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Monday February 27, 2017

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Veterans Finding Success at Walters State
July 8, 2013

Walters State student Kevin Poe has completed a unique circle of learning and service. Poe began his education at the college in 2001. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Poe felt the desire to serve his country. He withdrew and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Now, his military educational benefits are helping him complete his education.

Poe came back to Walters State in 2010 to finish his associate's degree.

"I would probably not be able to attend right now without the educational benefits. I did not enlist for the G.I. Bill benefits, but I do want to take advantage of them," Poe said.

Poe said his benefits pay for his tuition, his books and even provide a small housing allowance.

The number of veterans served by the college has increased by 30 percent since 2008, according to Linda Mason, dean of records and veterans affairs officer. Mason expects that number to go higher as more service members return from deployments related to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Poe and Mason both want to stress to other veterans that educational benefits do not last forever. Most expire after 10 or 15 years, Mason explained.

"The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits are only available for 15 years after the date of discharge from active duty. Other programs vary," she said.

Recent changes have minimized the time a veteran actually spends working with Mason.

"I've tried to make the process less cumbersome by providing the students a lot of information during our first meeting. Veterans now only have to meet with me once for certification purposes. After that, most issues can be handled through e-mail or by phone," Mason said.

Walters State has been named a Military-Friendly College by the website G.I. Jobs and has always had a strong tradition of serving veterans. When the college opened in 1970, many of its students were veterans returning from Vietnam.

Mason advices veterans interested in attending fall semester at any college to begin the process immediately.

"Start the process at least a month before classes begin. The first step is verification with the veteran's administration and that may take two or three weeks," she said.

Poe served as a military policeman. His duty stations included Korea and the detention center on the Guántamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

In the picture: Kevin Poe