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.