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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

GI Joe College

It's hard to overstate how important the GI Bill was after World War II, not just to a generation of young Americans but to the whole country. It changed whom we considered college appropriate for and even our whole notion of what college should be. And except for the way the war started bringing women into the work force, the burgeoning middle class thus created was probably the most lasting effect of that era.

Now it's back, funded at levels not seen since World War II. When I made use of it after Vietnam, it wasn't quite enough for a full ride. I still had to have another source of income and an apartment subsidized by my mother-in-law. The GI Bill isn't as important today for the overall economy or for creating profound social changes as it was in the late '40s and early '50s, but it will certainly help some universities' finances. And it's still one of the better quid pro quos of American life -- serve your country, and your country will serve you.

But as with everything else these days, we can't just accept the good news. We have to go looking for problems to solve:

Mike Vertucci is not like typical college students. He has fought in war. And, on a college campus, that is a life experience that also isolates him.

Some classmates are openly critical of the U.S. action in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Vertucci served proudly and with conviction. Sometimes, he faces the most uncomfortable question: Have you ever killed anyone?

That uneasiness is common for students who have transitioned from combat to the classroom. And it's among the issues that universities are trying to confront as they aggressively reach out to and recruit returning troops to take advantage of the new GI bill.

Geez. I don't want to make light of veterans with problems. Some will have special stresses, and anything that can make things smoother for them, fine. But as a group, these veteran students will be like the veteran students of other eras: older than their classmates, more focused, more mature, readier to learn. They can handle whatever stupid questions their shallower classmates can come up with.

And if you want to know about returning to college in the midst of an unpopular war, well, never mind. I don't want to talk about it. See how easy that was?