Veterans Adjust to Campus

It didn’t take long for Chuck Pennington to go from run-of-the-mill private second class in the U.S. Army to a hero.
As a medic on his first deployment in Iraq, Pennington was riding in a tactical vehicle when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device.
The attack was effective enough to take out two vehicles in his convoy and resulted in multiple casualties.
In the face of danger, the untested medic dismounted his vehicle and immediately began caring for the wounded. Pennington’s actions saved seven lives that day, earning him a Bronze Star nomination and a personal thank you from General George Casey Jr., then-Senior Coalition Commander and future Army Chief of Staff.
Pennington served in the Army for six years, spending time in both Iraq and Afghanistan before deciding to pursue a higher education. In August 2010, he began classes as a chemistry major at Butler University.
Stories like Pennington’s are not as rare at Butler as one may think.
There are nearly 40 veterans currently attending Butler, using veterans education benefits such as the GI Bill.
The Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most commonly-used benefit for veterans. It offers $17,500 for tuition a year, a stipend for books each semester and $1,245 dollars a month for living expenses.
In addition, Butler offers 12 Yellow Ribbon scholarships to veterans providing up to $6,000, which is then matched by Veterans Affairs.
Debbie Ach, Butler’s Veterans Affairs certifying official, is responsible for working with Veterans Affairs to secure financial assistance for veterans at Butler.
Ach said she is proud of the work she does, and throughout her 10 years of experience she has noticed that veterans tend to have higher grades and a better work ethic than the majority of students.
Leaving the military for college can be difficult, but Ach’s experience and knowledge of veterans’ benefits helps to smooth the transition.
Pennington said Ach’s help was invaluable as he started at Butler one month after finishing a tour in Afghanistan.
While many larger schools offer specific programs for veterans—such as veterans housing, on-campus veteran affairs offices and veteran counseling services—Butler does not.
Despite this, Butler does offer some support.
“While we do not have specific programs as larger campuses do, we recognize veterans’ unique needs and feel equipped to support them during their time here at Butler,” Mindy Wallpe, staff psychologist, said.
Pennington is now a junior at Butler and is maintaining a 3.5 GPA. He is also helping his wife open a small business and plans to work with pharmaceuticals when he graduates next year.


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