G.I. Bill helps soldiers into classrooms

Making the transition from the battlefield to civilian life can be difficult for combat veterans, but trading in boots for books has made the process a bit easier for many former service members.

Countless veterans return home unprepared for the complex shift from military structure and never-ending deployments to a calm, but different lifestyle.

The former soldiers naturally struggle with social, economic and deeply delicate issues that are in stark contrast to the problems encountered overseas.

James Cote, a senior at Castleton State College, immediately encountered troubles after the end of his U.S. Army enlistment.    

“I’m still not as sociable as I was before going in [the military],” Cote said. “I was married when I was in, and coming back home split my marriage apart. I wasn’t able to communicate, which just made things impossible.”  

The former 82nd Airborne Infantry solider said that enrolling in classes at the Community College of Vermont before transferring to Castleton made his assimilation much easier.

Finding serenity back home with family and friends has made the adjustment difficult for scores of combat veterans.

A lot of returning service members attempt to overcome mental anxiety complexities including Post-traumatic stress disorder or other troubles involving nervousness and depression.

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that occurs after a person witnesses or experiences a traumatic event that possibly involved the danger of personal injury or death, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

“Many of these former combat soldiers have issues with anxiety, as they are hyper-aware of their surroundings,” said Brad Young, a readjustment counselor for the Vet Center. “Always checking rooftops, being wary of potholes or trash on the side of the road — all of these things make day-to-day life very difficult.”

Young – working out of the local Vet Center in White River Junction – recently opened an office for student veterans on the Castleton campus, making accessibility to services and assistance much easier.

A student veterans club is also in the process of forming at CSC, providing a place for the veterans to support each other and deal with concerns in a group setting.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also has a major hand in assisting the former service members and new students with the overwhelming costs involved with attending college.

“The G.I. Bill has definitely helped a lot,” Cote said. “Just being able to go to school has helped me reintegrate into the community a lot easier, and that wouldn’t be possible without the V.A.”

After World War II, the G.I. Bill was initially built by the V.A. to assist veterans with the price tag of a post-secondary education. The program gives veterans money toward education after active duty, whether it is college courses, trade schools, internships or other programs.  

The most recent formulation of the government program, named the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, gives veterans more money and benefits than ever before.

“The [Post-9/11] G.I. Bill is one of the best things for veteran students,” said Merle Bronson, the V.A. Certification Officer at Castleton. “Based upon service, Post-9/11 veterans returning to school get money for tuition, basic housing and a book stipend.”  

In 2009, more than 460,000 higher-learning students applied to obtain G.I. Bill assistance and the total number has since increased, according to the V.A.    

There are currently 30 former service members enrolled at CSC receiving V.A. tuition benefits.

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