By Master Chief Tim Zernick, DANTES Special Enlisted Advisor
Last year was a remarkable year for Service members participating in voluntary education. I would like to send out my personal congratulations to the 25,800 active duty Service members that earned associate degrees, the 10,484 Service members that earned bachelor's degrees, as well as the 2,666 that earned master's degrees.
I commend each of you on achieving such tremendous success while dedicating yourself to the service of your country. You are a shining example of commitment, honor and pride to all Americans.
I also would like to thank the voluntary education professionals behind this success. These dedicated professionals provide an invaluable service to the armed forces. I am extremely impressed with the voluntary education community and its dedication to helping military members achieve their educational goals. Counseling non-traditional students working to earn college degrees is a monumental task.
I can't forget to thank the colleges and universities that go out of their way to provide specialized services, programs and support to military students. They recognize the positive impact they have on the nation's finest - and in doing so, they play an integral role in advancing our mission readiness.
We have seen a lot of changes in the voluntary education system over the last 20 years, but one thing that remains the same is the extent Service members will go to achieve lofty goals.
Additionally, we have voluntary education professionals and university staffers that dedicate themselves to help turn these dreams into reality. Active duty Service members have earned more than half a million college degrees in the last two decades.
More than 188,000 of those degrees have been earned since the beginning of the Afghan/Iraq wars. It is tough to fathom the impact this has had on our country as a whole, but the impact on individuals, families, communities and the military is more than significant.
Voluntary education participation continues to grow. As it grows, so do the number of success stories. Service members continue to succeed under huge mission, family and financial demands.
As we move forward, let us take time to look back at these tremendous accomplishments by recognizing each person that sacrifices much, but still finds a way to succeed in a key aspect of their life.
Let us go into this new year fully committed to continued success and pride in what we accomplish. A lot of effort goes toward each degree. It is inspiring to reflect on that accomplishment - multiplied by the 38,950 successes of last year.