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Editor’s note: Since the school shooting that killed 17 students and teachers two weeks ago in Parkland, Florida, a debate has erupted over whether to arm teachers and other staffers in schools to prevent future tragedies. Plenty of military veterans have weighed in on both sides, but few voices in the mainstream media have thought through what such a system would really look like. Here is one quick perspective on that, from a former Army officer.
I spent the first two years after I separated from the military in business school. Heading back to a degree program gave me a chance to learn how to negotiate civilian culture in a relatively safe environment. I didn’t realize at the time how much more difficult it would be than I expected — and how critical that time would be to my future success, too.
Everyone knows that getting a degree is critical to professional success in today’s economy, but there is a misperception among many veterans that all paths leading to a degree are equally viable. Veterans who rush to get into the easiest or the quickest program may find out the hard way that a high student-debt burden and a still-weak economy are a dangerous combination. In fact, attending college can become a financial catastrophe for student veterans if they allow themselves to rack up thousands in debt while earning a degree that is in little demand, or worse, if they become one of the many online college dropouts who still owe their school money for courses they never completed.
Years ago, I watched as President Barack Obama launched the Post-9/11 GI Bill in front of a crowd of student veterans and their spouses at George Mason University. It was a great gift, ensuring veterans the opportunity to earn a degree and pursue their dreams.
Following World War II, one of the best examples of a successful government program was the G.I. Bill. Once passed, thousands of service members returning from war were able to get an education, earn their degrees, start a career and make a great deal more than they would have otherwise. The overall economy benefited from the influx of workers able to earn higher wages and the country, as a whole, benefited not just from the increased economic activity, but from the overall improvement that came with it. The gains for society were exponential.
After more than a decade of intense fighting in two wars, America's servicemen and women are finally starting to come home. If history is any lesson, what’s next for the United States is a period of introspection, a focus on domestic issues, and the men and women who raised their hands to serve overseas will continue to lead at home. At Task & Purpose, we’re big believers in the idea that modern veterans will play a pivotal role in writing the next chapter of American history, but that’s a pretty daunting challenge. So here are six simple things you can do on a regular basis to help move things forward.