Former marine attributes academic success to lessons learned in military
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School of Arts and Sciences senior Teofilo Bodre, who carries a 3.9 GPA and works for the University’s Office of Veterans Services, said he owes his top-notch school performance to his lifestyle in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Bodre, who enrolled at the University two years ago, believes many veterans do well in school because of their perception of “the mission,” which comes first, while troop welfare comes second.
“After we transition from the military and we feel like that’s our mission — it’s school,” he said. “Before anything else we have to finish this mission first. School is our priority.”
Bodre, 25, grew up in North Bergen and signed up for the Marine Corps at the age of 17, he said.
“I was a sophomore when Sept. 11 happened. After those events, pretty much everyone in my homeroom besides one of my friends joined the military,” Bodre said. “We all felt like we had to do something.”
Since his enlistment, Bodre traveled to North Carolina and Virginia for training and was invited to be a Marine Embassy Guard, he said.
He was first stationed in Islamabad, Pakistan for 14 months in 2007 and 2008. During this time, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.
“[At the time,] all marines were suited up. They restricted everyone to stay on the premises of the embassy because there were a lot of riots,” he said.
Bodre continued his Marine Embassy Guard duty in Paris and then took up an administrative position as an active marine in Frankfurt, Germany.
Bodre said he had surreal experiences when he was stationed in Islamabad because he and his fellow soldiers always felt lucky.
“If we were at a certain place, at a certain restaurant, we would find out the next morning the place was bombed,” he said.
One of these locations was the Marriot Hotel in the capital, which the embassy designated as a safe haven, Bodre said.
“Other than the embassy, it was supposed to be the most secure place. They house diplomats from all these other countries. We used to hang out there all the time,” he said. “And shortly after I left for Paris, they bombed the Marriot, like the whole block.”
But now that Bodre is back home, he said he wants to give other student veterans the help he could not receive.
When he first arrived on campus, he had a difficult time learning about the benefits the University offers to veterans. Back then, he said the campus did not have a well-established office for student veterans.
But when he learned about the opportunity to be a part of the new Office of Veterans Services through a work-study program, he jumped on board.
“If I wasn’t working with veterans, I probably wouldn’t be working right now,” he said.
Col. (Ret.) Stephen Abel, director for Veterans Services, was hired in July 2010. Since then, he said the University increased to 926 student veterans from 440.
Because 30 to 40 percent of veterans are not registered through Veterans Services, Abel said the number of veteran students might actually be near 1,300.
Bodre said during his transition from military to collegiate life, Veterans Affairs was important in helping him and other veterans with housing, benefits and the application process.
“The difference with veterans is that they have to deal with more than one institution,” he said. “You have to deal with Rutgers and its bureaucracy and then Veterans Affairs, and that’s even worse.”
The office helps veterans deal with a variety of issues since their overall mission is to help veterans adjust to the University, Abel said.
“We deal with any issue a student might have, from landlords, dorms, financial [and] education. We will help with [Veterans Affairs] issues as well, including dealing with visible or invisible injuries,” he said.
Military Times Edge magazine also ranked the University third nationally for the best colleges for veterans, Abel said.
“We try to make the transition — from combat to campus, from soldier to student — a smooth one,” he said.
Thomas Krause, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said the office was crucial for him in his decision to attend the University.
Krause said his demanding discipline in the military is helping his academic performance.
“I was a mediocre student in high school. My priorities were off-balance,” he said. “Whether it was just time, or a combination of time and what [the military] instilled in us, I am a better student now.”