Years after dropping out of college due to the expense, Kelci found herself caught in a daily struggle to be the wife and mother she wanted to be.

“My ultimate goal in life is to raise a happy family…But I was working 10+ hours a day at a child care facility caring for two-year olds—by myself. I was stressed and exhausted all the time, which resulted in feelings of guilt about not being the best wife and mother that I could be,” says Kelci.

Kelci had met her husband, Josh, online years earlier.

“While in college, my roommate signed up for a really cheesy dating website and would come home from work every evening and read me some of the hilarious, creepy, and sometimes sweet things the guys of the dating world would send her, ” she recounts.

“Of course, I had to try it for myself! I signed up, and we would read our messages to each other at the end of the day. However, one message stood out to me. I don’t know why, but it actually seemed sincere…and I can’t lie, the fact that he was so selflessly serving our country was a big deal.”

Kelci and Josh corresponded, met, dated, and eventually got married and had a daughter. In the midst of starting their family, Josh was deployed to Afghanistan.

“Josh deployed in May of 2013 to Afghanistan, and I moved from Fort Campbell back to my hometown to have emotional support from my family and friends. (I would not have stayed sane without them!)”

“It was the scariest, most stressful, and anxiety-filled nine months of our lives, but it really solidified our love and made us stronger by the end.”

Following the end of Josh’s Army contract, the couple moved from Indiana to South Carolina. The plan was for Josh to work for his father to support the family while also using GI Bill funds to return to school.

But plans are fragile, and circumstances changed, preventing Josh and Kelci from transitioning back to civilian life as smoothly as they hoped.

“We were left with the new challenge of deciding where we wanted our lives to go and what we would do for financial support. Josh had a few months where he felt like he had no direction and couldn’t see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.”

Thankfully, Josh was able to gain his footing and his real estate license, allowing Kelci to explore the possibility of returning to school.

Paying for school, however, presented a challenge.

As the couple were budgeting out options and considering student loans, Upstate Warrior Solution Executive Director, Charlie Hall, who happened to be a friend of Josh’s family, informed the couple that Veteran Scholarships Forever funds could be used toward certificate programs—and that York Technical College had a VSF fund!

“We were ecstatic, as I have been wanting to return to school since I first dropped out.”

“I went into the Continuing Education office at York Tech and looked through their list of choices, until I found one that sounded interesting. Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what all the Medical Secretary role entailed, but I’m loving it now.”

Kelci is still working on obtaining her certification, but she feels optimistic about the road ahead.

“I know that after earning my certification, I will be able to help provide for our family better than ever before! This change couldn’t have come at a better time, and I am so excited for the future.”

Education and employment ease financial stress, which in turn contributes to healthy marriages and parents.

This is especially important for veterans, as the stress of transitioning away from the structure and intensity of military life has a huge impact on home life.

“Being a military wife taught me a lot of great life lessons, but learning those lessons was tough. I learned that there is a lot of drama surrounding the military spouse community and decided to keep to myself rather than be tossed into the mix. I was often alone and didn’t have anyone to talk to who could really understand my loneliness.”

“I do not take anything for granted anymore. I have been without my husband for almost a year, and I know that I never want to be without him again. We also lived on very little salary while he was enlisted, so I know that we can make ends meet when we are hard-pressed.”

For Kelci, the greatest benefit of getting a college degree has been its effect on her state of mind and home life.

“Having a happy mommy and wife makes my family happy! I’m able to spend more time with my daughter and husband, and I am much less stressed. It feels wonderful.”