Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014

VCCS BlogYou’ve just spent eight years in the U.S. Army. So, what do you do now?

      A.   Take a few odd-jobs and blend into society

       B.   Leverage your military skills and experience and jump headlong into a professional career

       C.   Further your education

If you’re Calvin Linnette, you select option A.  But in retrospect, you wish you had chosen option C.

“Once I got out of the military in the fall of 2009, I found myself doing different internships, not being paid, wasting a lot of gas money and financial problems beginning to fester,” Linnette observed, adding he just felt that he could do a lot more with himself and with his resume.

“I felt like going to community college and getting my degree would help me in the workforce – especially with the federal government.”

While in the military, Linnette was deployed to such far-off and relatively tranquil destinations as Japan and Germany. But his 12-month tour of duty in southern Iraq was, in his own words, “pretty rough.”

“I was in the infantry and we did a lot of combat patrols, a lot of getting shot at – a lot of casualties. I lost about six friends.”

Linnette, who’s now 32 and a second-year student at Tidewater Community College (TCC), was wounded not once but twice.

“My first injury was in July of 2006. A small IED explosion – I had two cracked ribs. I thought I was going home but they sent me back to my unit after a brief stay in the hospital.”

A few months later, another large explosion killed two of his friends and left him in pretty bad shape.

“I had to learn how to walk again. I was stuck in a wheelchair.  So I’ve been through it all – seen it all.”

Calvin Linnette

Linnette eventually recovered and decided that once he received his discharge papers, he would give TCC a try. He enrolled full-time in the fall of 2012.

Since then, he’s met a lot of influential people, including TCC administrator Katina Barnes who wound up becoming his counselor.  “She was a motherly figure to me. She was real respectable and she always came at you with the most respect and always demanded respect because she wants the most out of her students.”

Given his military background, Linnette says a career in homeland security is a perfect fit for him. “I really pride myself in protecting the country.  I want to get with a group of people who write plans and procedures that keep things like 9/11 from happening.”

When I met Calvin, he and more than a dozen other students from TCC – Portsmouth campus (see featured group photo) – were touring the Capital Building in Richmond and preparing to meet with state lawmakers from the Tidewater area.  I asked him what he might say to his legislators if given the opportunity.

“I would just like to tell them thank you for everything you’re doing and for VCCS schools all over. And just keep the funding going so people like me can keep our dreams alive because we need stuff like that.  Without the funding, there wouldn’t be any VCCS or students like me around.”'

Craig Butterworth

A native of Richmond, Craig Butterworth is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications professional. He has worked as a spokesperson, staff writer and editor for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout the Richmond area.

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