I am a 57-year-old veteran of the U.S. Navy. A few years ago, I faced a barrier in my career. I had been unemployed for two years, and it seemed like the longer I was unemployed, the more employers pushed aside my resume.
I knew I needed a change. So I filled out an application for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program and immediately began classes at Kellogg Community College. I graduated in May 2014, ahead of schedule, with an associate’s degree in Business Management and Human Resources.
And at the age of 55 years old, I received the highest honor of representing my class as valedictorian. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.
I thank President Obama for giving me an opportunity to contribute once again to the great prosperity of this nation. I’m proud to be one of the 1.7 million service members who has obtained a degree thanks to President Obama’s work to secure federal education benefits for veterans and their families.
Today, at Arlington National Cemetery, the President reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that those who have served our country receive the benefits they have earned and deserve. He's announcing new measures that will help make sure veterans are treated fairly when they use their federal education benefits.
Over the past eight years, President Obama has made good on his commitment to help veterans. Since its peak in 2011, we’ve cut veteran unemployment by more than half. We’ve also cut the veteran homelessness rate by nearly half, and helped more veterans than ever receive health care.
That’s why I’m especially proud this Veterans Day. I know that there’s plenty more work to do to help even more veterans transition back to civilian life. But I can’t help but smile at the thought of the thousands of other veterans like me who, with support from this President, found themselves back on their feet, full of optimism for the road ahead.
James “Beau” Jencks is a veteran from Ceresco, Michigan.
Learn more about President Obama's record on helping veterans access the benefits they deserve.
Read more letters from veterans to President Obama, and explore all the letters in the Letters to President Obama archive.