We are very Proud of our young Member Patriot Blake Leitch,
He is “Making a Difference!”
Editor’s Note: Illinois Patriot Education Fund is excited to announce an addition to our team – our intern, BlakeLeitch. Blake is an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq in 2005, where he earned an Army Accommodation Medal and the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action. For his service, he also earned the rank of Sergeant. Upon separating from the military in 2009, Blake started college at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill., to pursue a communications degree and better prepare himself to serve the veteran community.
Since then he became involved with IPEF’s partner, Student Veterans of America, founding an SVA chapter at Lake Land. In the spring of 2010, his fellow students elected him as the college’s Student Trustee. In this role, he had the opportunity to represent his peers on the Illinois Community College Board. He was then elected to serve on the ICCB’s Executive Board and was the only student representative chosen by the White House to represent all community college students at The White House Summit on Community Colleges in San Diego and Indianapolis. Blake was later given the Student Trustee Excellence Award for his dedication to student veterans and college completion. Blake is now continuing his communications studies at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill., and resides in Mattoon with his wife, Jackie, and toddler son, Spencer.
Throughout his internship, Blake will be blogging about his experiences. Following is his first entry.
Now let’s back up. I am a disabled combat veteran who, like countless others returning from a tour in Iraq, knew that I needed to get some education in order to compete with today’s tough job market. Within my first semester into college I quickly realized that acquiring an education was not going to be a cake walk and that there were a lot of gaps in the new G.I. Bill. I went from not really being sure what I wanted to do with my life to being completely sold on dedicating my every breath to helping my fellow veterans.
It did not take long for me to get my feet wet in the veteran community. First of all, I now travel the nation sharing the story of my experience in Iraq. I speak about how sharing what happened to me and my fellow comrades helps me combat my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I also share how, after being involved in more than 20 roadside explosions, I am still alive. Although I did take some shrapnel and have a bad back from the whiplash I endured, I am very lucky that I walked away with so few injuries.
In addition to traveling and sharing my story I started an SVA chapter at my college and was able to form a scholarship for veterans after just one year of the club being active. This year I am looking forward to figuring out more ways to help my fellow veterans, which I believe will be much easier now that I am interning with IPEF.
There are countless loopholes in the system for veterans in education, and I must stand by my warrior ethos: I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, and I will never leave a fallen comrade. I live by this and if we let a veteran fall through the cracks then we have left a fallen comrade.
I look forward to what the next year holds and trust that while serving as an intern with IPEF great strides will be made to make it easier for the heroes of this great state and their families to have a better life because they were able to get a well-deserved education.
Along the way, I will be posting from the perspective of a veteran, a young father and husband, and an intern working in the trenches to better the lives of my fellow veterans. Stay tuned with me on this journey and, in the process, I hope you will be inspired to do what you can to help.
– Blake Leitch, firstname.lastname@example.org