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College tuition made easier for veterans

It’s not much of a secret that when veterans came home from the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s they received less than a warm welcome.

Things began to change when the United States entered various combat roles in the Middle East in the 1990s. While not everyone supported the political stance of the White House, the public was able to separate the warriors from the politicians and today the nation’s military and veterans are held in high esteem.

While traditional veterans service organizations have continued to expand their services and recruit additional members, other organizations have entered the field and are providing assistance to veterans and their families. Most are small nonprofits with little funding, although some are offshoots of major groups and have large budgets. Their hearts are in the right place and they do offer help whenever they can, often in ways the traditional groups are unable to do.

In related areas, the number of private nonveteran organizations that offer financial incentives to veterans has grown. Examples include such companies as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Denny’s, which offer discounts to veterans and military.

One example of a large organization is Western Governors University Nevada. Although a longtime online educational institution, it recently doubled down in Nevada by creating a partnership with the state. Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a proclamation establishing WGU Nevada and said, in part, that the relationship “will make it possible for more Nevadans to earn the degrees they need to advance their careers and provide better for their families.”

The university offers affordable degree programs for working adults, but also offers several extra programs for veterans. Standard tuition is about $6,000 for most 12-month programs, but veterans can apply for additional reductions.

Any eligible veteran can apply for educational benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs; this benefit is offered by the federal government. As an accredited school, WGU is glad to accept students under the program. More directly, WGU has been honored as a Top Military Friendly School for 2014 by Military Advanced Education magazine. WGU degree programs are approved for reduced-tuition assistance for active-duty, Reserve and National Guard personnel.

Eligible students who are veterans can apply for competitive scholarships. That includes eligible spouses of those students. As with all large, detailed programs, veterans must fill out paperwork, meet eligibility requirements and be able to afford some tuition and the cost of books and incidentals; it’s not all free. But compared to major brick-and-mortar schools, the financial advantages can make a large difference in veterans getting a college education.

Of the smaller groups that assist veterans, Forgotten Not Gone is headed by Peter and Kelly Guidry of North Las Vegas. Peter Guidry said they created the nonprofit after both dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder. Both are veterans of the U.S. Air Force, and they say their mission works to get veterans physically active as well as urging them to regularly interact with society.

Their main tool for doing this is recumbent trikes. There are many different manufacturers, models, shapes and sizes of such three-wheeled trikes, which are powered by riders in low’€“sitting positions and require no balancing as with two-wheel bicycles.

After experiencing firsthand how such a trike helped in his own treatment, Guidry was able to raise funds and purchase a number of the machines for use by veterans. Several times a year his organization sponsors group rides in Southern Nevada. Last year, members participated in the Las Vegas Veterans Day Parade.

Additionally, regular bicycle users from across Southern Nevada are encouraged to take part in the organization’s two-wheel and three-wheel activities. For more information, visit Forgottenbutnotgone.org.

Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a Purple Heart recipient. Every other Sunday he discusses veterans issues over several Lotus Broadcasting AM radio stations in Southern Nevada.

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