Veterans
BattleMarks

There are over 22 Million Veterans in America today

Returning Home
BattleMarks

More than One Million Veterans Returning Home

Education
BattleMarks

For Many, Education is an Opportunity to Integrate Into Civilian Life

Expression
BattleMarks

For Some, Tattoos Provided a Way to Express Themselves

“For the duration of their service…they have always had a team leader…they always had someone there to make sure they didn’t fail. And when you transition into a civilian community, there is no team leader.”

- Colonel Jim Isenhower, Ph.D. U.S. Army, Director of the Office of Warrior and Family Support, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Our Stories

GateWay Community College students share their stories of service.

Javier Lopez
U.S. Army
Two tours in Afghanistan

Javier Lopez’s tattoo is simple, it provides a stark reminder of what he has endured serving our country.

Valerie Beuschlein
Spouse of a Veteran

Valerie Beuschlein’s tattoo is rife with symbolism: her husband’s dog tags from his military service; a yellow ribbon in support of the American troops; olive branches to represent peace for all veterans waging personal battles and a lily flower to represent her wedding.

Ruben Almanza
U.S. Army Veteran
Two tours in Afghanistan

Ruben Almanza firmly believes that freedom comes with a price, and reminds himself of this belief daily with his tattoo of Lady Liberty holding an M-16 assault rifle equipped with an M203 grenade launcher.

Todd Gilbert
U.S Navy Veteran
Deployed to Afghanistan

Todd Gilbert’s tattoo may be unfinished, but that may hold more meaning for him than any finished tattoo ever could.

One thing that the military showed me that I didn’t show myself, and no one showed me, is that, it showed me to believe in myself, that I was actually strong and capable of big things.

JAVIER LOPEZ

Those who wish for war have never truly seen war.

JAVIER LOPEZ

Every decision leads to different, other decisions and another forked road, and it’s okay.

JAVIER LOPEZ

I believe that the people that are heroes are the ones who stand up for people in general, not for a race and not for an ethnicity, for a person that’s willing to put everything on the line for whatever their cause is to help the betterment of humanity in general.

JAVIER LOPEZ

Javier Lopez
U.S. Army
Two tours in Afghanistan


“NO MRI” – while Javier Lopez’s tattoo is simple, it provides a stark reminder of what he has endured serving our country.

While on tour with the military in Afghanistan, he was injured by a Russian armor-piercing 7.62 steel bullet that required the removal of his right lung. However, the bullet stayed inside of him and was lodged between his ribs.

The presence of the steel bullet meant that he was at risk for complications if he ever entered an MRI machine, so he got a tattoo of his dog tag right over the spot where the bullet is lodged, with the words “NO MRI” included in hopes that if he ever sustained another injury, hospital workers would discover the tattoo and refrain from giving him an MRI.

Born in Mexico, Lopez’s family settled in Arizona when he was a child. After dropping out of high school his sophomore year, he struggled with gang activity and drug addiction before seeking treatment with the help of his family, which led to his eventual departure for the military.

Lopez was deployed to Afghanistan twice, and was injured during his first deployment. Though his injury was severe, he recovered and was able to finish his tour.

Because he enjoys helping people improve themselves through health and fitness, he is pursuing a degree in physical therapy and works as physical trainer and fitness nutritionist.

In the military Lopez began to better understand himself and that the path he had chosen before was not the one he wanted to continue.

“It showed me to believe in myself, that I was actually strong and capable of big things,” Lopez said. “Every decision leads to different, other decisions and another forked road, and it’s okay.”

35.8%

Veterans with post high school training

4.5%

Hispanic Veterans

8,000

Noncitizens enlist annually

1,149

AZ wounded soldiers in Global War on Terror effort

PTSD has been around for a long time, but in my life it hadn’t been. It hadn’t been something I ever dealt with.

VALERIE BEUSCHLEIN

If I can be that person to start that advocacy [for PTSD], then it’s all worth it. Everything that I did was worth it.

VALERIE BEUSCHLEIN

What that means to me is, that if there’s ever a veteran that cannot go on for whatever reason, I will wear that flag. I will pick it up and fight the battle for them.

VALERIE BEUSCHLEIN

We are going to fix this system. This pain medication and constant supply in the mail needs to stop, and we need to find the more appropriate response to taking care of pain, and for me, that is physical therapy, that is what my education is in.

VALERIE BEUSCHLEIN

Valerie Beuschlein
Spouse of a Veteran


Valerie Beuschlein’s tattoo is rife with symbolism: her husband’s dog tags from his military service; a yellow ribbon in support of the American troops; olive branches to represent peace for all veterans waging personal battles and a lily flower to represent her wedding.

Beuschlein’s husband was a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008 when his Humvee hit an improvised explosive device. Though everyone on board the Humvee survived, Beuschlein’s husband was left with a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Spending time at home as a stay-at-home mother made Beuschlein more aware of her husband’s symptoms, which were a starting point for her campaign to advocate for PTSD awareness and veteran support.

As part of a college assignment for her English 101 class, Beuschlein conducted extensive personal research into the challenges facing veterans. She discovered that back in 2011, 18 veterans were committing suicide each day … that number is now up to 22.

In honor of the 22 veterans who take their lives every day, she began a personal campaign to raise awareness in which she ran at least a mile a day each day for 22 days straight while using social media to promote the importance of intervention.

She is pursuing a degree in physical therapy assisting because she believes that it can be a better alternative to the many prescription drugs veterans often take. She plans to use these skills to help other veterans reduce their dependency on prescription drugs.

2.5

Million Veterans returning home

535,470

Veterans living in Arizona

22

Veterans with PTSD commit suicide every day

11%

Of Afghanistan War Veterans suffer from PTSD

Now being in the military, I guess, I just grew up. I learned discipline.

RUBEN ALMANZA

It’s freedom, but freedom is not free, it’s a cost and some people pay the ultimate sacrifice.

RUBEN ALMANZA

I love school now, and education’s really important these days.

RUBEN ALMANZA

My tattoos tell a story, I love them, I can't stop getting them.

RUBEN ALMANZA

Ruben Almanza
U.S. Army Veteran
Two tours in Afghanistan


Ruben Almanza firmly believes that freedom comes with a price, and reminds himself of this belief daily with his tattoo of Lady Liberty holding an M-16 assault rifle equipped with an M203 grenade launcher.

“It’s freedom, but freedom is not free, there’s a cost, and some people in general pay the ultimate sacrifice,” Almanza said.

He also has “death before dishonor” tattooed across his chest because it was a motto he heard frequently during his time in the military and firmly believed in.

Almanza joined the military in hopes of achieving some discipline, something he believed he lacked when he was younger. He was deployed to Afghanistan twice and toured in Korea.

“I didn’t have a father growing up so I didn’t really know what discipline was. My discipline was my older brother,” who according to Almanza was running the streets and making poor choices.

He was inspired to study X-ray technology after hurting his ankle during a tour in Afghanistan. He is also studying to be an ultrasound technician.

“I love school now, and education’s really important these days,” Almanza shared.

725,877

Active military member spouses

44.2%

Active duty members with dependent children at home

662

Military bases in foreign countries

The military really gave me a sense of ownership of my destiny. It really gave me a sense that I could do whatever I wanted to and it was really only limited by my natural abilities and how much time and effort I was going to put into it.

TODD GILBERT

I found an old briefcase, it was my dad’s briefcase. Inside was like a capsule from the 90’s with all these little paper spaceships and drawings of colonies on Mars. At that moment I realized ‘when did I tell myself I wasn't good enough to pursue what I wanted to do when I was a kid.

TODD GILBERT

The military really gave me a sense of ownership of my destiny...It really gave me a sense that I could do whatever I wanted to and it was really only limited by my natural abilities and how much time and effort I was going to put into it.

TODD GILBERT

Todd Gilbert
U.S. Navy Veteran
Deployed to Afghanistan


Todd Gilbert’s tattoo may be unfinished, but that may hold more meaning for him than any finished tattoo ever could. For him, his unfinished tattoo signified the moment he discovered he would be a father and illustrated an immediate shift in priorities.

In fact, Gilbert might not even have the tattoo finished as a more poignant reminder of the birth of his son.

Gilbert was a member of the United States Navy and was deployed to Japan for four years and Afghanistan for one year. He was able to travel throughout Asia and learned much about the Asian cultures, including how to speak Japanese.

Though his original plan was to maintain a blue-collar job to support his spouse’s career aspirations, he decided to return to school and pursue his passion after finding his father’s old briefcase.

Inside the briefcase he found paper spaceships and drawings he had made as child of colonies on Mars, and decided that he would pursue his childhood dream. “It was that moment right there that I was like, ‘When did I tell myself I wasn’t good enough to pursue what I wanted to do when I was a kid? Why am I a security guard and not an astronaut?’” Gilbert said.

With that, he immediately enrolled in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration with a major in geology, a minor in sustainability, and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems, or map-making technology that modern cartographers use. He is completing his math courses at GateWay Community College where he thrives on the educational environment the college provides.

Gilbert said that he wishes everyone could experience a “briefcase moment,” as he calls it, because “it feels really, really good to absolutely know what you want to do with your life.”

His “briefcase moment” and his experiences with the military have shaped the path he takes today.

31.9%

Male Veterans with some college credit

43.4%

Female Veterans with some college credit

49,993

Homeless Veterans in America

5.3%

Unemployment rate for Veterans

  • GateWay Community College Veterans Services
  • Free tutoring for Veterans
  • MCCCD Veterans Services
  • GI Bill Comparison Tool
  • Veterans Crisis Line
  • National Center for PTSD
  • Arizona Coalition for Military Families
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