Viewpoint: As a veteran, I want to thank you

By Trey Gregory

Veteran’s Day is usually a day where Americans come together to show their appreciation for the sacrifices made by the many men and women who served in the military. However, as a veteran, I want to try something new this year. I want to thank my country, community and school for the help and support they provide to veterans every single day of the year.

I didn’t join the military for the benefits. In fact, I don’t believe veterans are inherently entitled to benefits. After all, if you truly choose to serve someone or something, you shouldn’t expect anything in return. That is what makes it service.

However, I live in a country that believes in supporting its veterans and my story is proof that the U.S., Texas and Baylor take care of their veterans.

I separated from the Navy a little more than a year ago. Transition from military to civilian life is full of obvious challenges. However, I’m here to say that the transition has been wonderful for me, and I am really thankful that I live in a country that takes care of its veterans.

I could never afford to attend a school like Baylor on my own. I always dreamed of going to a prestigious university, but I figured I would end up taking most of my classes through community colleges and inexpensive state colleges. Not that there is anything wrong with pursuing an education through those means, but the idea of going to a reputable private university was very appealing to me.

Because this country decided to support its veterans and congress passed the post 9/11 GI Bill, I am now a student at Baylor. The 9/11 GI Bill covers most of my tuition, gives me a generous monthly living stipend and even an annual book allowance. What the bill does not cover in tuition, the Yellow Ribbon program does.

The Yellow Ribbon program is an agreement between private universities and state governments. The university agrees to pay half of the tuition that the GI Bill doesn’t cover, and the state will pay the rest. Baylor does not have to participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, but it does, and I am so thankful for that.

The U.S. also wants veterans to be employed. I moved to Waco from the Washington, D.C., area. I was a little worried about finding a job because D.C. has an abundance of jobs available to veterans and Waco has a much smaller economy than the D.C. area. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find a job at all.

However, President Barack Obama and Congress passed an initiative to give businesses a tax break if they hire veterans, and every state unemployment office has a representative with the specific job of helping veterans find employment.

So, because of this great system, I received an e-mail saying that a new retail store was coming to Waco and they wanted to hire veterans. I interviewed and was hired less than a month later. I find it remarkable that a country and a community would put so much effort into making sure I succeed in my transition.

Then there is Baylor. I recently heard President Ken Starr say, “Baylor loves veterans.” Based off my experience at Baylor, I would have to agree.

As I said before, Baylor does not have to participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, but it chooses to. Not only does it participate, but this year, it opened up more slots for veterans to be in the program.

I applied to a few schools and spoke with many university’s veterans’ representatives before Baylor.

I often left these other universities frustrated at the lack of passion, empathy, caring and even the willingness to help.

However, I have always been amazed at the amount of courtesy and help I receive from the veterans’ representatives at Baylor.

Jessica Alford, Baylor’s veterans coordinator, handles all veterans’ enrollment and payment issues and she is absolutely wonderful to work with. Dr. Janet Bagby is the VETS center coordinator and she is so enthusiastic about helping veterans that I am convinced she would give one of her kidneys to a veteran if he or she needed one.

Plus, many of my professors are more than understanding and sympathetic to circumstances unique to veterans such as having to miss class for a Veterans Affairs hospital appointment in Austin that just can’t be rescheduled.

The Baylor students are also very respectful and polite to veterans, which I think says a lot about an institution.

Trey Gregory is a sophomore journalism major from Greenbelt, Md. He is a reporter for The Lariat.