Veterans Day Student Spotlight – Meet Gary Heafy
Tell me a little bit about yourself Gary.
I’m a 20-year veteran. I retired from the Air Force on July 1st of 2013. After that time I had a hard time adjusting back home. I’ve been to the desert six times and I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and depression. So I was having a hard time adjusting.
I was going to [a college] and found that it was easier for me to stay in my apartment and stay closed off.
What made you choose to transfer to Carrington?
I heard about Carrington College and I wanted to see what they had to offer. It blew my mind away because it was hands-on training and two or three years of school packed into less than a year. I checked with my VA and the school did fall under approval for the GI Bill®. I took a walk around the school with a representative that was unbelievably professional and wonderful. She still checks back with me to see how I’m doing. Since I started attending Carrington I’ve been there every single day. They’re a family there. I feel so connected with the school. My PTSD levels have gone down and I’m doing pretty good.
[GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.]
What sparked your interest in medical assisting?
It felt like it was the right direction for me. My father was a nurse, a sheriff, and a detective for the state of Washington during his career. My sister is also a nurse. I’ve always been able to deal with blood, keep things sterile, help people out and bandage things up. To me you’re giving help as opposed to what I did before. I was an ammunitions systems specialist.
Did you have hesitations about going back to school after the military?
I did a little bit but once I started attending Carrington, all those hesitations turned into excitement.
Are there any staff at Carrington who have made a big difference during your time there?
Absolutely. My first instructor was just awesome. He had a great sense of humor, but at the same time was very professional. He was very open and very approachable, he was laid back, but fair. My next teacher was very caring and really feels concerned for her students. The people and the instructors, they treat you as family. You’re not just a number walking around.
What have you learned in your program that’s made a difference to you?
I thought I’d be able to help out my mom and my dad. My dad’s health has been deteriorating. It’s nice that I can use the education that I’ve got to help them look over their medication or answer any questions. I can take my mom and my dad’s blood pressure. It makes me feel more aware of what’s going on in my life and my family’s life.
What advice would you give to former members of the military interested in returning to school?
Pick the program that most excited you. I would tell military members that one of the things they will appreciate is the hands-on training. We’re used to that in the military because that’s how we get certified, trained and signed off for so many things. It’s the same way with Carrington; you have to meet certain requirements. You have to do certain labs so they can see that you can do it. So it’s almost the same environment, the difference being that it’s a little less drill sergeantish.
In the past, I would go down to the cemetery and rake up the leaves and clean up the plots. Give my respects to the fallen men and women who have made that sacrifice for us.
Read our other Veterans Day spotlights here.