“When you were a civilian, you had to learn how to be (in the military). You were trained. Now it’s exactly the opposite. Now you have to be trained to be a civilian.”
As director of veterans education and transition support at Lake Erie College in Ohio, Bob Mastronicola spends his days helping young veterans navigate college and, eventually, graduation. As 9th District commander for The American Legion’s Department of Ohio, he works hard to see that the Legion actively supports this same group.
Thus, starting an American Legion post at Lake Erie College made sense to the Army retiree.
“These are family members our veterans here can go to when they graduate and move out,” says Mastronicola of the Legion’s reach and influence. “The positive is that we’re seeing more interaction between our campus veterans and the veterans on the outside. For example, we’re our own community (on campus) ... but in going to district conferences and county conferences and state conferences, we’re now getting veterans here associating with veterans from other posts. It’s expanding their networking capabilities to land and get careers when they finish up here at the school.”
Mastronicola says he’s quite familiar with the difficulties of moving from a structured military lifestyle to the more laid-back atmosphere of college life. “A lot of the issues with these veterans, I can relate,” he says. “I think that helps veterans out. They can see it’s a survivable task: going to college and graduating.”
BRANCH OF SERVICE: U.S. Army (1983-2007)
RANK AT DISCHARGE: Sergeant first class
MOS: Military police/recruiter
AMERICAN LEGION POST Brakeman-King Post 336, Painesville, Ohio
VETERANS ACTIVITIES Post commander, district commander