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Veteran Makes the Most of His NH National Guard Tuition Benefit

Derek Reiss, GSC Student

Derek Reiss (B.S. Communication Studies, 2018), will soon join hundreds of other veterans or active duty military personnel and become a graduate of Granite State College—and he did it tuition-free.

The thrice-deployed Marine saw action in Iraq three times between 2003 and 2005, including the first battle of Fallujah in 2004. Since then, Derek has served in the National Guard and now works in Human Resources in the Guard’s Recruit Training Company in Center Strafford, New Hampshire. His military career has taken Derek all over the world, giving him a unique, global perspective that few high school graduates can match.

When I was in high school, college wasn’t on my mind. I wanted to go into the military. I had talked to a couple of colleges about Division III sports, but being 17 and in a macho state of mind at that time, the Marine Corps was my calling. I graduated in June 2001 and shipped off to boot camp at the end of August.

Derek’s next few months were spent in the Carolinas training at Parris Island and Camp Geiger.

As we got closer to 2003 and Iraq was coming to a head, we knew we were going to go. We just didn’t know when. As it turned out, we were deployed for the invasion. When I came back to New England, I was out of the military for about a year and a half, but I missed it and joined the National Guard.

In 2013, Derek, a little older now, made the decision that he wanted to go back to school, and Granite State College was his choice.

For me, Granite State College was a perfect fit. The class schedule fit my lifestyle, especially once I started full-time jobs with the National Guard. I also talked to other people who had attended Granite State. Whether National Guard, veterans, or others, they had nothing but good things to say. I tried it. I loved it. I’m still here!

Today, Derek is completing his degree in communications and applies the skills he has learned in college to his work every day.

I have used a lot of what I learned in the interpersonal communications classes at Granite State College. Whether it’s interacting with brand new recruits, my peers, or higher-ranking NCOs and officers. I’ve absolutely used those tools.

Community service is also a calling for Derek, especially related to his love of sports such as hockey. He helps a professional women’s hockey team, the Boston Pride, and he coaches kids in Hooksett who play as part of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs Youth Hockey organization. “I teach kids how to skate, stickhandle, and pass—the basics of the game. It’s amazing seeing their smiles when they’re on the ice.” Derek’s love of hockey is personal. He plays on the veteran’s team for the Skate for the 22 Foundation, an organization that uses the sport to reduce the number of veteran suicides by raising funds for awareness and prevention.

As for his thoughts about education, Derek felt strongly.

I would encourage my fellow veterans and military folks to use the benefits you have, whether it’s the 100% tuition waiver from the National Guard or the GI Bill®. There are a lot of different education benefits across the branches. At least try it. That’s what I told myself. Now, I graduate in a little under a year and my future looks bright.

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