There is no such thing as absolute freedom.
While terrifying and disheartening to admit, it’s also the truth. But the absence of absolute freedom doesn’t keep us from fighting for what we believe to be right. Freedom can be seen both through the eyes of the past and of the present, whether it was WWII, the civil rights movement, women’s right to vote or the now-unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.
The very idea of freedom is so complex that only those that have taken a stand or suffered without it can truly appreciate what it means to be free.
But these are things you already know. As a service member, veteran or family member, you know exactly what it takes to maintain the freedoms we all hold so dear. That’s why you should obtain the one thing that mattered most behind every movement — an education.
Education is Key to Change
Just like freedom, a good education is important for quality of life. It helps to improve upon your creativity, learning flexibility, and personal fortitude; not to mention the doors it can open to other ventures.
Take literacy, for example. Prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, southern states maintained elaborate voter registration procedures. This process, often referred to as a “literacy test,” remained a complex system devoted to denying undereducated African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans the right to vote.
History is much the same. I believe George Santayana captured it best when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I’ll go out on a limb and say that we all hope to grow and learn from our mistakes, lest we be doomed to repeat them.
What about technology? No small amount of education is required to make some of our most amazing advances, but where would the military, who stands for freedom every day, be without these devices? Without technology, our American service branches wouldn’t remain the number one superpower in the world.
Do It Your Way
Who said you have to attend a traditional university to get an education? That path may have worked for me, but it’s not for everyone. That’s why there are a plethora of choices to get you started, but it only matters that you start. An education is something that gives you a base of knowledge on which to build. Higher education in any form exposes us to new concepts and helps us to develop new ideas.
Let’s look at a short list of benefits available to you, and then a list of how you can use those benefits.
- Chapter 30, GI Bill (Montgomery)
- Chapter 33, Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Vocational Rehabilitation
- The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
- Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
- Yellow Ribbon Program
Ways to Use your Benefits
- Traditional sit-down college or university
- Online or evening classes
- Apprenticeship programs
- Flight training
- Entrepreneurship training
- Work study program
- Co-op training
These lists don’t include the numerous other ventures and benefits including trade schools, police and fire academies, scholarships and FAFSA, just to name a few.
Why Start Now?
If all of that isn’t enough to persuade you to get started, let’s talk about the quantifiable stuff. I’m sure you’ve already heard that those with degrees (in this case, college) make more money. According to one study from Georgetown University, those with only a high school diploma make approximately 84 percent less over the course of their lives. Over a lifetime, a Bachelor’s degree is worth $2.8 million, on average.
Educated people also tend to have better jobs, which carry better healthcare benefits, which result in less stress and better health.
Whether you decide to receive formal education for yourself, for your family or for the money, just make the right choice. It’s a freedom unlike any other. Now’s the time to get started.