Injured Marine finds ideal fit at Vanguard

New Veterans Center at Christian university welcomes him and others who have served America.

June 06, 2010|By Tom Ragan
(Don Leach )

Brandon Liesenfelt heard the pop, then looked behind and saw an explosion about 400 yards away. That happened more than three years ago, when he was patrolling the streets of Fallujah as a corporal in the U.S. Marines.

Today, he's logging onto computers in the quietude of the new Veterans Center at Vanguard University of Southern California. Liesenfelt, a Georgia native, hopes to earn a bachelor's in business administration from the Christian university in Costa Mesa.

His tuition is virtually free, thanks to the G.I. Bill drawn up by former President George W. Bush because, as Liesenfelt put it, "The president knew we were going to be going where the heat was."

For a period of 36 months, Liesenfelt said, he's entitled to $2,152 a month in rent and just over $3,000 a year per semester, or $387 per credit unit.

"The rent is based on the ZIP code," says Liesenfelt, who also receives $770 a month in disability payments for suffering a possible slipped disk, and for having caught pneumonia while a Marine, an affliction that left him with him scar tissue to the lungs, affecting his breathing.


But for the most part, Liesenfelt, 28, said he feels healthy, and a bit wealthy, these days, all the result of serving in the Marine Corps for four years between December 2005 and December 2009.

Because his service was in the post-9/11 era, he qualifies under the largest G.I. Bill in U.S history, second only World War II's G.I. bill, a massive undertaking that's partially responsible for the economic success of the booming 1950s.

If the aforementioned finances aren't an advertisement for all the reasons to enlist and fight terrorism overseas, Liesenfelt doesn't know what is.

And yet there are the obviously inherent risks in donning the regalia: He could have been killed or maimed or psychologically traumatized, all of which, "Praise God," he wasn't, he said.

And although he was honorably discharged from the corps last year, he's still on call for the next four years.

Still, he's one of the luckier ones to return stateside and take advantage of the finances doled out to him, which is why Vanguard University opened its new Veterans Center on Thursday night to much fanfare: It saw the likes of Liesenfelt coming.

"Our population of veterans has doubled in the last year," said assistant professor Jamie J. Brownlee, director of the School for Professional Studies. "It went from 15 students to 30 students, and we're expecting plenty more."

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