By Chris Cunningham
When Lane Community College student Matt Ray walks into a room, it's hard not to notice his erect posture and no-nonsense gait.
"Sometimes I still walk like a Marine," admits the 28-year-old military veteran. "I have a mission-oriented walk."
His current mission is "going to school" and working toward an associate of applied science degree in drafting. He's widening his "knowledge base for understanding the structure and physics of a building."
As a student veteran, he appreciates the college's support system. In matters of financial aid, Matt says, "I've received a lot of support from Lane's Veterans Affairs certifying official, Ellen Jones. She's really good at helping veterans make sure they get all their paperwork done." Currently, 862 students at Lane are receiving VA educational benefits.
In 2012, Matt intends to transfer to Texas A&M University to pursue bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture. Eventually, he hopes to manage his own architecture firm where he can "help people succeed."
Matt enlisted in the U.S. Marines when he was 17, knowing that after serving four years he could take advantage of the GI bill to help pay for his education.
He was stationed for one year as a personnel administrator in Okinawa, Japan, and the following two years continued the same duties in Camp Pendleton, California.
He served the last six months of his enlistment in camp Fallujah, Iraq. He says that even though he was not in direct combat, the shrapnel damage in the concrete building where he worked reminded him that "you could die at any moment."
Matt says his academic and extracurricular experiences at Lane have strengthened the leadership skills he began cultivating in the armed forces.
He's active in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and is Lane's chapter president.
A drummer in local funk and metal bands, Matt instigated the celebratory honor society project, Lanestock, a music and arts festival which Matt dubbed "one day of peace and music."
Lane's VA Educational Benefits homepage is located at www.lanecc.edu/va/
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