A releasing Veteran goes back to school

"You need to reach out to Veterans Affairs and find out how they can help you. They want to help you."

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Cpl. Bambi Gray in uniform

Cpl. Bambi Gray (Retired) served her country for seven years as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. She served here at home and in Iraq. As much as she loves the military, however, there eventually came a point when she just knew that she needed to make a change.

"My advice to people in the military is to have several plans," she says. "My decision to leave the military was like my Plan H. You find that plans A, B, C, D, E, F and G have a way of not working out."

Freshly released as a supply technician from the Canadian Armed Forces earlier this year, Bambi is now a full-time student at the University of Ottawa, with support from Veterans Affairs Canada.

"I decided to get out," she says. "I weighed the pros and cons about maybe staying in the Reserves and stressing about working part time and going to school full time, and it just made sense that releasing and getting the Education and Training Benefit was the best thing for me."

My mental health is blooming compared to six months ago. I attribute a lot of it to this benefit, because finances are a major thing. The benefit has been amazing.

Veterans Affairs Canada’s Education and Training Benefit can help you achieve your education, career and personal development goals. You may be eligible to receive up to $80,000 in funding. Whether you are furthering your education, as Bambi is doing, or starting out on an entirely new path, this benefit is the perfect place to start.

"I want people in the military to know that they have options and that this program can give anyone an opportunity. It’s not just for someone who medically releases," she says. "My mental health is blooming compared to six months ago. I attribute a lot of it to this benefit, because finances are a major thing. The benefit has been amazing."

Bambi was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario—one of Canada’s proudest military cities. At a very early age, maybe four or five she thinks, one of her three brothers (she has three sisters, as well) started going to army cadets. Her dad then became actively involved, as did young Bambi, who unofficially completed many of the cadet requirements long before her 12th birthday, the official age of entry.

"When I was five or six, I had my own uniform," she said. "When I officially enrolled at the age of 12, I had to start all over again. But, I knew that when I started."

Bambi left the cadets when she was 18. She attended college and worked for a period of time as a behavioral therapist, but she said it just didn’t feel right. When she started to think about what she really loved, she immediately remembered all those years in the cadets.

"It was what made me happy," she says. "I really enjoyed the structure of it."

Bambi enlisted in the CAF in 2011. About a year later, she was posted at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa where she worked as a supply technician. Her duties ranged from operating large military vehicles to using a wide range of tech equipment, both of which required almost constant training. Her second deployment was Operation IMPACT in Iraq, from where she returned in December 2017.

A seven-year military career inevitably leads to some pretty bad bumps and bruises, at the very least, and Bambi is no exception. As a result, in addition to the Education and Training Benefit, Bambi has received other benefits and services from Veterans Affairs Canada, including treatment three times a week for a bad back.

I want people in the military to know that they have options and that this program can give anyone an opportunity. It’s not just for someone who medically releases

Bambi is still adjusting to university life. She says that the Education and Training benefit is giving her options she wouldn’t otherwise have. She encourages all members of the Canadian Armed Forces, especially those who are thinking about a making a change, to look into the benefit as a serious option.

"The process of filling out the application online was very simple to do and the people on the phone (at Veterans Affairs Canada) were very supportive."

Even though she only recently started pursuing her BA in Criminology, the military still isn’t far from Bambi’s mind. She says she hopes to one day rejoin the armed forces and use her education to help advance her military career.

"But, who knows?" she said. "The military is all I know. I don’t really know what else is out there for me in the private sector. Right now, school is my number one priority."

Date published: 2019-01-24


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