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VIDEO: Combat Veteran Jack Johnson Joins UC’s Ranks to Head Veterans Services

Combat veteran Jack Johnson is the new program manager of UC Veterans Programs and Services. In that role, he wants to help veterans transition from military service to success as students.

Date: 3/7/2013 12:00:00 PM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Video by Ashley Kempher

UC ingot   When he returned to college and civilian life after being injured in combat, former combat engineer Sgt. Jack Johnson of the 101st Airborne Division felt that there was no one to help him transition from combat to the classroom.

That was 10 years ago, but Johnson, the new program manager of the University of Cincinnati’s Veterans Programs and Services, headquartered on the 200 level in UC’s University Pavilion, still remembers how disorienting it was to go from his third tour of combat service with five years on active duty in some of the U.S. Army’s most elite combat units to a college classroom.

He recalled, “After a total of 28 months in combat as a combat engineer, what’s called a Sapper, in Bosnia and Iraq, I was injured in combat and received a medical retirement. In two months’ time, I went from the sands of Iraq back to school. From the camaraderie of the service and being part of a tight-knit unit where we were battle buddies, I was in an environment where I was different from the other students, had very different life experiences and felt that there was really no one to help me.”

Because of his own experiences, Johnson wants today’s approximately 1,200 student veterans using their Veterans Administration benefits at UC to know that the university’s Veterans Programs and Services in University Pavilion is their space and their place above and beyond its academic service mission.

“I want to bring the camaraderie back into their lives. I want to be the best at helping vets, to have other returning veterans say, ‘I’m going to go to UC because they support vets fully,’ including providing an emotional connection to campus and their fellow veterans, finding a ready-made group of friends,” explained Johnson, who added that beyond its mission of coordinating benefits and academic certification, the center will sponsor gatherings and programming specifically for student veterans.

He expects that the number of veterans coming to UC and other campuses will continue to climb as the United States military scales back and more veterans return to civilian life to pursue college studies.

Johnson, originally from Ross, Ohio, enlisted in 1998 and was deployed to the Balkans after basic training. He enlisted in order to play an important role in the world and stated that he would still be in the service if he hadn’t been medically retired.

“Since I can no longer serve as active-duty military, the best thing I can now do is be an advocate for veterans. These veterans gave to our country not only while they were in the service but even after being discharged. That service stays with them their whole lives,” he explained.

Following his 2003 medical retirement, Johnson worked full time while pursuing a degree in business management. Upon graduation, he worked for the Butler County Veterans Service Commission as a veterans service officer helping vets of all eras and ages readjust to civilian life.

He recalled, “I saw the ribbon cutting for UC’s Veterans One Stop Center on the news last November. I said to myself, ‘I need to be part of that effort’ because of my own experiences at college as a veteran student. I’ve ridden in that rodeo, so to speak. So, I wanted to focus on helping vets from my own era, going through what I went through. I applied to UC the very next day, and here I am reporting for duty.”

Links for veterans:

Veterans Programs and Services Office

Information for veterans applying to UC