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Eight Years Later: The Successes of the Post-9/11 GI Bill
Thursday, June 30, marks the eighth anniversary of President George W. Bush signing the Post-9/11 GI Bill into law. The bill, which increased the education benefits for service members and veterans, has been one of the most successful and life-changing pieces of legislation for our post-9/11 veteran population since WW II. For me, the bill is singularly responsible for my career path and catapulting me from a commercial truck driver in Syracuse, New York to serving as a Manager of Research and Policy at the George W. Bush Institute.
As a transitioning Corporal in the Marine Corps infantry with few job offers, I quickly realized the role education would play in my transition. Despite possessing skills that some employers were seeking, I only received job offers for careers that did not interest me. A few weeks into medical retirement, I made the pivotal decision to enroll in my local community college and begin the long road to a B.A. in Policy Studies from Syracuse University.
This past month, I was honored with the John H. Mulroy Founders Award at my alma mater, Onondaga Community College. As a testament to the success that access to education can provide, school officials have voted to have my face etched in glass in the campus main hall. While this is surreal, it is an incredible honor. However, it is only one of the millions of success stories that are a direct result of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Along with our Former Commander-in-Chief and First Lady, the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative exists to meet President and Mrs. Bush’s vision to honor the service and sacrifice of all post-9/11 veterans and military families by fostering a successful transition and reintegration from military to civilian life. We recognize the great strides made by the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in employing our returning veterans, but we also understand the value of education in that transition process. It is time we start telling the success stories of these returning, young vets who will be the future leaders of our businesses, government, and communities.
Cleland is the Manager of Research and Policy for the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute where he specializes in employment transition as well as collective impact in the military/veteran space. Prior to joining the Military Service Initiative, Cleland was the Director of Innovation and Operations for the Community Engagement & Innovation team at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF). He developed and managed initiatives in support of establishing, executing, and maintaining oversight of collective impact projects under the technical oversight of the Community Engagement team (AmericaServes).
Cleland was an Infantry Machine Gunner (0331) assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Fox Company, and was retired from the United States Marine Corps in July 2008 due to injuries sustained while fighting in the surrounding towns of Fallujah, Iraq. Upon retirement, Cleland returned home to pursue his education at Syracuse University. He currently resides in his hometown of Camillus, NY with his wife Kimberly, son Colton, daughter Charlotte, and dogs Benelli and Nova. He holds a B.A. in Policy Studies (Public Affairs) with a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in Creative Collaboration and Conflict Resolution.Full Bio
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