Veteran Graduate Thankful for Battle Buddy, GI Bill and USF

Army Specialist Cheyenne Forsythe served on a Combat Stress Control Team in Iraq, 2003.

By Cheyenne Forsythe

Graduate of the University of South Florida: Green to Gold

Long after we come back from our deployments and our service to our country is officially over, we continue to serve our nation in ways you may not always see or hear about. Behind this anonymity, we take pride in continuing to serve the country and its citizens, which have given us so much.

We may not always show it, but we appreciate the New GI Bill, the opportunities for employment, housing for the disabled, and the “atta-boys” from our fellow countrymen.

Over the last several years, I’ve taken the opportunity granted by my service to use up all of the GI Bill that I was promised and some assistance Vocational Rehabilitation had granted me to complete the undergraduate portion of my education. On August 4th, 2012, after what seems like a lifetime of hard work and study, I’ll finally walk across the stage at my bachelor’s degree, commencement ceremony. Not only that, I’ll finally get to see the look on my mother’s face that I’ve been looking forward to.

Cheyenne and Joy share a quiet moment on a Pinellas County beach.

My son will also be there to see the example every father should have the opportunity to provide for their child. There were many people along the way that helped me keep my eyes focused on the prize and provided the right example for me. From my wife, Joy to my social worker, Ann, there have been many along the way who have been by my side from the very beginning of this journey at USF. I’ve been extremely lucky to find a great group of friends and professionals who were there, throughout my progress towards completing this degree. The staff at the university is a very special group of people. Any soldier looking for a university should put the University of South Florida at the top of the list.

I got the idea to attend the University of South Florida from a battle buddy I’d met, in 2003, while serving in Iraq. I met Andrew Pogany on a Tikrit palace compound in early October of that year. Andrew is an alumnus of the university. Many of you are familiar with Andrew’s story. He was the first soldier to be charged with cowardice since the Vietnam War. I came to my battle buddy’s defense when I wrote a letter to the editor after seeing his face on the cover of the Army Times with the word “Coward,” written beneath it.

Andrew was no coward and I promised him that I would stick by him while he worked on clearing his good name. Eventually, all of the charges were dropped. You see, in the Army, cowardice is deadly. It was once punished by trial and a firing squad.

Cheyenne represented veterans with “invisible wounds” during the 2010 Florida Ride 2 Recovery from Tampa’s MacDill AFB to Jacksonville.

From our initial meeting, through all of the legal proceedings, I followed his story and became a vocal advocate for soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, Andrew, who was once an Army interrogator, has now also become a full time advocate for soldiers suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Over the years, we communicated via phone, text, and Facebook and together, we participated in a Ride 2 Recovery event from MacDill Air Force Base to Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

See, I’d taken to isolating myself and the program helps disabled vets get motivated and out into society, once again, with a big accomplishment under their belt. You can visit the R2R website or on Facebook.

Throughout all the tests and all the late nights or whenever I had to buckle down and handle what I thought was a difficult situation, all I had to think was, “If Andrew can go through what he went through and make it out on top, then so can I.”

Well, Andrew, the circle is now complete. Your example has served to inspire me to this end. I hope I can do the same for any veteran reading this, getting off active duty, and heading back into the classroom.

Despite whatever you think might be standing in your way, whether physical or mental, you can dream big and make it happen. There are incredible people, all around you, waiting to support you. All you have to do is take the first step.

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