- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — By this fall, Pfc. Will Amos, a Marine from Annapolis stationed at Camp Fallujah in Iraq, will have traded his rifle for a pen and sand-strewn streets for tree-lined sidewalks.

Pfc. Amos, 22, on his third tour of duty since joining the Marine Corps in 2003, plans to enter the University of Maryland with a major in business marketing, said his mother, Susan, who added that she will sleep easier at night knowing that her son is a college student.

“I’m sure it is going to be a big change for him, but he is really looking forward to the next transition,” she said. “Of course, it’s much easier to have him here. Life is always nicer when he is in this country.”

That transition for Pfc. Amos will be aided by a state scholarship program, championed in the 2006 General Assembly session by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Delegate Anthony G. Brown, the Prince George’s Democrat who became lieutenant governor this year. Under the program, which started last June, scholarships are available for veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, their spouses and their children.

Eligible applicants, who can have the money for five years of full-time study or eight years of part-time study, must be accepted at a four-year Maryland college or a two-year program and maintain at least a 2.5 grade-point average.

This year, $500,000 was distributed to 96 persons — 60 veterans and 36 spouses and children. Awards cover 50 percent of tuition and fees at an applicant’s chosen institution. The average scholarship this year is worth $5,360.

Pfc. Amos, one of nine Anne Arundel County residents to receive a scholarship this year, became a Marine primarily for the educational benefits, he said. The scholarship money will let him go to school full time without holding a full-time job as well, his mother said.

“This scholarship will pretty much help pay the bill,” Mrs. Amos said. “He will be able to stay focused on school.”

The home front has not felt the full effect of the current wars abroad like it did during the world wars, Mr. Busch said.

“I thought [the scholarship program] was a way for the Maryland citizens we represent to be engaged in the sacrifice these people make,” he said. “[The war] really hasn’t changed our lives significantly. We see it on TV from a distance.”

As troops serve increasingly longer tours of duty, the government has an obligation to create opportunities for them when they return, the Anne Arundel Democrat said.

“We’re going to step in and fill this void for you,” Mr. Busch said. “I think we should do more as we move forward.”

Nancy Luna, 24, an Annapolis resident and Navy veteran, said the scholarship will be a great help when she attends the University of Maryland at Baltimore County in the fall.

“Once you get out, the [Department of Veterans Affairs] gives you a little bit of money, but it is not a lot going into a university full time,” she said. Miss Luna, who joined the Navy after graduating from Broadneck High School and served as a hospital corpsman, plans to major in health administration and public policy.

When the Iraq war started in 2003, Miss Luna was deployed to the Persian Gulf on the USNS Comfort, and she also served in Guam and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. Her military experiences will translate well into her studies, she said.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “It definitely prepared me for the civilian sector.”

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