My name is Dan Wilson. I am a proud member of American Legion Post 740 in Richmond, Ohio, and commander of the American Legion Jefferson County Council. I have held numerous leadership positions in The American Legion in Jefferson County, including: Jefferson County Council Commander and 2nd Vice for years, District 10 and Jefferson County Americanism Chairman for many years, and District 10 Employment Chairman. I'm involved.
When I retired from the Air Force in September 2004, I had resigned myself that the bachelor of science degree I had earned while on active duty was as far as my educational career was going to go. I had not enrolled in VEAP and therefore was not eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill when it was offered during my active-duty days. I came back to my "Hometown USA" Wintersville, Ohio, restarted my career locally and began living the happily-ever-after.
Things changed when I became a Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist in 2006 and began working closely with veterans in our community. That was the year that I gave The American Legion locally another chance and joined a local post. Through my association with the Legion, AMVETS, IAVA and others, I learned about efforts to get the Post-9/11 GI Bill passed into law. While at the time I had no idea the bill would apply to me, I thought it was extremely important for our "Latest Greatest Generation" to have a bill that really helped veterans get their education and increase the length of time they had to decide their direction and use their benefit.
Quite by accident, while meeting with a service officer at our County Veterans Service Commission, I learned that the Post-9/11 GI Bill applied to all honorably discharged veterans who had served after September 11, 2001. With their help, I applied and received my eligibility document from VA. Kind of the rest is history. Like many veterans, I took my time deciding my course of study, and I had the good fortune of having numerous Yellow Ribbon schools locally to select from, also with a variety of courses of study.
I eventually settled on Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va., and their Master of Science in Organizational Leadership online program. I started my journey in August 2015 and completed all my degree requirements, and graduated in May 2017 with a GPA of 3.96. The education I received was priceless and because of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and my work, all the associated costs of my education at a top 50 university were paid in full.
So the moral of the story to all veterans is that it pays to ask questions, know your benefits, and it also pays to review your benefits every so often with trained professionals. Fortunately for veterans in Ohio, we have our County Veterans Service Commissions/Offices and of course our American Legion, AMVETS, Air Force Sergeants Association, IAVA, VFW and others as a source of regularly updated information. So when was the last time someone walked up to you and handed you over $20,000? Well it never happened to me before either. But by staying in touch with veterans who were in the know, I was able to use the benefit I earned while serving. Pretty good stuff!
Thank you to The American Legion, Air Force Sergeants Association, IAVA, AMVETS and others. Now on to the Forever GI Bill headed to Congress now! Definitely a benefit worth fighting for!