CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - As we approach this Memorial Day Weekend, we remember the military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We also salute those serving now. But for some who've already served their tours of duty, getting back to civilian life can be a huge adjustment.
FOX19 found a record numbers of GI's, who were highly-trained, but said they feel stuck in the stale economy. So, they're making the military work for them now, and more than 50 former soldiers at Beckfield College, are using the Post-911 Bill, introduced last summer and going back to school.
30-year-old Jason Egan had already put in 7and a half years with the U.S. Navy.
"It made me a man," he said. And he thought his training would land him a terrific job once he got out.
"But...uh, that wasn't the case," he said. "I did a lot of combat training, a lot of emergency medicine training." That was over 6 months working shock-trauma in Iraq.
"Whew!," he said. "It's unexplainable, a scary place to be."
Egan said he knew then, he would get his nursing degree. The Post 911 GI bill pays his college tuition and it gives him freedom to really focus on his studies.
"I just knew working 40-plus hours a week, 12 hour shifts and trying to go to school full time was just not something that would have been smart I don't think ya' know?"
"It's intense," Egan said about Beckfield's nursing program. "It really is intense."
"It's very intense," the Nursing Admissions Coordinator at Beckfield College, Tim Tolliver chuckled. "We don't pull any punches about that. Good nursing schools are going to have very intense requirements, it's one of the few career fields where you have to pass your state boards after graduating from school."
Jason says some of the old school training he got in the field in Iraq is key to learning newer technology.
"There's been situations I know I've been in and you don't have the technology."
So you have to rely on your gut, like when trying to find a vein in a soldier's arm in a combat situation.
"You don't think about it you just do it and it's amazing how you just like, I can't believe I just did all that and it worked, and it worked," he said.
A military nurse taught him to close his eyes and just feel for a vein.
"And you can feel a vein," he said pushing down on the latex arm of a practice patient in the lab. "They're really soft and kinda squishy."
"Sometimes a patient will cough and this thing will be not very appealing looking," he said removing a tracheotomy tube from the mock patient.
But the challenge to help people heal he said is very appealing to him.
The composite pictures on the walls of Beckfield proudly display the faces of recent nursing school grads and show it is still a female dominated field.
"Absolutely, not just the fact, that here's another guy interested in a field that needs more men in it," Tolliver said. "But the fact that he's served the country, this is someone who's paid their dues, we owe them a great debt."
"The military helped me out," Egan said. "I think it saved my life basically." FOX19 asked, "Did they straighten you up a little bit?"
"Ummm, yes," Egan replied, smiling.
Egan said Beckfield's nursing program takes two years to complete. He said he is confident the school is preparing him for what's ahead.
The Post 911 GI bill also pays him a monthly stipend and a thousand dollars a year toward his books.
He and his wife already have one child and are expecting another one soon. By the time his new little one is hitting it's "terrible-two's", Egan should already be graduated and working in a hospital.
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