(WSLS 10) - More than 800,000 veterans live in the commonwealth and after service it's typical for veterans to have a hard time finding a job. Virginia Statewide Conference is hoping to change that and help vets expand their education. Two veterans each with unique stories share their experience on moving forward through education after years of service.
The Department of Veteran Services said 62,000 veterans are going back to school on the GI bill right now. At Friday's conference in Roanoke, 150 vets from across Virginia expressed interest in higher education. And some can tell you it's not that hard to get back on track.
"I already had a career, I had a paycheck, and steady salary," said Daniel Peirce-Parra. "I was a sergeant in the marine corps. And now, all of a sudden I'm a freshman in college."
After years of service after high school, going back to learn can be daunting to some.
"Getting back into an actual physical academic fill is kind of different," said veteran Chatorra Walker.
In 2010, at the age of 19 years old, a relocation sent Walker to Haiti to deal with death and tragedy no-one could have prepared her for.
"We were the first responders," commented Walker. "It was kind of heart breaking, because those who were in the medical field tried to save those that they brought on the ship, but not everybody made it."
Pierce-Parra has a different story to tell. As a young boy joining the marines was always his dream. Following that dream took him to places he's never imagined.
"I got pre-screened with the opportunity to go serve in the presidential helicopter squad in Quantico, Virginia," said Pierce-Parra. "And, I was able to go do that. I passed another screening and was able to get secret clearance and was able to actually work on the presidential helicopters."
Meeting with President Obama and Former President George Bush, Pierce-Parra is looking to continue his military career, but with a four-year political science degree from Virginia Tech.
Walker who's gone through the online education route is looking to do the same -- taking advantage of the GI bill. She encourages others it's never too late.
"Don't be afraid to go into it," said Walker. "But, just make sure you map out what you're trying to do in life, so that way it will be a little bit easier when you go to the college of your choice."
Virginia Tech now offers help for veterans seeking further education by having a liaison who can specifically help vets.