GI Bill to celebrate its 75th anniversary!

I would not have gone to college had it not been for the GI Bill which is marking its 75th anniversary on June 22, 2019.
My father, who was born on a small Greek Island, never went beyond sixth grade. My mother, daughter of Hungarian refugees, was the first in her family to graduate from a high school in New Jersey.
And I had barely made it through Dobbin’s Tech, a trade school, having transferred from a Catholic high school after I got caught playing hooky and ordered to go to summer school for religion. No one – including myself — saw college in my lifetime.

So it was with some trepidation that I decided to enroll in a community college when I was still in South Vietnam where I served as an infantry platoon leader. I had never seen myself as “college material.” The term itself brought up images of washer women holding up a wet garment wondering if the cloth was “college material.”

I used my parents’ address after they had moved out of North Philadelphia and I suffered cultural shock during an orientation session at the school. A skinny fellow with long hair and a hippie look greeted me and other freshmen. He was hugging people and I thought of decking him if he tried to put his arms around me. There I was, just a few weeks removed from a combat zone. I wasn’t prepared for this way of life and I had to keep my “fight or flight” reaction to a minimum then.


Franklin D Roosevelt signed into law the GI Bill on June 22, 1944

But, I found that I liked higher education, especially history and journalism. I joined the college newspaper and eventually became editor, winning a Sigma Delta Chi journalism scholarship and a fellowship award to study state government in Harrisburg where I wrote a speech for then Governor Milton J Shapp.

After getting my associate’s degree from the Delaware County Community College I then transferred to Temple University where I got my bachelor’s degree in journalism less than a year later and a master’s degree in American History a year after that. That’s three degrees in the span of four years that normally takes an average student six years to accomplish. (Law school followed some 20 years later.)

I owe it all to the GI Bill. GI’s like me have been requested by the Veterans Administration to share there experiences with the GI Bill between March 1 through September 1. (See this VA Benefits site.) And I am proud to help commemorate its 75th anniversary this year!

15 comments on “GI Bill to celebrate its 75th anniversary!

  1. Beechmount says:

    Contoveros, the one thing most of us thrive on is knowledge is by whatever means we can get it. Life in itself is college, from which you keep learning, but only graduate when you quite for good and take the road to somewhere, the road that no-one ever returns from to inform us where it leads to. A life of learning has been a pleasure to me and I’m still having a go at it. Keep going and lots of luck.


    • contoveros says:

      Yes, all life is a learning experience and we should seek out new and different experiences as much as possible.

      I recently joined a senior center where I meet weekly for a “current events” discussion as well as a movie and a book club discussion once a month. I tried Bingo, but didn’t like it.

      I’m hoping to really challenge my brain and learn more about finances in the coming weeks. I feel as if I will be attending first grade again.

      It’s good for the brain and learning new things can keep me young!


  2. jruthkelly says:

    Love reading about this slice of your life. And the GI Bill really has been a boon for so many, including those in my world here. Glad you shared this!


  3. contoveros says:

    The following appeared on Facebook:

    Tamara Ambros

    Thanks my dear. See you soon!


    Terri Kiral
    Well done, Michael J. The world is a better place because of you, your education, and your experiences.

    It was fun going to school and learning so much about yourself and the world around you. I feel fortunate to have been given that opportunity through the GI Bill.


    Nadja Dalantinow Cross

    Great job

    Thanks my Dobbins Tech friend. And thank you for your service “above and beyond” our high school years!


  4. Thank you for sharing your story, and about the GI bill, michael j! Wow. A triumph on so many levels!

    My dad greatly benefitted as well.


    • contoveros says:

      The “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act,” also known as the GI Bill, provided a wide range of benefits to veterans returning from World War II, including low-cost home loans, education and vocational training, unemployment payments, and an expansion of Veterans’ health care. I used all of them except the vocational training and the unemployment compensation.

      I thank God for such forward-looking government officials as FDR who gave America the GI Bill as well as the Social Security System. They’ve been a great help for so many people in the past 75 years!

      Liked by 3 people

    • contoveros says:

      I believed the GI Bill helped to create America’s Middle Class. So many of us veterans took advantage of it and were able to get better jobs and a better life styles while opening us up to so many things in the world around us!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. inhiscare753 says:

    Such a wonderfully written story of your GI College Education and your resiliency. What a great honor and privilege. Well deserved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Thank you my Blogger friend.

      It’s ironic how something as bad as being sent to war could lead to something good like getting an education paid in part by the same government that drafted me in the first place.
      God’s Universe indeed works in so many different ways!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. donnastratford says:

    Can you please add the GI Bill 75th Anniversary web page so Veterans know where to send their GI Bill Story?


    • contoveros says:

      Thank you Donna. I included a smaller link in the story above at the same time you had provided me with the official link site.

      Now all I got to do is get my son to show me how to film me reading this article and send it off to the VA Website!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for your inspiring story. Can you please post the GI Bill 75th Anniversary website so people know where to upload their GI Bill story?


  8. Bob Palumbo says:

    You were always college marterial

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Thanks Bob,

      Mike Tomcavage, the fellow that married Janet Gessler, was the only person from the old neighborhood that I knew who ever went to college. And he wasn’t even from Fairmount or Brewerytown but some god-awful place like Roxborough. (Only kidding about our Ridge Avenue friend, but you know what I mean)


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