For many veteran students, the transition from active duty to civilian life can be daunting and wrought with several unknowns. It takes a team of friends, family, government, and communal support that are watching the backs of their servicemen and women as they navigate transitioning into civilian life. In 1944, the GI Bill was designed to help veterans achieve their educational and career goals by providing them with financial assistance to cover tuition and living expenses as they pursued their ‘civilian’ training. Through the intervening decades leading up to today, millions of veterans have relied on the GI Bill to help successfully make the transition from soldier to citizen.
For veteran students like Kathy Garrison and Anthony Baker, the GI Bill opened doors to education and new opportunities at American National University (ANU). “I started at ground zero in 2006 at ANU,” shares Kathy, a retired fuel handler for the U.S. Army (1996-2004) who earned her associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in business administration at the ANU Roanoke Valley Campus. “I wanted to start at the lowest level and build my way up,” she shares, and that is exactly what she did.
After service as an Operations Specialist in the U.S. Navy, Anthony says he knew he wanted to get into the medical field, and began looking for colleges when he returned home from duty. He toured several different schools but never felt quite at home until he visited the ANU Lexington, KY Campus. “Just from the beginning,” he states, “the vibe of the staff and of the director… I just liked everything I saw about ANU that day.”
As a university with several military veterans serving in key leadership positions, American National University promotes a culture of supporting the men and women in our armed forces. “We know what it means to serve your country,” shares Frank Longaker, President of ANU and a Vietnam veteran, “and we believe veterans deserve the best education we can provide.”
ANU accepts all provisions of the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, and offers two exclusive grants that are designed to recognize and assist veterans and their families: The Blue Ribbon Grant, which awards up to $15,000 in additional financial support to eligible veterans and dependents; and the Armed Services Recognition Grant, which awards up to $5,000 as a matched contribution from any military education assistance program.
“It was awesome. It was pretty unexpected,” shares Anthony about applying the Blue Ribbon Grant and Armed Services Recognition Grant toward his college expenses. “That is not something that was offered exclusively for veterans,” Anthony said of other colleges he looked into. Instead, at ANU he found that being a veteran carried a distinction and that the university worked hard to provide veterans a solid community: “They made sure that we knew who we were – that we knew where the veterans were. They put us high on a pedestal – and it was real nice.”
[img]Kathy also shares that in her experience, “everybody’s friendly – and they know me.” From the beginning she told her Veterans Affairs vocational counselor that she did not want to go to a large state school but found that the class sizes at ANU helped her feel more at ease returning to school after being in the military for so long. “The [class sizes] are small in number, and you can really ask the questions that you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking in a larger group,” she says.
For both graduates who are now successfully utilizing their degrees, Anthony as a Certified Surgical Technologist and Kathy applying her MBA in starting her own non-profit, the difference at ANU was the sense of community and support aimed at helping them to achieve their educational and career goals. “Being in a place like this, they remind you every time you step on campus that you’re a veteran,” Anthony shares, “that you’re wanted, and they thank you for your service.” For the men and women who have protected us overseas and at home, it is a privilege to return the favor by having their back when they return to civilian life.