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Giving back to those who serve

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University program offers benefits to veterans

Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis University Military Program
Senior Mel Flege holds an AT4 during a training exercise as a part of SLU Army Reserve Officer’s Training Corps.

Justin Krofta had always wanted to be in the United States Marine Corps. He thought he could make a career out of the military. Upon graduating from high school, he took a job plating circuit boards for automotive vehicles. It was 2003, and he was 19. The itch to join never left, and the time seemed right.
“I said to myself, ‘If I don’t go now, I never will.’”
Krofta was in boot camp when the United States began military activities in Iraq. He knew his assignment would involve combat.
Following boot camp, Krofta was sent overseas as a combat engineer as part of a newly formed anti-terrorist battalion, an infantry battalion in charge of high-risk personnel protection. He was deployed to eastern Africa, near Somalia, as part of the Operation Enduring Freedom mission. He laments that he never got “his chance” to go serve in Afghanistan or Iraq.
He left the Corps in 2007 when he came to Saint Louis University. What he found was startling: though he was specially trained for the military, he was essentially no further qualified for college than a high school senior. In terms of academics, he was years behind.
“I figured, well, if I don’t have college, I’ll be able to keep up with my peers by at least having military experience with the training and that kind of thing,” Krofta said. “All that kind of stuff is wiped away.
“You’re getting out and you’re like I’ve got all of this experience but no job wants that experience.”
It’s a crisis facing many veterans of the two wars launched since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Without any college education, and an anemic job market, the number of post-9/11 veterans without a job has skyrocketed. According to the

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