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168 Days: Moving On

By Ken Snyder

After the events that took place upon my return from deploying in 2011, I had a decision to make: I needed to find a new line of work. Going back to the commercial airline business was out of the question -- because I worked at TWA's (later, American's) Overhaul facility I didn't need a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license, but to work on aircraft anywhere else (except for the military) you have to be licensed. Traffic signal work, which I was still fascinated with, was pretty much a closed shop: BPU had KCK wrapped up, and other municipalities in the area were not looking for anyone. The job searches were not revealing anything substantial either, and taking a full-time ANG position would require moving or a daily commute of nearly an hour -- neither the ANG or myself was interested in that.

Because of my active-duty time (deployments) since 11 September 2001 I was eligible for the Veteran's Administration Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. This meant that I could actually get paid to go back to school; the V.A. would pay half of my tuition as well as a housing allowance. I took some college courses just as I was starting at TWA in 1986, and with the exception of an algebra course I took in 2002 that was the extent of my "higher education." But I enjoyed working with computers and knew some about Web pages, so I thought this might be a new career path to train for. So in late 2011 I started the process that culminated with me starting (again) as a college student at Kansas City, Kansas Community College with the Spring 2012 semester. My goal: an Associates degree in Computer Information Systems Technology.

I had a simple strategy: my grades (to me) would either be an "A" or an "F" -- "B's" and "C's" were not acceptable. So I would continue to receive the housing allowance I would go to school year-around: Spring-Summer-Fall until I was finished. There would be one break in this strategy, as I would deploy again to Southwest Asia from July to October of 2012 -- I finished the Summer semester just before I left, and was able to start the second half of the Fall semester upon my return. So far, I have completed 16 classes (for 44 hours), and combined with the courses I took in 1986 my current (as of the start of the Fall 2013 semester) grade-point-average is 3.78. There are two different "emphasis" options in the degree program, and I have decided that it's within my reach to earn both at the same time.

Another area I applied myself in was volunteering for a local animal welfare agency. It gave me something to do with my time not already taken up by school work and small house projects (when I could afford to do them). The staff really made me feel welcome, the fellow volunteers were a treat to work with, and the work being done by this group was making a difference. There was never a lack of work to be done, and I found myself volunteering every chance I got.

As I mentioned above, I did take another deployment to Southwest Asia in 2012. Much like the year before, the distance away from Kansas City (and the brewing legal storm) didn't change a thing. It was as if I was still standing in Johnson's office and hearing that pathetic line: "I see a trend, and I don't like what I see." I found myself doing more and more research, answering questions Ms. Leeds asked of me, and looking forward to a time when I could see those responsible for all this answer for what they did. It couldn't come fast enough, but it never comes fast enough when you want it to.

Just before I was to return from the deployment, Ms. Leeds said we were very close to filing papers. While I was leaving one war, another was waiting for me at home.


Next: The Paper War
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