Tales From The Front:

Promises not kept

Army tells teenage prospect he’d get college funds without having to fight. Seven years later, the sergeant has seen combat zones, but no tuition.

April 29, 2008|By Daniel Tedford

***FOR THE RECORD: In the Sunday article, “Promises not kept,” from the “Tales from the Front” series, the sub-headline and article incorrectly reported Sgt. Ben Mayer had not received tuition to go to college. The article and headline should have reported Mayer was told he would be considered an in-state student to receive a lower tuition rate wherever he attended school, but instead he was considered an out-of-state student when he first moved to California. Mayer did receive funds from his G.I. Bill helping to pay for college. ***

Editor’s note: This is the first in a six-part series about war veterans who are members of the Veterans Student Union at UCI.


You’ve heard Ben Mayer’s story before.

He was a kid growing up in a big city suburb with a family that didn’t have enough money to send him to school. An 8-year-old Mayer saw his big brother become a Marine. He said he would never join the military, but as the college years approached, his options were limited.


“I never intended a military career,” Mayer said.

To his mother’s chagrin, a 17-year-old Mayer bartered a deal to get the education package he wanted in exchange for joining the Army Reserves.

It’s not a deal he regrets, but he doesn’t feel he was given what he was promised.

The promises?

Mayer said he was told there was “not a chance” he would be deployed to a combat zone, yet he ended up serving in Iraq from October 2005 to October 2006.

He said he was told he would receive in-state tuition for schooling, no matter where he decided to attend. At both UCI and Saddleback College, that turned out not to be the case, he said.

Mayer, 24 and a slouching 6-feet-tall with a narrow face, can be found most days wearing a baseball cap — most often supporting his hometown Seattle Seahawks football team.

He is set to graduate from UCI this quarter and plans to study abroad before going to law school. He and some of the other student veterans at the university have started a Veterans Student Union on the campus — a group that gives student veterans the chance to find camaraderie among those who share their experiences.

Mayer, a sergeant, was deployed to Balad, Iraq, with the Army’s 10th Mountain unit in October 2005. His specialty was electronics, but he recalls doing only two months of electronics work there.

Mayer coped amid the mortar fire in Iraq by focusing on his tasks but the experience “hit me like a ton of bricks” and “no one knows how to prepare for uncertainty.”

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