Today I share a story about one of those students.
Just before resigning my post, a veteran who had served as Special Forces in the Marines came to my office. Other veterans had directed him to me. This young man, whom I’ll call Mark, had served multiple missions in the Middle East. He had returned physically whole, but mentally desperate. He wanted to secure an education, so that he could find a job in the civilian world.
California’s residency laws determined that Mark was “out-of-State,” which meant, he would need to pay extraordinarily high tuition to attend the college – money he did not have.
Mark explained that he had been promised an education, and the only State that he had residency in was California, because it was there that he entered the service, and there that he returned. He had no other home.
I promised Mark that I would do what I could to help. When he left, I made a number of phone calls, contacted elected officials about the situation, and established a scholarship fund for him (donor unknown).
Mark and I met again. He had decided to leave the college, because he did not have the means to stay – no place to live, no way to pay the tuition. As we talked, I asked for more time; he was non-committal. Finally I asked, “What will you do if you leave?”
This extraordinary young man explained that he had termed out of Special Forces with the Marines, but he would enlist in Special Forces in the Army. I gasped and reminded him of the danger, to which he responded, “Yes, but this is something I know I can do.”
I think of Mark almost every day. I don’t know if he is alive or not. But, I do know we failed him – the system failed him, the State of California failed him, those of us who imagine robots are in the line of fire failed him. Yes, we all failed him.
So why do I share this story now?
In the United States we are caught in the treachery of the Presidential elections. The worst of human nature is exposed. And yet, it is the best among us who risk everything so that this drama can unfold.