Three local students recently received $3,000 each in college scholarships at the 2022 Camos to Classroom Gala, sponsored by Sierra Nevada Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 989.
Among the award recipients was Roger Gahan, a U.S. Army veteran pursuing a master's degree in social work. Blake Jensen, a veteran of the United States Air Force who enrolled in the radiology technology program. and Aaron Altamirano, an Army veteran who wants to be a physical therapist.
JR Stafford, president of VVA 989, said it was very difficult to select the recipients because of their backgrounds.
"We've had some amazing people competing for grants," she said.
This is the second year of the party, which started last year. Hundreds of people attended this year's event at the Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, which included a silent auction to raise money for the scholarship fund.
"These great warriors are the future of our nation and the face of today's veteran community," Stafford said, saluting the president. “We have no doubt that your efforts in the classroom will have a positive impact on our communities tomorrow, and we welcome you as we welcome them tonight.”
Chae Kwok, director of Veterans Services at the University of Nevada, Reno, gave the first scholarship to Jahan, a Dayton resident. Gahan, who is married with two children, served in the Army for 11 years and served as a combat engineer on five deployments in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
“As a result of the Kosovo tour, he started a career in social work,” Cook said.
Cook described Gahan as a first-generation student, meaning he was the first person in his family to earn a college degree.
As a graduate student at the university, Gahan attended several orientation sessions for new veteran students and briefed them on the additional educational resources available on campus.
“The university is fortunate to have such a role model for all students at the university,” he said.
Felipe Gutierrez, Veterans Services Program Coordinator at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, provided the scholarship to Jensen, who joined the Air Force in 2013. After completing basic training and a promotion, Jensen went to McConnell Air Force Base in southeast Wichita, Kansas. . , for the next six years as an aircraft hydraulics maintenance technician.
"He worked on KC 135 tanks," Gutierrez said of Jensen's first assignment.
The KC-135 Stratotanker provides fuel for the Air Force.
Gutierrez said Nellis Air Force Base, east of Las Vegas, will be Jensen's last mission for the next 22 months.
While in the Air Force, Jensen attended courses offered by Butler Community College and the Air Force Community College. Gutierrez said Jensen earned a bachelor's degree in medical imaging from Boise State University.
"He plans to get a master's degree in dosimetry," Gutierrez added.
Dosimetry is the study, measurement, measurement method or instrument used to measure radiation dose.
Jonathan Jacobson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, is the new director of the Veterans Resource Center at WNC Carson City. Jacobson will also spend one day a month at WNC Fallon starting in January. He introduced Altamirano, an Army veteran he met at a fundraiser three years ago. Jacobson said he was surprised.
"He's a guy going somewhere," Jacobson said of Altamirano.
A 2013 graduate of Carson High School, Altamirano joined the Army and served as a tank gunner at Fort Hood, Texas. He spent the last nine months in the Army rotation in the Republic of Korea, where he was assigned to Camp Humphreys, 40 miles south of Seoul. He attained the rank of sergeant before leaving the service in 2016.
"His education began at Western Nevada, where he was an excellent student and mentor to other students," said Jacobson, adding that Altamirano has a high GPA.
Jacobson said Altamirano has been an invaluable resource in helping recent veterans integrate into the WNC.
Colonel Ronald D. Store, who joined the United States Marine Corps in 1989, was the keynote speaker for the evening. Storer is the commanding officer of the Marine Corps Mountain War Training Center, which is located about 120 miles southwest of Colville, California.
After completing basic training and enrolling at Boise State University as an Army reservist, he found that those who were serving in the military or graduating did not have the opportunity to help teach.
“There was no Soldier Bill in my day,” Storer said, adding that his time at BSU was cut short by his retirement from custody. "I found myself liberating Kuwait during the spring break of 1991."
Back in Idaho as a 20-year veteran, Store said he could use the benefits (given to those on active duty) to help him finish college and get a degree.
Fast forward to 2003, when Storer said he was a captain returning from Iraq and signing the 9/11 GI. The bill helps fund education or vocational training for active-duty veterans.
"The VVA was a great lobbyist for the 9/11 Act," Storer said. You can also pass it on to your children or your spouse. My son was able to benefit from the scholarship in his first year.
Storer said this law takes care of veterans and thanks the VVA for supporting the communities.
"These veterans are focused on giving back to their communities and helping the young military," he said.
A CHP officer handcuffs a Chula Vista firefighter. Filmed by CBS-8