“When I salute the flag, I can’t explain the feeling that I get. You’re doing something that is unselfish.” That’s how adult student and Army veteran Alex Thibodeaux explains what drives him to his goal of completing his bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. “I enjoyed wearing the uniform overseas, handing out food and water in Egypt or serving behind a gun. Just service to our nation gave me a sense of purpose,” he explained. Upon completion of his degree, he intends to work for the Department of the Army through Civil Service.
As a child of Army parents, he was born in Nuremberg, Germany and was raised literally around the world. He speaks fluent German and still has a deep fondness for the country.
Alex served twelve years in the military. Attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant, he was a Signal Support Systems Specialist based out of Schweinfurt, Germany in the First Infantry Division. He did combat tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and peacekeeping missions to Kosovo, Egypt and Germany. Alex was discharged from active duty in 2005 and from the reserves in 2008.
Alex accompanied his wife and eight-year-old daughter to Columbus when his wife took a position at Defense Supply Center Columbus. He had never been to Ohio, but found Otterbein to be exactly what he was looking for to begin the next phase of his life. “As a veteran, I felt comfortable. I got the personal attention I needed. I wasn’t just another veteran in line,” he said.
Returning veterans face all sorts of challenges when they make the transition to civilian life. Alex recalled a dilemma he faced while waiting for his veterans’ benefits to kick in, as it can take two to three months for benefits to become effective. “Otterbein took the time to answer my questions and research my GI benefits,” he explained. Through working with the veteran’s benefits certifying official on campus, he was offered assistance so that he could begin his studies and provided a stipend so he could purchase books until the funds became available. Otterbein understands those challenges and is committed to helping veterans find the resources they need to continue their career path.
Alex is enjoying his new role as a student. “It’s liberating to be able to voice my opinion. You learn to bite your tongue in the military,” he explained. He remembers a political science class led by Dr. Latrice Washington in which the power of the United Nations was being discussed. “I bring experience and a lot of different perspectives to the class. I’ve been on the ground to see what they really can do. It’s cool to see how the government works when you’re a part of it,” he said.
He’s also joined Phi Delta Theta fraternity with an invitation from another veteran on campus. The group has provided an outlet and brotherhood for him where he can continue his passion for public service, such as Adopt a Highway. He sums up his mission statement for service: “When you come up, you have to give back. Big thing is passing on knowledge, from what you’ve experienced. “
Otterbein University recognizes the enormous sacrifice and contribution military personnel make to society. We are a proud participant in the Post 9/11 Yellow Ribbon program by providing a significant amount of institutional financial aid for veterans. The Yellow Ribbon program expands the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, which pays up to the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition for eligible veterans. Otterbein provides a grant to pay the remaining amount. To determine eligibility for veterans’ benefits, visit the GI Bill website or call them at 1-888-GI-BILL-1 (1-888-442-4551) to speak with a Veteran’s Benefits Counselor.
Also, service members enrolled in the Post 9/11 GI Bill can transfer unused educational benefits to their SPOUSE or CHILDREN. Contact the Adult and Transfer Admission office at (614) 823-1356 or firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with an advisor.
Otterbein offers 74 undergraduate majors and 44 minors. Graduate degrees also offered in business, nursing, education, allied health and educational mathematics. For a complete listing, visit www.otterbein.edu/majors. To apply, visit www.otterbein.edu.