For Immediate Release
Across the desk sat William Armstrong, an average looking all-American male college student. You wouldn’t have known he was an Iraq veteran were it not for the tattoo on his arm that reads USMC; nothing fancy, just the letters U-S-M-C. Armstrong is one of 1.7 million plus servicemen who’ve served in the United States military since 9-11. Upon his return from the military, he enrolled at Southwest Tennessee Community
College where he is one of four veterans who were awarded the Helping Heroes Grant. This new grant program, approved during the 2008-09 academic year, assists Tennessee veterans in completing their college education.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are often referred to as the new generation of veterans. This new generation of veterans and servicemen faces tremendous barriers as they return from the battlefield to a supposed life of “normalcy.” According to the Ad Council, in a collaborative multimedia public service campaign with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) last Veterans Day, problems the veterans encounter include high rates of unemployment, suicide, homelessness, substance abuse, divorce, and child abuse. The availability of local resources like jobs, health care, counseling and education is vital to their transition and readjustment.
“A man who is good enough to shed his blood is good enough to be given a square deal afterward,” President Theodore Roosevelt once said. The Helping Heroes Grant is a square deal that provides postsecondary educational financial assistance on a first-come first-served basis to Tennessee veterans, who are former members of the armed forces, reserves or a Tennessee National Guard unit called into active military service of the United States. These veterans must have been awarded the Iraq Campaign Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal; or the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, on/or after September 11, 2001.
William Armstrong was awarded the Iraq Campaign Medal. He will complete his training at Southwest this summer and transfer his course credits to UT, Knoxville. He admitted money is a big issue for vets who were accustomed to food and lodging provisions while in the military along with a pay check two times a month on the 1st and 15th. “You didn’t have to worry about rent and food because all of that was taken care of for you. It’s kind of tough to pay your rent, MLGW … and you got to eat,” said Armstrong.
The grant means a lot to him because, along with his GI Bill, it allows him to go to school full-time, which means he’ll finish his education sooner and can enter the job market. He currently works part time.
Without the grant, he’d have to work full time and go to college part time, meaning it would take a lot longer to finish school. “I would have had to have the full-time job and take a few courses at night. It would take a lot longer. Instead of four and a half years, it would be eight or 10 years.”
Armstrong, a native Memphian, will earn an associate degree in general studies in August. Unsure of a specific major, he plans on getting a bachelor’s degree in accounting, logistics, or education from UT, Knoxville. He appreciates the fact that he’ll finish school without having to pay off student loans.
Photo caption: William Armstrong expresses his gratitude for the Helping Heroes Grant.