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Many people see college as the next step after graduating from high school. For about 400 student veterans or veteran affiliates, that path was not directly to Las Positas College. Some took a road less traveled by literally traveling elsewhere. Some left home by flying in an airplane for the first time, while others found home to be a foreign land. The common thread is each volunteered to put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces.

By the numbers, choosing to enlist is on the decline. The U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of recruitment unseen since the early 1970s when America was embroiled in the Vietnam War.

“This is the start of a long drought for military recruiting,” said Ret. Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank, during the summer of 2022, in an article by Dennis Laich and Lawrence Wilkerson of

One student who stepped up for military service after high school is Trevor Penero. He took the more difficult route to college rather than the straightforward path. This is one man’s journey from civilian to The U.S. Army. Completing a college degree before returning to the Army for a second time. To finally land back at LPC utilizing all he’s learned as well as with help from the Veterans Center helping veterans adjust to college life and insure they get the best experience at LPC. 

Today, Penero works in the LPC Veterans Resource Center as a Veterans Specialist. Penero is a veteran in more than one respect. He served in the U.S. Army after high school before his honorable discharge in 1999. He’s also a veteran of Las Positas, having earned his associate degree in liberal arts. Penero went on to complete his studies at Sacramento State University, earning a criminal justice degree.

Penero took the discipline and skills learned from the Army and applied it to his daily routine, earning honors recognition at both LPC and Sacramento State.

Yet, he continued to hear a calling to serve. He answered that by returning to Las Positas to help veterans. 

When he returned, Penero said he didn’t have many friends.  There was no Vet Center or other ways for veterans to connect. He said this is a feeling returning veterans often express. There is a fraternal sense of brotherhood and sisterhood in the service that is lost when they take off their uniforms for the last time. 

Instead, he and other veterans return to a home that is both familiar but changed. Service members often think home will be the same as when they left, only to realize changes big and small happened while they served a world away. Not all changes are visible, physical or apparent, either.

A lot of those changes they experience in themselves are also relatively rapid. Newly-enlisted personnel are asked to mature from a high school senior to a trained warrior and ultimately a battle-weary veteran in a few short years. When the United States is engaged in active conflicts, that process may be measured only in months. 

Service members leaving the military for college may find themselves sitting beside students just a few years apart in age. However, the difference in life experiences, awareness and stressors of deployment may separate the two groups by decades of personal and emotional growth.  

“This the second time a school certifying official was to help in that — be that aid in the transition of veterans coming out, not just helping them get benefits, but help them transition into civilian life, academic career,” Penero  said of his return to LPC

The military prepares soldiers for war. At the same time, Uncle Sam may not prepare them for the challenges they will face when returning home. Consider this: The military has a manual for almost any situation, from convoy operations to what to do if a chemical attack happens. There are even instructions on how to change printer ink. With all those joining and retiring, there is still no manual for life after the military and the interactions of daily life. 

Many veterans struggle and give up, feeling as if they just don’t fit in anymore to the world they left. Those who are more successful at making the transition do so with the help of fellow veterans. “According to a survey, 37% of part-time and 16% of full-time veteran students dropped out within nine months of enrollment in higher education. Researchers found that nearly 10% of post-9/11 veterans left school to pursue other activities and 5% left due to academic problems” The college Veterans Resource Center is where veterans can find transitional support. It’s staffed by been-there, done-that people like Penero. Today, he is able to help ease veterans into college and private life, mirroring the help he needed when he was newly separated from the Army. 

LPC Veterans Program Supervisor Evelyn Andrews, her staff, and professors such as Jim Ott, Jim Dobson, and Amy Moellering have made the VRC a welcome place for veterans and dependents to come relax, study, and get the help they may need navigating assignments and college expectations. Penero and the other Veterans First Program staff endeavor to ensure the VRC is a safe place for veterans to get away and connect with other veterans who understand the common language of the military. 

“The Las Positas Veterans First program has brought me a sense of family and that sense of belonging again,” Jovan Pierre said. Pierre is another veteran-turned-student at his post in the VRC. 

“I wish they had something like this when I came to Las Positas the first time,” Penero said. 

For visitors to see Penero or the other VRC staff, the first greeting may come from Luke, Penero’s service dog. Luke is a minor celebrity in his own right at LPC. After the obligatory scratch behind the ear, Penero gets back to business of helping the next veteran stopping into the VRC. 

The Veterans Resource Center is available in Building 1310 as a resource for veterans, open weekdays at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2 p.m. Fridays and open  until 7 p.m. Tuesdays.

Tim Brady is a writer for The Express. Follow him @TBradyLPC on X.

Penero speaks with Livermore mayor John Marchand at LPC Veterans quilt presentation. Justin Gomes/The Express
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