Retired Staff Sgt. Joseph Bryan had planned to make the U.S. Army his career until he injured his back and neck in a truck accident in Iraq.
Mr. Bryan, 35, was forced to retire on medical disability after 14 years of active duty.
"But I didn't want to sit at home and collect checks," the Smithton native said.
He is now a second-semester sophomore at California University of Pennsylvania, where he is president of the Veterans Club. He is majoring in business administration with minors in leadership studies and history, and he serves as finance officer for California American Legion Post 377.
About 250 students who have served in the military are on the campus of the Washington County school.
"About 70 percent are combat veterans, and they understand what that experience is like," Mr. Bryan said.
He praised the help he has gotten from California University administrators and faculty.
"Sometimes I have to miss a class to go to the VA hospital for treatment or rehabilitation, but that hasn't been an issue," he said.
Mr. Bryan is a 1996 graduate of Yough High School who joined the Army in 1998.
"I was a career soldier who could no longer carry a rifle," he said. So he looked to get additional education to prepare for an alternative career.
"Although I can't do everything physical, I still can work in an office," he said.
The Bryan family has three college students now. His son, Dylan, is a freshman at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. His wife, Danielle, who worked as a phlebotomist before returning to school, is studying biology at Cal U.
"We even have a psychology class together," he said.
The couple also has two daughters, ages 12 and 10.
The Cal U Veterans Club has invited representatives from local military-related service organizations to its 39th annual Veterans Day lunch, where Lt. Col. Mark Rayburg, commander of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard 1-110th Infantry Regiment, will be the main speaker. The event begins at 11 a.m. today in the Performance Center of the Natali Student Union on campus.
Len Barcousky: email@example.com or 412-263-1159.