Veteran brothers adjust to college life

Brothers Karl Wood, 23, and Chad Wood, 28, came to TCU in 2010 as veterans seeking the education they longed for during their years in the U.S. Army.

Karl and Chad said they both followed in the footsteps of their brother John Wood, class of 2008, when choosing TCU for their undergraduate education. Chad said he enlisted in the Army in August 2005, while Karl went off for training soon after graduating high school in 2006.

On Karl’s second night overseas at his assigned base, Camp Blessing, his base was attacked while he waited to make a phone call to his father to tell him that he was safe, Karl said.

“I will always think of that first engagement as a welcome sign of things to come,” Karl said.
During his tour, Karl said his unit commander informed his infantry battalion of about 1,000 soldiers that the unit had been in more firefights with the enemy than any unit since World War II.

Karl said what he remembered most about deployment was working up to 140 hours a week, allowing him to get little to no sleep.

“I would gladly work 140 hours a week if I had to do it all over again because I actually got to come home after a year,” he said. “Many of my friends were killed in action.”
Chad was assigned to the United States Special Operation Command’s 75th Ranger Regiment’s 2nd Battalion.

The 75th Ranger Regiment performs a number of highly specialized missions, including direct action, hostage rescue and site exploitation, according to Baseops. Baseops, or Base Operations, is located on every military airfield in the world and is where aircrews go to plan missions, to check weather and to file their flight plans.

Once Chad settled into the active-duty lifestyle, his thoughts began to turn to home and to future plans, he said.

“I began to crave the opportunity to sit in classrooms, engage in discourse with freethinking professors, to participate in studies directed by passionate experts in the field and ultimately to have a break from the very intellectually and physically demanding military life,” Chad said.

Chad said details of his specialized training and overseas deployments to combat are classified.

He was honorably discharged with multiple Army Commendation awards, Army Achievement medals and Expert and Combat Infantry badges, and he was promoted to the non-commissioned office rank of sergeant, Chad said.

The brothers’ decision to attend TCU was based on the education benefits provided to veterans through the Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the GI Bill pays the higher of the actual tuition and fees for a public school or $17,500 per academic year for a private school. For Texas private schools, the bill pays the higher of the actual tuition and fees or the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition and fees, according to the department’s website.
Veteran Affairs states that the Yellow Ribbon Program can be elected by institutions of higher learning and makes additional funds available for veteran students. 

Ricardo Avitia of TCU Veteran Certification said the number of student veterans at the university is expected to rise due to GI Bill popularity as well as the abundant amount of veterans returning from Iraq.

As of fall 2011, more than 300 veterans using GI Bill benefits attend the university, Avitia said.

Both brothers agreed that despite the five-year age difference between them, they maintain a close friendship, share similar interests and provide a support system for one another.

Karl said he looked to his older brother for guidance with the college application process, as he had much difficulty after he left the Army. They are both second-year students and have been living at a nearby house off-campus since their first year at the university.
Chad is a philosophy major with a minor in computer science, while Karl is a mathematics major.

Academically, Karl and Chad said they both experienced initial discomfort with their basic skills after multiple-year gaps in their education but that they hadquickly bounced back.
Qiao Zhang, Karl’s calculus I and calculus II professor, said that while Karl mainly remained quiet during lectures, he was amazed by the depth of Karl’s questions when he spoke up.

Karl said he had yet to decide on his career plan but that he aspired to be successful in advanced mathematics.

“I’ve always been a big believer in letting solutions present themselves,” Karl said. “If you can’t predict the future, there’s no point in excessively planning for it.”

Karl had significant trouble adjusting to civilian life after spending a year in Northern Afghanistan, he said.

Decisions as simple as where to eat, whether to shave and whether to sleep in took more consideration than for the average student, Karl said.

“If you don’t tell them what to do, when to do it and how to do it, they won’t because of the amount of structure they came from,” Avitia said.

Chad said he immediately embraced all that Fort Worth had to offer, including attending local rock band performances. He also said he started a private poetry, philosophy and literature club for local intellectuals.

“It was a relief going from feeling like I had the world on my back to doing things at my own pace,” Chad said.

Karl said he played for the TCU lacrosse club team and that he played men’s competitive flag football.

Karl and Chad agree that the university’s veterans department as well as the administration, faculty and fellow students were very accommodating during their transition process.

Avitia said that the veterans department and Veteran Task Force held events throughout the year to bring the university’s veterans together, including Founder’s Day activities as well as a wreath-laying ceremony and wall of honor to observe Veterans Day in November.

For more information on the Veteran’s Day and Founder’s Day events, please contact:
April Brown, head of the Veteran’s Service Task Force and director of Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services
Jarvis Hall 219
(817) 257-5551