Retired veteran seeks fresh start at WSCC

Allen Yokley, left, shows a picture of his 1985 basic training unit to Dr. Jeff Horner, dean of natural sciences at Walters State. Yokley saw action in Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, he’s using his G.I. Bill benefits to pursue a career in radiography.

Allen Yokley, left, shows a picture of his 1985 basic training unit to Dr. Jeff Horner, dean of natural sciences at Walters State. Yokley saw action in Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, he’s using his G.I. Bill benefits to pursue a career in radiography.

Allen Yokley, who saw action in three conflicts, has a simple message for fellow veterans who are thinking about using educational benefits: start early and don’t let your benefits expire.

Yokley is a pre-radiography major at Walters State Community College.

“I realized my eligibility for benefits wouldn’t last forever. If I wanted to use them, I had to get started,” said Yokley.

In general, Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits must be used within 10 years from the last day of active duty. Post-9/11 benefits must be used within 15 years from the last day, according to Linda Mason, dean of records and veteran’s affairs officer at Walters State.

“Like Allen, many veterans qualify for several types of G.I. Bill benefits. Veterans should review the options carefully and decide which chapter of benefits best fits his/her individual goals and circumstance. I meet with individuals and explain their options. Then, the veteran chooses what is best for his or her goals and current circumstances,” Mason said. Mason said a comparison chart is available at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/. Veterans apply to use benefits at the same website, Mason said.

She has worked to streamline the process for the 240 veterans and dependents receiving benefits at the college.

Once enrolled, veterans only need to meet with Mason once. After that, most issues can be handled through the telephone or e-mail.

The enrollment process, though, does take some patience as it involves several different organizations outside of Walters State.

Mason said the first step for veterans interested in enrolling at Walters State is to complete an admissions application, available at www.ws.edu/admissions/. Students should then apply to use benefits at the above-referenced website. Students should schedule a meeting with Mason to begin the required paperwork.

Yokley spent 21 years of his life checking engines, tightening bolts and testing hydraulics – making sure that Air Force crews could confidently go where needed to defend the United States. His service took him to all parts of the world.

He is a combat veteran of Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I joined the Air Force because I saw the military as a way to improve my life, just like college is a way to improve my life now,” Yokley said.

Skills he learned in the military are now making him a better student.

“I know how to focus. I know how to manage my time. Walters State is a great place to make the transition because the classes are small and the instructors provide individual attention,” Yokley said.

“You are not just a number and the instructors actually respect the fact that you are a veteran,” he said.

Yokley is still a highly qualified aircraft mechanic with many certifications earned while he was in the Air Force. He worked as a civilian mechanic for a few years before returning to school.

“I may be retired from the Air Force, but I’m not ready to retire in the traditional sense of the word. After working for a civilian employer for a few years, I decided I wanted to try something different. I look forward to working with people,” Yokley said.

Mason said veterans still have time to apply for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 25. If benefits do not arrive in time, Walters State grants a deferment.

This allows veterans to pay tuition and fees when benefits begin. Veterans can also begin the process now to be ready for the spring semester.

For more, contact Mason at 423-585-2693.

-From Contributed Reports

Posted on Friday, July 25, 2014 at 11:45 am