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Veteran looks at Hagerstown Community College for more education

January 06, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Navy veteran Chris Blair listens to information being given at a session for military and their families at Hagerstown Community College on Friday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Chris Blair said he moved from Baltimore to Hagerstown to work as an avionics technician at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The 25-year-old said he picked up his craft in the Navy, where he serviced SH-60 helicopters for seven years until he was discharged in May.

On Friday, Blair was among a dozen other former service personnel who attended an informational session at Hagerstown Community College to learn more about benefits offered to veterans — both educational and otherwise.

"I'm just looking to start college," Blair said. "So far, it sounds pretty good. They seem pretty knowledgeable."

Blair said one of the things that attracted him to HCC was the school's recent recognition as one of the most veteran-friendly learning institutions in the country.

HCC was named a 2012 Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine, a publication that helps soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines make the transition from military to civilian life.

Tia Blair, 34, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said she served in the Army for five years, which included a deployment to Iraq.

"I'm just trying to gather any information about any benefits I might be eligible for," said Blair, who is no relation to Chris Blair. "I think it's great they have something like this for veterans."

Blair, who owns My Bijoux, an online jewelry retailer, said she will start pursuing a business administration degree at HCC on Monday. Blair said she found out about Friday's information session while she was on campus Thursday filling out financial-aid forms.

Blair is one of thousands of returning veterans who will use benefits she earned in the military to pay for school.

Army Staff Sgt. Manuel Rodriguez said he plans to do the same thing when he retires in April after 20 years of service.

Rodriguez, 45, who said he served three tours of duty in Iraq, said he also believed that events such as the one Friday were good for veterans.

"I'm here to find out more information about going to school, and if I could transfer some of my benefits to my wife to see if she can go to school," Rodriguez said. "I've never used my benefits before. I've never gone to college. I want to fulfill some goals."

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