BECAUSE THEY'RE STILL HEROES WHEN THEY RETURN

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Not often do we get to pass along something as inspiring as this:

It’s tough to refuse a guy like [John] Schupp, who talks fast, is equal parts deferential and pushy, and doesn’t hesitate to ask deeply personal questions.

What’s your passion in life? What do you want to do with yourself?

A history buff, he pored over books and dissected statistics about veterans, searching for an answer in the numbers. He read about the 7.8 million World War II veterans who used their GI Bill benefits to earn college diplomas. He prodded military officials for facts.

Today, just 8 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are fully using the $36,000 for college guaranteed by the GI Bill, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The military doesn’t track graduation rates.

The veterans of the “greatest generation” had proved it could be done, he thought. What was going wrong?

Slowly, the big idea lit up his brain. The proof was in the past. In 1945, veterans outnumbered everyone else on campus.

“They succeeded as a group, as a unit,” he says excitedly, as if sharing a secret. He leans forward, gripping his coffee mug. “So I’m recreating the same thing that happened then.”

… He campaigned like a politician, donning a suit and tie for visits to the Capitol, asking lawmakers to fork over $100,000 for a program that didn’t exist.

And they did.

So it happened that on a cold December afternoon in 2007, administrators at Cleveland State University found themselves in the curious position of having public funding available for an academic program they hadn’t yet approved. Veterans sat in the lecture hall as Schupp’s numbers flashed slide by slide, making a case for them.

Steve Slane, an associate dean, recalled the reaction of many: “Wait a minute, this is a good idea, maybe we should be doing this.”

The program, christened Supportive Education for the Returning Veteran, or SERV, would consist of four core classes — history, math, biology and chemistry — taught by volunteer teachers. It would have an office squeezed between Women’s Studies and Disability Services.

The program is now a national model. Read the whole story here. — Frank Lewis

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