How Higher Education Helped Veterans Answer Their Callings

November 10, 2017

How Higher Education Helped Veterans Answer Their Callings
This Veterans Day, we're proud to showcase seven veterans who have earned or are currently earning their advanced degrees at ACE. 

Read on to learn more about the rich backstories of our student-veterans and how they're using their ACE education in their careers today.


Diane Brzozowski

In my mid-thirties, I was thinking about changing careers and looking for ways to more actively serve my community while making a positive difference in the world. 

I enlisted as a medic and later commissioned as an environmental science officer doing preventative medicine. 

I am now a biology teacher in a Vermont high school, work part-time as an advanced emergency medical technician on my local rescue squad, and continue to drill with the Vermont National Guard.


Daniel Conklin 

Daniel ConklinI was a medic in the U.S. Army, but my career has varied from being a cameraman and editor for television news to being a documentary producer for a major international relief organization to being an English language teacher in Brazil. 

I received my Certificate in English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education with ACE in September, and I plan on finishing my master's degree in Teaching English Learners beginning in the first part of 2018. 

I am currently in the process of negotiating a position with [the] Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to teach English as a New Language. 


Dr. Jack Franke

I served as a Russian linguist in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 1985. I joined the service to help defray college expenses. 

During my service, I suffered a stroke and was discharged a 100 percent disabled veteran. 

I never let my disability hinder me, and I have served as a Russian instructor for 27 years with the Army. I have worked aboard Russian fishing trawlers in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Bering Sea, have taught in Germany, Texas, and California, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.



Bill Garlen

After graduating high school in 1965, I enrolled at the University of Kentucky. Bill GarlenIn 1966, I received a draft notice and reported for active duty. In 1967, I was selected to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS), and I was commissioned in 1967. In 1969, I got married, and in 1972 we had our first child. Although I tried to return to complete my bachelor's degree several times, work and family had to take priority. 

I survived in my own business and as a corporate executive for almost 30 years and was just getting ready to enjoy fishing more, rocking slowly and watching the sunsets when I was invited to teach college courses. Shortly after that, the college decided my leadership and business experience would be best utilized as a college administrator, where I remain today.  

I often tell people that I was not a great student in high school, so it stands to reason that I was not able to finish my first college degree in the usual four terms. It actually took me six terms: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (and) Clinton. I completed my Education Specialist degree at American College of Education in 2016 and [am] currently in the dissertation phase of my Doctor of Education at American College of Education.


Jennifer Hamrick

Jen HamrickI chose to enter the army to pay for my undergraduate degree. I was a musician and vocalist for the 62nd Army Band. 

It has led me to working with the Baltimore Ravens Marching Band as the assistant drill instructor. 

For Washington County Public Schools, I currently teach sixth and seventh grade math. 

I’m hoping my degree will lead me to a position as a lead teacher involved with math and technology.



Robert (Bob) J. Leahy, Jr.

I'm a U.S. Army veteran [with] over 34 years service in the active army and army reserve. I enlisted out of high school with the original thought of serving three years and then using the G.I. Bill to get my college degree. Instead, I continued to serve [and] go to school part-time. I eventually retired as a major with an M.S. Ed. 

Military retirement was short, as I was recalled to serve three more years (2006 to 2009) of active duty in support of Operation Noble Eagle (and) Operation Iraqi Freedom. This recall made me eligible for the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which I used to get my Ed.S., and am using the last of to get my Ed.D. at ACE. 

My career outside the military for the past 20 years is that of a technical writer. [I have] been with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the last six years.



Angel Mendez

Angel MendezI chose to join the army because I wanted to be a part of something that was greater than myself and would allow me to give back. I've grown personally and professionally due to my time in [the] service. 

In 2008, I attended the U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences, and from then, I have always been in the healthcare field. 

If it were not for my education in the military, I would have never become an Allied Health Instructor and ultimately a graduate student at ACE, pursuing an M.Ed. in Health and Wellness Education. 



Daniel "Ozzy" Osborne

I served 26 years in the air force, including a three-year exchange tour with the navy.  I joined the air force to fly. I ended up flying the T-41, T-37, T-38, A-10 (Desert Shield, Desert Storm), F-16 (Korea, Bosnia, Kosova, Northern Watch, Noble Eagle), and EA-6B (Northern Watch and Southern Watch). I retired a lieutenant colonel.  Ozzy Osborne 5

I considered flying for the airlines, but while the pay is excellent, airline pilots are away from their families a lot. After 26 years of being away from my family a lot, I decided against a career as an airline pilot. 

I sent resumes to hundreds of employers, but none were interested in a near-50-year-old senior-level manager from the military. My pay expectations kept dropping until I had an epiphany: I could become a public school teacher! 

The pay sucks, but I would have off the same time my children are off. Plus, I love teaching math! I could talk about math all day long for free. And having nine children, I obviously love kids! So, I got my alternative certification (my bachelor's degree was in mathematics and computer science) and started teaching at the local high school. Boy, did I quickly learn I knew nothing about teaching! So, I was enrolled with another university to get my MBA, but I canceled the enrollment and enrolled with ACE instead. I have learned so much.  
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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