Syracuse University Student Veterans Share GI Bill Stories

In recognition of the 75th anniversary of the GI Bill, Syracuse University student veterans and graduates share their stories.

Student Veteran Maria HeldMaria Held G‘19

I am the youngest of three daughters. My parents brought us to the United States from Argentina in hopes of finding a better future. I aimed for a better future by enlisting into the Army in 2008 and rising through the ranks to Staff Sergeant. I completed my undergrad online while activated in 2017 and decided I was not satisfied and wanted more for my career and education. I decided to commission and earn my graduate degree. Syracuse University along with the GI Bill allowed me to pursue these two goals simultaneously without financial burden or distraction. Without the help of all the veteran resources on campus and the very attentive Mr. Doss, I believe that the experience would have been far too overwhelming for me attending classes on campus. When planning on graduate school and commissioning I had other paths I could have taken. I’m more than happy with the path I chose and do not have one single regret. I will forever be grateful to Syracuse for giving me the opportunity to achieve my goals and ever proud to be Orange.

Daniel Lewis ‘20

I am presently attending Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies scheduled to graduate with my graduate degree in May 2020. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2007 and have had a great privilege of utilizing the GI Bill. Though the military transformed me into an adult, it is the GI Bill that has opened the doorway to my success. Building on my military experience it has helped to grow the skills that the civilian world requires— to take what I thought I wanted to do and mold it into what would lead to a career and not just a job. With this education my family and I can both continue our public service to the country, bridging the civilian military divide wherever possible.

Tillman Scholar for Syracuse University Katy Quartaro

Katy Quartaro ’18, G ’20

The Post 9/11 GI Bill has allowed me to focus on being a student at a great university without having to worry so much about how to pay for tuition and books, take care of my rent, and feed myself during the semester. The GI Bill, and Syracuse University’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, really make a high-quality education more attainable; I am not sure I could have afforded such a great school without these benefits. Being able focus on my education and the next steps instead of financial aid and bursar bills has helped me make the most of my college experience. It is also great to be at a university with dedicated staff that is so ready to help its students navigate the GI benefits and make sure students are getting their funding squared away– I think that makes a huge difference in stress and worry. It is also wonderful to hear about Syracuse University’s Chancellor William Tolley and his role in developing the GI Bill and the “GI Bulge.”

Student Veteran Eric KesslerEric Kessler ‘20

I enlisted in the Army in September 2009 with the delayed entry program and went to basic training in February 2010. I deployed to Iraq in 2010 with 1st Cavalry Division, Ft. Hood, TX and to Afghanistan in 2015 with the 101st Airborne Division, Ft. Campbell, KY. In 2016, I left active duty for further education and joined the Army Reserves out of Oswego, NY. Eventually I was medically retired in January 2019. The Post 9/11 GI Bill has allowed me to further my education and attend Syracuse University, which I believed to be out of my financial capabilities. Syracuse University’s Yellow Ribbon program combined with the Post 9/11 GI Bill is allowing me to achieve a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering, the first in my family to do so as well as being the first of my family to attend and graduate from Syracuse University. Without having served in the military and being awarded the Post 9/11 GI Bill, my future would have been unknown, and the pursuit of furthering my education would not have been at the top of my priority list. My goal of becoming an engineer with a degree from Syracuse University is becoming a reality thanks to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Student Veteran Daniel Cordial Daniel Cordial ’18 G’20

I served in the Army from 2006-2011 and graduated with a BA in Political Science in 2018. I am presenting in the EMPA program with an expected graduation date of spring 2020. The G.I. Bill has helped me reach levels of academic and personal success that, at one point in my life I thought were absolutely unattainable. Syracuse University has helped foster that success by allowing me to attend this prestigious university and having tuition fully covered through the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps cover costs the G.I. Bill does not. It is because of this that I can now say that I have been fortunate enough to live and achieve the ‘American Dream.’ Although the investment that enabled me to receive the G.I. Bill was a large one, I feel it was worth it because I would not have this opportunity afforded to me otherwise.

Charlie Poag ‘21

After being in the Marine Corps for 16 years I wanted to start a new chapter in my life that was more focused on my family.  I knew I needed to go back to school to get into the career I wanted, and I knew I wanted to attend Syracuse University to obtain the remarkable education they offer.  If it wasn’t for the G.I. Bill it wouldn’t have been possible for me to obtain such a valuable education and care for my family at the same time.  It is allowing me to pursue my dream and be an active member in my local community as well as work closely with other veterans that have similar stories, and for that I am grateful.

Katy Quartaro Announced As Syracuse University’s 2019 Tillman Scholar

Graduate student Katy Quartaro ‘18, G’20, an executive master of public administration candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs has been named the 2019 Tillman Scholar for Syracuse University. She joins an elite class of 60 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses chosen this year from across the nation that will receive more than $1.2 million in scholarship funding to pursue higher education degrees from the Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF).

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75 Years of the GI Bill: Kyle Finleon Shares his Story

Since its signing in 1944 the GI Bill has notoriously provided educational benefits to the country’s veterans and offered low-cost home loans, unemployment benefits and healthcare benefits. Over the past 75 years, the bill has paid more than $400 billion in educational benefits to 25 million recipients and authorized more than 24 million home loans—changing the post-service lives of millions including U.S. Navy veteran Kyle Finleon.

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Need-to-Know Facts on the GI Bill

Since its inception, the GI Bill has provided more than just educational benefits to veterans and their families. Originally meant to help WWII veterans returning from war, the GI Bill has also provided low-interest housing loans, medical benefits, and rehabilitation programs. For Syracuse University, the GI Bill also marked a special moment in the school’s history and commitment to veteran and military families. This month, we commemorate 75 years since the bill was first signed and share important facts about this life-changing benefit:

Fast Facts:

  • After consulting with national advisors, including then Syracuse University Chancellor William Tolley, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill legislation on June 22, 1944.
  • By 1947, 49% of all U.S. college enrollments were made up of veterans.
  • In 1946 Syracuse University doubled its student body by accepting 9,464 veterans into the university. Today, Syracuse University ranks 1st in New York and 17th in the   U.S. for student-veteran enrollment.
  • Over the course of 75 years, the GI Bill has paid $400 billion in educational benefits to 25 million veterans and their family members.*
  • Those eligible for the GI Bill can also use Yellow Ribbon educational benefits. The Yellow Ribbon Program is offered by the VA to cover any tuition and fees not covered by the basic GI Bill. Syracuse University is one of only a few schools to offer unlimited Yellow Ribbon benefits.
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill was implemented on August 1, 2009. Since then, the VA has provided $20 billion in benefits to 773,000 veterans and their families.* 
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes other programs including the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. In 2018 there were over 120,000 veterans that participated in that program alone.* 
  • Since 1944, the VA has approved nearly 24 million home loans with 82% requiring no down payment. In 2018, the VA approved 2,000 grants totaling $104 million to severely disabled veterans to purchase, build, or remodel homes to assist with their needs.*

*Source: VA GI Bill Homepage


Dan Egert: ROTC Cadet Aims for Space

While serving in the Air Force at Patrick Air Force Base (AFB), Dan Egert watched the shuttle launches from his window at work. In July 2011, he drove several hours from Mississippi to watch the final shuttle launch in person. Although he never dreamed of becoming an astronaut, space, and particularly rockets, always captured his attention. “It was always there,” he says.

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Brett McKnight: Veteran Braves New Challenges at Syracuse University

When Brett McKnight arrived at Syracuse University he wasn’t a typical first-year student. A veteran who served as a Reconnaissance Marine in the 2nd Recon Battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C., he had been deployed twice and attended rigorous military courses like a combatant diver, military free-fall, trauma management and more. In February 2012, after one semester at Paul Smith’s College, McKnight enlisted in the Marine Corps.

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Casting a Spotlight on a Few of the 2019 Commissioning ROTC Cadets

Joshua Boucher

Name: Joshua S. Boucher
Branch: Air Force ROTC
Hometown: Oakland, Maine
Major/School: Aerospace Engineering/ College of Engineering and Computer Science
Plan for postgrad: Specialized training for Tactical Air Control Party Officer (TACP-O) selects
Biggest takeaway from ROTC: Humility is the most important quality in leadership. Being able to put your ego aside and listen to a day-1 Airman is essential to building relationships and mission success. Continue Reading