Nicholls State honors its many student veterans - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Nicholls State honors its many student veterans

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THIBODAUX, La. - Hilton Johns has wanted to be a Marine since he was 5-years old.

"I was actually in Iraq for the invasion in 2003, then we got called back in 2004," he says.

Johns is now a student at Nicholls State University.

He led a prayer at the school's Veterans Day ceremony, which honored those who served in so many different times and ways, from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Of the 6,500 students that attend Nicholls, 256 are veterans. More than half use the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to pay for their education.

"They actually give a housing allowance as well as paying full tuition, and that housing allowance is actually allowing me to work at the church, so I'm using the G.I. bill, I guess you could say, as a secondary job," says Johns.

The magazine G.I. Jobs recently named Nicholls a "military-friendly school" for the fifth year in a row. The university offers special programs designed for veterans, knowing that they have different needs when starting college.

Many of the vets are older and have much more life experience than students fresh out of high school.

"Some of them come here with post-traumatic stress," says Nicholls Interim President Larry Howell. "We have counseling for them. We try to get them into the classes that will make them successful. Some of them haven't had math for four or five years."

But Howell says it's those life experiences that make veterans such good students. They're disciplined and focused.

The student veterans at Nicholls are beginning their lives out of uniform, but for many, a life of service continues.

"That's one of the reasons I'm becoming a pastor, not just a Christian, but a preacher, because I think even the vets here, they want to give back," says Johns.

Nicholls officials plan to launch a marketing campaign soon to encourage those still in the armed services to enroll at Nicholls when they get out.

The school wants to support all who serve, from the greatest generation to the next one.

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