, Reserves or ROTC. While it is hard and can be overwhelming to balance, it helps you stay organized and focused. If you’re even a little interested, contact your local recruiter!”

Jeff, the Marine who went to college

Jeff entered the Marine Corps his senior year of high school. He started taking college classes when he was 26 (while working full-time) and earned an Associate degree in Business. He devoted his time to school at age 31 and graduated with his B.S. in Operations Management, when he was 35. The GI Bill covered 100% of his tuition, books and housing for both degrees.

Jeff says, “The Marine Corps gave me leadership traits and principles that helped reinforce the structure and discipline I needed to be successful in college.”

“It taught me dependability, courage, decisiveness and judgement.”

He went on to say:

The Marines helped me discover my skills and abilities, so I could fit myself into the right degree and career path. The Marine Corps taught me dependability, courage, decisiveness and judgement, (to name a few,) which helped me to do the necessary steps to understand my program of choice (Operations Management). These traits help me considerably at my current job, too. 

The Marines allowed me to travel around the globe and experience different cultures and opportunities. I have a greater appreciation for my freedoms and benefits in the USA after seeing other countries where people struggle to get education, training or a good standard of living.

It’s something to consider!

So, if you are wondering if the military is something you’d like to try; go talk to a recruiter to learn more. Or, if you are military member or veteran thinking of attending college, learn more about the GI Bill and how the military pays for education.