Veteran One of Many Using GI Bill for New BeginningNovember 11, 2014

Since the original signing of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act in 1944, also known as the GI Bill, thousands of veterans have been able to come back from service assignments with options for starting their civilian lives anew. The most recent GI Bill, signed in 2008 to benefit the veterans of the 9/11 generation, has given thousands of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan or their loved ones a chance to start again after serving their nation.

Retired Army Spc. John Gomez, a junior studying business management at Rockhurst, is among the 45 veterans or veteran beneficiaries attending Rockhurst as a result of the GI Bill. A member of the Army for 3-1/2 years, the King City, Missouri, native said enlisting was an easy decision.

“A lot of my family members had been in the military,” he said. “I had a lot of other reasons for it, too. I wanted to travel and see the world, obviously, and I wanted it to be a career.”

Gomez was stationed with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, part of the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, New York, when he was sent to Afghanistan on his first active duty deployment since joining the Army. As a forward observer, Gomez said he was often part of a small group sent into sometimes-remote parts of the country.

“A lot of what we did revolved around going out and interacting with the locals,” Gomez said. “We were pushed out to a lot of places where Americans had never been.”

His goal of a military career hit a roadblock when Gomez suffered brain and back injuries and lost an eye during his deployment, injuries that would lead to a medical retirement. After recovering, he began to work for the Buchanan County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department. Gomez said he wanted to go back to college, but didn’t want to feel like a number.

“It came down to the wire,” he said. “It was just before the deadline for the police academy and I had to choose whether to enter that or go to back to school.”

Based on the suggestion of a friend who was also a veteran, Gomez chose Rockhurst, a decision that he said he does not regret.

“Rockhurst gave me a chance,” he said. “That first semester really sold me on college.”

Now soon to be a senior by credit hours at age 26, Gomez said it was difficult to adjust initially, as one of the oldest students in his classes. But it didn’t take long.

“I really got into it,” Gomez said. “I learned a lot about a broad variety of subjects and the instructors I’ve had know how to make what they were teaching applicable to everyday life.”

As for what follows graduation, Gomez said he was not entirely sure. With a re-evaluation coming up soon, he said a career in the military as an officer is not entirely out of the question. But he said his long term goal is to start his own business, aided by a lesson he learned both in the Army and at Rockhurst.

“You never quit learning,” he said.

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