After nine years of service in the Louisiana Army National Guard – the first six in the infantry and the last three as a medic – I found myself working as a salesman for a security company not able to properly support my wife and two kids at home. I needed a change.
As the lead phlebotomist for the Louisiana Medical Command during the latter years of my service, I was looking for a way to transfer some of my military medical knowledge into the civilian field, but I had no national certifications in the medical field. To my surprise, I learned I was only allowed to administer oxygen and place patients on spine boards as a civilian medical professional.
That’s when I found Unitech Training Academy. I enrolled in the EKG and phlebotomy programs just days after my initial visit and began taking classes the following Monday. During my 11-month program, I was able to go to class from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and work from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. at a local medical facility. The flexibility Unitech provided allowed me to support my family while taking classes fully covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Unitech not only provided a flexible, expedited program to advance my career, but it also saved my life. While I was attending classes, I recognized some troubling medical symptoms: chest pains, dizziness and shortness of breath. I went to a VA medical facility to get checked out, but the cardiologist refused to see me. I was turned away for being too young to be worried about the symptoms.
During one of our labs in class at Unitech, my instructor and education director ran an EKG test on me. The results revealed abnormalities. I immediately went back to the VA medical facility and, after finally being seen, it was determined that I had a fatal heart condition. Within days, I was undergoing surgery for a defibrillator.
Unitech is more than a school. The instructors and staff there are incredibly skilled and very professional, but they are more like family to me. I don’t know if or when my heart issues would’ve been discovered without Unitech.
Sadly, there are some proposals in Congress to change policies like the 90/10 rule that which would make it harder for veterans to use their earned GI Bill benefit at the college of their choice. Sen. Bill Cassidy sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Committee on Veterans Affairs in the U.S. Senate – making him an important voice on both education and veterans issues. As these proposals work their way through Congress, Sen. Cassidy has yet to voice his opinion on the issues. I urge Cassidy to side with veterans in allowing them the freedom to use their earned benefits at the school of their choice.
The American people trusted me to patrol the streets of Baghdad. Trust me and my fellow veterans in choosing the school that best fits our career goals.
Kenneth Mejia is a graduate of Unitech Training Academy and veteran of the Louisiana Army National Guard. He deployed to Iraq in 2004. He is a proud student veteran ambassador for Veterans for Career Education.