As we celebrate Veteran’s Day, we are proud to highlight two of our student veterans, as well as our veteran resources. We thank our 25 student veterans and 6 faculty veterans representing all U.S. military branches.
BOSTON — “I wanted to be the first one to do everything, I am a go-getter.“
That philosophy has served Jhony Martinez well, both as a marine corporal leading his squad looking for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) during two tours in Afghanistan, and in his current role pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Management from Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT).
Pictured: Jhony Martinez (right) and friend (left)
The first-generation American and new father signed up for the Marine Corps when he graduated from high school in 2009. “I was very proud of what other military members had done and I wanted to do the same thing and help in any way I can,” he says. He served two tours in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province between 2010 and 2013. As a member of the tactile site exploration team, one of his duties was using a metal detector to look for IED’s, whileteaching the local police tactical strategies to fight the Taliban.
Martinez admits he experienced some night terrors as he made the difficult transition from active duty to inactive duty and then from military to civilian life. Keeping busy and working with a therapist helped him go from a place of high tension to one of being centered and grounded.
A fellow veteran led Martinez from his native Maryland to BFIT in Boston, where he will graduate next spring. Martinez appreciates how the small student body size allowed him to get personalized attention. “Everyone is willing to help you,” he says. “They are here to listen to us about anything from personal issues to finances.” The private nonprofit school is a Yellow Ribbon College that supports the Post 9/11 GI Bill for Veterans.
Fellow veteran Eric Trusty used financial assistance from the GI Bill to help him graduate from BFIT last year with an Associate Degree in Electrical Technology. “It’s a great school for transferring the hands-on experience gained in the military,” he says. The college's technical focus helped him build on the skills he acquired during his time working on lighthouses with the Coast Guard. He was able to apply his credits from BFIT towards a Bachelor’s degree he is pursuing at Wentworth Institute of Technology. “The GI Bill completely paid for my schooling here. I was able to just focus on school and didn’t have to worry about working part-time.” If it weren’t for those benefits, he would not have resumed his education.
“The GI Bill completely paid for my schooling here. I was able to just focus on school and didn’t have to worry about working part-time.” — Eric Trusty
BFIT Assistant Dean of Students Brett Wellman is one of the advisors to the school’s Student Veteran Association, which meets every other week. “The veteran students are five to 10 years older than our typical student and have had very different life experiences,” he says. “They bring a lot of leadership to their classes, and are great role models.”
Wellman supports BFIT’s 23 veteran students from their first day until graduation. “I’m their one-stop shop to help them get their questions answered,” he says. Wellman, who has an older brother in the Army, offers a listening ear to veteran students who want to share their stories with him.
BFIT’s veteran students also have a Student Veteran Center to call their own at the school. It opened in December of last year after the room, which was previously a teacher’s lounge, was renovated using a $7,000 gift from the Vet Center Initiative through the Home Depot Foundation. “Having the lounge there helps me get away from the noise and focus,” Martinez says. Trusty appreciated having the lounge, and looked forward to sharing his experiences with other veteran students and professors of varying ages. “It was good to know there were a ton of guys in the same boat as me,” he said.
Earlier this year, two of BFIT’s veterans received awards at graduation. Army Veteran Ryan Hadfield received the Franklin Award given to the student who earned the highest overall grade point average—he earned a 3.7 GPA. Air Force Reservist Will Sexton was given The Carnegie Award, recognizing his high level of scholarship and dedication to the college community.
BFIT is helping students like Martinez, Trusty, Hadfield and Sexton get the fresh start they need after leaving the military. “You don’t feel like a stranger here,” Martinez says “It definitely feels like a home.”