A Son Goes Off to War
Tim McCleary’s son, Brayden, was one of 24 young men from Canada’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders infantry regiment in the days after 9-11.
He was 21.
After training, Brayden and the others were sent to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
“I got such incredible help and support from my colleagues at work,” Tim recalls from his office in Ontario where he’s a Senior Sales and Editorial Representative at Pearson.
“While my son was away,” he says, “they helped me keep my feet on the ground.”
The Threat of Heartbreak
It wasn’t long until there were reports of a boy from the community who’d been killed in Afghanistan.
His identity was kept secret until the Canadian military was able to contact his next of kin.
“It could have been Brayden or any one of the other local boys who volunteered,” Tim says. “I started to worry at work: ‘Will there be someone in my driveway when I get home today?'”
Military protocol sends officers to homes in person to notify families of casualties.
“Your mind starts getting the better of you in the suspense,” Tim says. “So I went and talked to my manager who suggested we go get coffee and talk about it.”
Tim was assured he could go home whenever he needed.
“My colleagues had genuine concern for me and my family,” Tim says. “I felt so much part of the group.”
In the end, Brayden survived—and soon returned home from war.
A Vet Returns to School
About the time Brayden McCleary joined the Canadian Armed Forces, Tammy Pack was nearing the end of her enlistment in the U.S. Navy, after 11 years of service.
She served on a ship in the Gulf during the Persian Gulf War—and, before ending her enlistment, helped train young seabees to set up communications stations in the desert before being deployed to Afghanistan.
Today, Tammy is in her sixth semester at Yuba College in Marysville, California studying English.
She’s a 47-year-old undergraduate—like so many veterans who return to higher education after their military service.
‘It’s Hard to Step Away’
Tammy is also President of the Yuba College Student Veterans Association.
The several hundred veterans enrolled each semester have access to the Association’s resource center.
“Most of the other students here at Yuba are straight out of high school,” Tammy says. “The resource center is a place where these vets, often older, can be themselves.”
“Once you’re in the military, it’s hard to step away,” she says.
Tammy says Yuba’s veterans resource center provides not just educational but emotional benefits to the men and women who use it.
Challenges for Returning Vets
“There are so many challenges for vets when they come home,” Tim McCleary says. “When my son returned, there was a significant lack of resources to help him through the transition from what he’d been through in combat to civilian life.”
“Veterans have trouble finding a way into the workforce,” Tim says. “They struggle with the cost of going back to school.”
“They put their lives on the line for us—and they need a lot of help,” he says.
An Educational and Emotional Benefit
One veteran student in particular, with extreme PTSD, frequents the resource center at Yuba.
“It is one of the few places he feels comfortable enough to be himself,” Tammy says.
“He doesn’t have to be careful about what he says, he can use refer to crazy military acronyms and people understand.”
The student hasn’t been able to get back to school because of his disorder and, Tammy says, Yuba’s veterans resource center provides not just educational, but emotional benefits to the men and women who use it.
Books to ‘Change’ Lives
A few months ago, Tammy tracked down Tim McCleary by chance and, she says, “lives will be changed.”
The Yuba veterans resource center was in need of textbooks.
“So many vets can’t afford these things,” Tammy says. “I know of two students who dropped out of Yuba because they couldn’t afford their books.”
Tammy wanted to provide more books for the vets at Yuba and began to research publishers of many of Yuba’s books.
“Pearson published, like, eighty-percent of the books—so I sent an email, asking Pearson to donate books in order to keep them from spending hundreds of dollars that they didn’t have,” Tammy says.
That email landed in Tim McCleary’s inbox.
In addition to sales, Tim is a founding member of Pearson’s Veterans employee resource group (ERG).
One thing led to another, and Pearson soon donated $20-thousand-worth of textbooks to Yuba’s veterans resource center.
The first shipment of boxes arrived this week.
Staying in School
“We’re trying to go above and beyond the resources that are out there for vets,” Tim says. “We’re always looking for ways to help these men and women stay in school and reach more opportunity.”
“These textbooks are the difference between a vet taking a class they really need and a substitute class for lesser cost,” Tammy says.
Most of her peers at the resource center call her “Momma Tammy.”
“This donation is monumental for us,” she says. “It’s going to change lives.”