So here's the huge news. When I get out (barring stoploss, April 21st, 2010), I'm going back to school. Illinois has a program known as the Illinois Veterans Grant. It pays for tuition and fees for any Illinois public college for service members who are Illinois residents. I can also collect my Montgomery GI Bill benefits while using the grant. The gist of it is I have four years of free school and enough money to probably not have to work. I'll put the rest of what I know in question and answer form.
Q. Are you... ?
A. No, we're not moving back to Springfield. The grant pays for any IL public college and I think it'd be wasteful for me to use it all at the Springfield schools when I can get a more diverse education elsewhere and still not foot the bill. To put it this way, if I can get UIUC to accept me, I'm going there so we'd be moving to Champaign-Urbana. UIUC has some kind of quota for war heroes it needs to fill in it's student body, right?
Q. What about re-enlistment and the Army and 'Merica and freedom (insert guitar riff and fireworks)? If you get out, the terrists win!
A. At the end of my enlistment I'll have served my country for six years. I've seen what we do overseas and I don't like the path we're taking or the path we could be on should McCain get elected. The Army is a pretty sweet job if you're enjoying a comfortable lifestyle in the states but the deployments aren't going to end any time soon (or ever, beyond Iraq) and they're unpleasant to say the least. I can respect those who chose to dedicate their lives to this job but it's not a choice I will make for any reason. A career with the Army is just not for me.
Q. How long will you be in IL?
A. Well, that depends. I'm getting paid for up to four years of full-time schooling and that can be undergraduate or graduate level. I've got plenty of credits right now, I've got more from my Army experience, and I plan on taking classes while I'm enlisted so I'll be pretty close to a degree when I get out. I'll finish that degree and either go for a masters or doctorate or I could get another degree but I don't think I'll call it quits until I've gotten at least a couple years of school done. I'd hate to leave IL without taking full advantage of the benefits I've earned there.
Q. What are you going to major in?
A. Fuck, I don't know. I know computers. I can always do computers. But I'm kind of getting burnt out on computers and I'd hate to get a degree and then get a job and instantly hate it because I've already fried myself with this computer job. I'm considering other fields of employment. One's that involve being in less servitude than tech support slave. There's better jobs out there and I've got an opportunity to choose my future. I'm considering commercial flight.
Q. What's the catch?
A. I can't find one. It sounds like there should be a catch. The Illinois Veterans Grant is explained here and it sounds pretty clear-cut. Equivalent of 4 years of tuition and fees at any Illinois public college and you can also collect GI Bill benefits. I qualify for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill and all those details are here. This one's slightly murkier. From what I read, I'll get a monthly BAH equivalent to my current rank based on the zip code of the school, $1000 yearly for books, and as far as I can tell they'll match the tuition and fee the IVG pays, which makes that money free to use as I wish. If I'm attending a school as expensive as UIUC, those GI Bill benefits could be enough to live on without working. The BAH covers my house payment, the GI Bill covers groceries and bills. In a good college town, I could feasibly stop driving and bike everywhere. My whole goal here is to do what I should've done right out of high school; get in a good school, do some school work, get a degree, and not work myself out of it in some menial job that goes nowhere.
Q. Okay so you've made these life changing decisions. What's next?
A. When I get back, I need to talk to a cousellor at the on-post education center about this plan. If it pans out, I'll be applying to schools immediately so I can get a location nailed down. Get out of the Army, sell the house, buy a new house, move, wait for school to start. That's all post-Army stuff. In the meantime I'll still be taking online courses and working to get my GPA up so I'm more attractive to prospective schools. But come on, who wants to say no to a war hero?
Q. What about after you decide you're finished?
A. When I'm done with school Katie's going to throw a dart at a map and that's where we're moving. I can guarantee that dart won't hit Illinois. We're kind of itching to see more than the midwest.
Q. So Springfield...?
A. ... Is still out of the question. We'll visit lots, promise.
I've been home for two weeks. I've already gone to Springfield and back. I had a ton of fun with all my friends which serves to remind me how much I miss them. I'm sitting in my own house with my computer and my cat and I'm chugging a Yoohoo. I saw Iron Man and it was awesome. I played Rock Band and it was awesome. I bought a Wii and No More Heroes and it's awesome. I saved a broken external hard drive and that was awesome. I cleaned my gutters with a robot and that was awesome. I mowed my lawn with my riding lawnmower and it was awesome. I got to watch The Office season 4 with Katie and it was awesome. I went to Knight's with Jim and Matt and got a sunburn and it was awesome. Katie and I ate at the thai place in Nashville that makes pad see-ew right and it was awesome. I got to see Mom and Frank and they bought me and my friends dinner probably 5 of the 7 nights and that's awesome. We had a pool party at Jim's parents' place and then Matt's parents' place and it was awesome. We had a party with a 40" pizza at my parents' place and it was awesome. I'll probably do more awesome stuff or remember more awesome stuff but it's going to be totally lame when I have to go back to Iraq and I can't wait until this Army shit is all over with.
Well today was the day. I'm officially promoted. I got a lot of "it's about time!" and "Oh excuse me, SERGEANT Hub" and I'll get more tomorrow. I've got pictures and even video that I'll somehow post tomorrow.
I've been home for a couple days now, I just haven't taken the time to really alert the internet. I was on the local news too.
I've got to spend two hours getting more briefings today. There's a whole week-long process of getting "reintegration" briefings that simply can't wait for the work week. Thank god they're only a couple hours in the morning and then I'm done for the rest of the day.
I have less than 10 hours left on this base. I'll spend six days at another base, a day or so in Kuwait, and I'll be home in a week.
Words don't describe how thrilled I am. I cannot express my happiness in words. I don't have the vocabulary.
Fresh off my coming home announcement, here's an enormous list of things that made this deployment suck a little less.
Katie's asleep and she'll probably kick me when I get home for posting it here before she actually knows but seeing how she'll be asleep past my bedtime, I should at least put this somewhere.
I leave the base I'm at on July 13th to come home.
I have to go to another base from here first and then to Kuwait but the important part is that once I leave here I only have to catch a couple flights and I'm home. Start counting days. I'll be home within a week of leaving here.
I hate to follow two nonsense entries with another one but this needs to be pointed out.
That's exactly what I want for my birthday.