On Assimilation: A Ranger’s Return From War

Updated: January 10, 2015

Some wars don’t end, some scars don’t heal and some bonds can’t be broken. Former U.S. Army Ranger Medic, Leo Jenkins, picks up where he left off with his best selling book, “Lest We Forget” to explore the tribulations associated with attempting to reintegrate back into society after years at war. In what is being considered one of the most significant introspectives on veteran transition issues ever written, Jenkins lays it all on the line one more time with “On Assimilation, A Ranger’s Return From War.

Leo has been kind enough to allow us to share an excerpt from his book:

During my time as a student in Indiana, I would frequently have a professor say something absolutely backwards regarding the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would attempt to repudiate it with firsthand experience but they always shot that down as unreliable. So I would go home and stay up all night researching every fact regarding the events they described in class from well-educated men who had written books but never been within a thousand miles of either theater. The next class I would drop more quotes from more well respected doctors that the teacher almost couldn’t finish their lecture.

They didn’t respect my knowledge because I didn’t have a degree. My experiences were not as credible to them as the quotes of old dead men. That is what they valued because that is what they knew; it was how they had lived their lives. As much as I wanted to give that woman a lesson in violence of action and on how to respect a person who has killed other people in an effort to secure her ability to sit in her fancy spinning chair, I opted to go the other route. I did my research and applied it.

On assimilationI started crunching the numbers. There were a total of 22 credit hours that were transferable from my military service. The GI bill would cover the cost of these classes, at a cost of over $23,000 to the U.S. taxpayer. There is also a living stipend around $1,500 a month while you are in school full time. Let me say that again, your tax dollars are going to pay for classes that you already paid for with your tax dollars the first time that I took them. I am one veteran out of over a million using these benefits. If you are doing the math, that is over 20 billion dollars!

MSU Denver is also one of the least expensive schools that I have ever attended. If you apply the same numbers to a larger University, the numbers increase exponentially. I don’t think it takes a fancy economics degree or seat in Congress to understand how absolutely absurd that is. Beyond the grotesque and egregious misuse of resources, it is a massive waste of time on the part of everyone involved. The veteran is now even more disgruntled that they are forced into a remedial course which has a tendency to create disruption in the class. Furthermore, veterans are allotted a total of 36 months of education benefits. If it takes more than the standard four years to complete your degree, you will be paying out of pocket.

At the time that my veteran education benefits expired, I was 15 credit hours shy of completing my degree and had retaken five classes that I had already successfully passed, albeit in camouflage, so they weren’t “real.” I sat through first aid and CPR every Wednesday night when I would typically be getting paid to coach classes. The class was taught by a woman with a master’s degree in music, but who knew absolutely nothing about first aid. She had never been in an ambulance, never treated a patient, and had no clue how to answer the simplest of questions.

When asked by one of the students, “what is a contusion?”

She responded, “It’s like when a bone is sticking out or something like that.”

As I saw the young student pick up their pen to take a note I shouted, “Don’t write that down! That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Every week I attempted to help this poor woman who clearly had no idea what she was teaching. When I brought the issue up with one of the heads of the department, stating that I should not have to sit through this she said, “Well, you can help the teacher since she is less experienced.”

So not only do I have to pay to sit through a course that I used to teach and pay for it, I get to do her job for her since she is incompetent. All the while losing money that I would be making coaching classes.

I wish that I could say that I toughed that one out. I wish I could say that I sat through every one of those terribly incorrect lectures and checked the box like a good little boy. I couldn’t do it. The lesson that war taught me was simple yet impactful, war taught me that every moment is precious. It taught me that we might never get another day; we may not get another breath. I couldn’t, in good conscience, sit through something that was supposed to be making me better, making me smarter, and knowing full well that it wasn’t. More than one good man that I consider a brother no longer had the choice of how to live their life; they gave that up for this nation and those in it. I vowed to those men that I would never waste a day of my life, a life that had been spared.

This isn’t education; it’s a big game where I give my time so that this institution could turn a profit. Call me ideological but I had enough. That was one box I wasn’t going to arbitrarily check. The military is in no way perfect but they do get a few things right. They put highly experienced instructors in front of disciplined students, teaching them things that they will absolutely need. If you have successfully shown proficiency in a course, you don’t repeat it. I had my EMT going into the Army, because of this I was fast tracked through half of the combat medic course at Ft. Sam Houston. The Army didn’t profit from me taking a class that I had already passed. Metropolitan State University of Denver does, however. For that reason, they will continue to disregard the knowledge, experience and sacrifice of men and women in uniform.

You can find the book on Amazon and we highly recommend that you do.





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