When Sgt. James Killmer signed up for the U.S. Army at age 18, he set out with aspirations to build a military career.
However, after 12 years of service, an injury forced him to take a different path. Killmer, 29, came back home to Brownsville seeking a new way of life.
“I have a family, I am a father of three and I am a husband,” Killmer said. “So I was scared and didn’t know how I was going to provide from my family. I had a lot to consider after I left the Army.”
Leaving behind more than a decade of military life and four tours of duty in Iraq as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, Killmer’s questions led him to seek help from the Army Wounded Warrior Program.
His program rep told him about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which helps students who served in the military for at least 90 days on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
The program pays the student’s tuition and fees directly to their chosen university, a monthly housing allowance, and a book and supplies stipend for as much as $1,000 per year for up to 36 months.
“These types of programs help veterans have a second opportunity in life for their future,” he said. “You just have to take that first step.”
Killmer said many veterans returning to civilian life find it hard to adjust and find a helping hand. “But it is out there,” he said.
“The next thing I did was come to the Veterans Upward Bound program, where they help you in each step of the way, from admission to financial aid, and even while you are enrolled.”
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College’s Veterans Upward Bound provides student-veterans with support services and assistance through local resources, including financial aid opportunities, tutoring and academic development throughout their enrollment.
“The VUB program remains the only such program in the state of Texas, and our one-stop-shop approach to providing services makes our program a very convenient opportunity for our veterans transitioning from military to civilian life, especially in an education setting,” said David Rivera, VUB program director.
As a first-time freshman pursuing his Bachelor of Applied Technology, Killmer said VUB is helping him plan out a successful route for his future.
“Coming from the military to regular life can be a shock; it is very different. Here you aren’t told what to do every minute of your life,” he said. “But this program helped me step by step: where to go, what to do.
Even now, I haven’t taken a math class in years, but I am studying and come here for help whenever I need it.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” Killmer said. “But if I can do it, so many others can. It is possible if you take that first step.”
For more financial assistance information, contact Veterans Upward Bound, contact information below, or the Financial Aid Office at (956) 882-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.