Newsletter Fall 2016
Dear Alumni and Friends of Operation Education,
As we approach the 10th Anniversary of Operation Education, we celebrate the success of our latest two graduates from our May commencement. Their stories are highlighted below.
As the University of Idaho Veterans Advisor and Operation Education Program “coach,” I have the privilege of working daily with our Operation Education scholars and their families to help them navigate higher education and achieve their goals with the comprehensive and integrated academic, financial, and social support our program offers. Our scholars and their families represent the best that America has to offer, and we are honored to be a part of their successful transition from military service and sacrifice to college-educated civilian leaders.
I am proud to share that of our six 2016-2017 scholars, one is president of our U of I Veterans Club, one has volunteered to be a mentor with our Disability Support Services Office, one will be serving as a teaching assistant on top of full-time course work, and one just finished a full summer internship with Potlatch Corporation while pushing hard to finish a bachelor of science degree in Forestry Resources on time and on target.
Our 10th Anniversary celebration will be held in conjunction with our annual U of I Veterans Recognition Dinner scheduled for Veterans Day, November 11th, 2016. We will have two of our first scholars (a husband and wife pair, Aaron and Bonnie Contreras) joining us from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where he serves as an active duty Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Captain and she works as a school psychologist. Additionally, we will be joined by other scholar alumni, current scholars, and the generous supporters who help make this program possible.
We look forward to recognizing and celebrating the many accomplishments enabled by your encouragement and support.
University of Idaho Alum
LtCol USMC (Ret)
Greg Elmore ’16: Hero in Plain Sight
Brain injuries like concussion, the most common form of traumatic brain injury or TBI, can be serious, debilitating, and sometimes fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control, TBI—caused by a blow to the head that disrupts normal brain function—is a major cause of death and disability in the US, accounting for over 30 percent of all injury deaths. And because TBI often can’t be spotted at a glance, those living with these injuries may not always be offered the help they need.
Greg Elmore sustained such an injury on his first deployment in the Idaho National Guard. After undergoing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in early 2004, he set off on two back-to-back deployments as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and 2005. On January 17, 2005, a mortar round landed on his operating base, delivering a severe concussion injury; he would later develop seizures and other effects of TBI.
But, as with many traumatic brain injuries, the severity of his invisible wound wasn’t immediately apparent. So Elmore finished his tour of duty, returning stateside in November 2005 with his unit. Nearly five years later, in 2010, he was diagnosed with TBI; the same year, he wrapped up his six-year enlistment with the Guard, receiving an Honorable Discharge.
Prior to his discharge from military service, Elmore enrolled in North Idaho College, earning an Associate’s Degree in Civil Engineering in 2009. But the effects of his TBI, including seizures, made school work a struggle. In 2009, he transferred to the University of Idaho and learned of the Operation Education program for veterans injured post 9/11; he applied and was accepted as an Operation Education scholar in 2009.
Elmore’s 2010 TBI diagnosis enabled him to receive the accommodations he needed to complete his university degree. Operation Education helped to provide testing accommodations to work around his symptoms, along with other comprehensive support to enable Elmore to focus on his classes and his family: wife of 16 years, Suzy, daughter Genesis, 14, and son Gabriel, 12. “My family and I are forever grateful to Operation Education and everyone associated with it,” said Elmore. “My graduation in May was a dream come true.”
Ralph Gault ’16: Cooking Up Success
For California native Ralph Gault, making chocolates and pastries for friends and family is a passion. But life hasn’t always been so sweet. After enlisting in the Army in 2004, Gault deployed with the First Cavalry Division to Camp Taji (also known as Camp Cooke) in 2006. There, he hyperextended his knee, which exacerbated an existing back injury. “My body just deteriorated,” he says. Still, he served out his entire six-year contract, deploying to Korea after he returned from Iraq.
Afterward, he moved to Hyde Park, New York, where he worked as an intern cook from late 2011 through spring of 2012. The program solidified his desire to study culinary science. When considering a university, he chose University of Idaho for its Food Science degree option, linked through a joint program with its counterpart at Washington State University.
Gault wasn’t aware of the Operation Education program before arriving on the Moscow campus, but soon realized that he would need accommodations in order to hear in class: the severe tinnitus (ringing in the ears) that he’d acquired in Iraq had become progressively worse and made taking notes next to impossible.
“Along with Disability Support Services, Operation Education helped with obtaining a Livescribe pen that helps with notetaking by capturing and recording what’s being said,” says Gault, who recently obtained hearing aids. “They help a lot—I realized how much I was missing in class.”
Gault, who lives with wife Janelle and stepdaughter Kamry, completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science this spring. He plans to attend law school in Virginia as the next step of his life’s journey. “I really want to help veterans with legal affairs,” he says.
He also wants veterans to know that help is available to them, even when it’s difficult to ask for assistance. “Whether it’s testing or taking notes in class, there is a lot of help out there,” he says. “All you have to do is ask.”