New G.I. Bill offers more for school

March 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A company of Marines from Concord came back from Iraq Tuesday night. They're coming home to their welcoming families, but an unfriendly economic atmosphere. Still, there are obstacles and many opportunities.

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The Concord Marine Logistics Group shared some pictures from Iraq where they spent six months straight making sure vital supplies arrived on time for troops in the field.

"You put in 12-hour days and a lot of people wanting you to get that job done right, and right the first time. They really don't take 'Sorry, I can't do it,' as an answer," says Corporal Armando Perez, from the Fourth Marine Logistics Group.

Corporal Perez would be an employer's dream, but he's coming home to a state with an unwelcoming 10-percent unemployment rate.

"I was working construction before this, and that's what I was going to go back to," says Corporal Jeffrey Meze, from the Fourth Marine Logistics Group.

The state of California Employment Development Department offers priority to veterans. But many of these returning veterans say they're going to take advantage of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

"The new GI bill that's coming out in August is pretty sweet," said Corporal Justin Dufault, from the Fourth Marine Logistics Group.

The new G.I. Bill offers full tuition and fees to any public college or university for four years.

Based on a Department of Defense sampling, if Corporal Jeffrey Mezes wanted to attend UCLA, he would get $17,232 for an academic year, plus $2,152 a month for living expenses, and $1,000 for books. Add up the numbers and that's $37,600.

"The funding is there now and they can do it. Realistically they can do it now," said Denver Mills, the Concord Vet Center director.

Mills says it's much more than he got when he returned from Vietnam and a good way to hunker down and wait out the economic turmoil after returning from war.

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