Operation Education

 

Gage Hampton (front), who served in Afghanistan, returned to school with the help of Corpoint, a new nonprofit organization that helps veterans make the most of their educational opportunities after transitioning to civilian life. Corpoint was founded by (from left to right) Richard Starkweather, Jerald Wright, Fred Burnham and Cliff Marr. Photo by Matt Rose

In June 1944, more than a year before the officially declared end of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law one of the 20th century’s most important pieces of social legislation, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. Anticipating the return of hundreds of thousands of servicemen to civilian life, the GI Bill provided federal support for a range of benefits, from low- or no-interest mortgages for new homes to tuition for college degrees and vocational training. The law has been amended and expanded twice — in 1984 during the Reagan administration, and again in 2008 under President Obama, in response to increased military demands after 9/11.

While the legislation over the past 73 years has helped millions of veterans adapt to civilian life, it’s a complicated and baffling array of regulations and requirements. For many vets already experiencing the physical and emotional wounds of 21st-century warfare, it can simply be too much to handle. Enter Corpoint, a new nonprofit outreach based in Hendersonville that provides coaching and a guided, task-oriented approach to ensure that veterans can maximize their benefits under the GI Bill. (Other funding sources outside of the bill can also be explored.)

Formed by three veterans and a retired corporate executive with years of experience in social services, Corpoint has already helped its first veteran, Johnathan Hampton —who goes by his middle name, Gage — toward a degree in Industrial Systems Technology from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. (Industrial Systems technicians use diagnostic equipment to troubleshoot, repair, and install electronic circuitry and other major structural elements, often in manufacturing settings.)

“I feel like going back to school for any veteran can be an overwhelming task,” says Hampton, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression after serving in Afghanistan with the Army. “I feel the guys at Corpoint definitely provide a support structure that I would consider a valuable asset in helping veterans get back to school.”

“Gage has been an inspiration to us with his energy and positive attitude,” says Fred Burnham, one of Corpoint’s four founders. It was Burnham, a Navy veteran, who noted some time ago that hardly anyone attended a veterans’ education program offered at Blue Ridge Community College through his American Legion post. “I started thinking what was needed was some kind of liaison between our post and BRCC,” Burnham explains. He shared his thoughts with a new post member, Richard Starkweather, an Air Force veteran with Vietnam service. It became apparent that to effectively help veterans navigate the GI Bill, something more than the occasional public presentation was needed.

Jerald Wright, who has a background in corporate safety practices and has served on the Land Of Sky Regional Advisory Council on Aging, and Cliff Marr, an Army veteran with a background in sales and marketing, soon joined the discussions. Corpoint was the result. “Our goal is to allow veterans to soar through advanced education, which they have earned through their service,” says Wright.

“Although many veterans have benefited through the GI Bill,” he adds, “many more have not” — often due to a chaotic barrier of red tape, a post-service lack of direction, or a combination of causes.

In Gage Hampton’s case, Corpoint helped him recover his student loans from default and obtain tuition help for his pending degree from A/B Tech. “I believe any vet who puts his name on the dotted line and from that point on could possibly be in harm’s way deserves a free education,” declares Burnham. “We take whatever the GI Bill has to offer and apply it, but the vet has to be an active participant. We believe in a hand up, not a handout.”

The need now is for community support for Corpoint’s mission. The organization was set up with no outside funding, but assistance is needed for the main goal of reaching out to veterans, plus just plain doing the work of navigating the system. “No one on our staff or on our board receives any compensation and our services are free to veterans,” Burnham points out. “We will help any vet, but we really want to reach young veterans who have fallen through the cracks.”

Hampton is proving that the program works. “Corpoint helped motivate me,” he says, “and pushed me to get things done.”

To learn more about Corpoint’s mission, visit corpoint.org.

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