July 7, 2010

Bryana Wilson may someday join the military, but first she is working toward her degree at the University of Wyoming through the Post-9/11 GI Bill program that allows her to use husband Andrew's benefits.

Since last August -- for the first time -- service members enrolled in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program are able to transfer unused educational benefits to their spouses or children. Any member of the Armed Forces -- active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted -- is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. They then can transfer unused benefits to family members to further their education. The program provides financial support for education and housing.

"This has been a wonderful opportunity for service members to transfer their unused education benefits to family members," says Denise Jairell, UW Student Financial Aid assistant director.

Since its inception last year, many dependents and spouses have enrolled in the program at UW, Jairell says. Nearly 300 students are using veteran's benefits to attend UW, and of those, 82 are enrolled in the new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program, she adds.

Both currently enlisted or retired military personnel can transfer the benefits to a spouse, one or more of the individual's children or any combination of spouse and child. A family member must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System and be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer to receive educational benefits.

To learn more about how to transfer unused benefits and how to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, visit the United State Department of Veterans Affairs Web site at

Wilson, who graduated from Rocky Mountain High School in Byron, is pursuing a secondary education/English degree and is on track to graduate in 2012. She has an associate's degree from Northwest College in Powell.

"The program has been great," Wilson says. "I want to get my degree, and because my husband has completed two tours of duty, I am seriously considering joining the military as well."

Two other currently enrolled UW students are also the benefactors of the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.

John McKnight, whose father is a 24-year member of the U.S. Air Force, traveled all over the world growing up and graduated from a Brussels, Belgium, high school. His father now serves in Africa. McKnight chose UW because of the smaller campus and classrooms.

"Living overseas, I always attended very small schools, and while I was choosing colleges, I wanted a smaller feel for my campus," he says. He also had a Wyoming connection. His high school wrestling coach in Brussels (Joe Fiedler) and librarian (Carol-Anne Whipple) both previously lived in the Cowboy State. Whipple decorated her room with Brown and Gold paraphernalia. Whipple wrote a letter of recommendation on McKnight's behalf when applying to UW.

With his father's unused benefits, McKnight is pursuing his criminal justice degree, with a pre-law concentration. The funds have made it easy for McKnight to transition into his college career.

"Because my parents live so far away, having the government pick up the tab has relieved a tremendous amount of stress. Knowing that I will be taken care of every month is reassuring to them," McKnight says.

Also being a child of a career military man, Mark Leppert has lived in many communities, but currently calls Manassas, Va., home. He followed his older brother, Brad, to UW. Mark is studying architectural engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

"I liked the way my brother talked about the school and town," Leppert says. "I had visited enough times and by the time I started college, I knew that this was the place I wanted to be."

Jairell helped him with the necessary Post-9/11 GI Bill program paperwork. Leppert says he hopes more military families take advantage of the educational opportunities the program offers.

"Along with the GI Bill and scholarships, I am hoping to come out of college relatively debt free," Leppert says. "I would absolutely recommend to any service member that they utilize the financial aid for themselves, a spouse or their children. It really is a great way to help out those who serve our country."

For more information about the program, contact Jairell at (307) 766-3016 or e-mail

Find us on Instagram (Link opens a new window)Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window)Find us on Twitter (Link opens a new window)Find us on LinkedIn (Link opens a new window)Find us on YouTube (Link opens a new window)