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Release Date: 
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Student Veterans Association helped Marine veteran succeed at HFC

Photo of Justus Colangelo in the USMC
HFC student Justus Colangelo, who served in the Marines from 2012-16, is the president of HFC's Student Veterans Association. He credits the SVA for his reintegration into academics.

While in high school, Justus Colangelo, currently the president of HFC’s Student Veterans Association, was determined to serve his country, one way or another.

After graduating from Woodhaven High School in 2012, Colangelo enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Originally, he planned to join the Army but a friend convinced him to join the Marines because "they’re more effective,” according to Colangelo.

“Ironically, that same friend joined the Army,” Colangelo, of Flat Rock, said with a laugh.

Semper Fi

From 2012-16, Colangelo served in the USMC. His primary military occupational specialty was a 2311 ammunition technician, commonly called an “ammo tech.” He worked in every facet of the ammunition field, including receiving, storing, issuing, and handling ammunition and toxic chemicals.

For two years, Colangelo was stationed at Camp Schwab, often called Man Camp, in Okinawa, Japan. Camp Schwab is home to the 4th Marine Regiment and conducts live-fire training and coordination with other units.

“We lived in a fishbowl there, so you really got to know your fellow Marines. I knew about 200 ammo techs,” he said. “We explored the island a lot. I found the people there to be genuinely good people who welcomed us. Being stationed in Japan was one of the high points of my life.”

Attending HFC on the G.I. Bill

Upon being honorably discharged from the USMC at the rank of corporal, Colangelo came to HFC in 2017, where he is currently majoring in Architecture/Construction Technology (ACT). He is attending HFC on the G.I. Bill.

“That’s a great program,” said Colangelo. “The G.I. Bill pays for my tuition. I also get a book stipend and a cost of living allowance. What I have to do is show up and perform.”

Colangelo expects to graduate in late 2020 and plans to transfer to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he’ll continue studying architecture.

“Many 20-year Marine vets recommended I go to a community college to test the waters when getting back into academics. High school was eight years ago, and it shows. HFC was a good stepping stone to get back into studying. I don’t think I could’ve handled going from the Marines to a 4-year college or university,” explained Colangelo.

Like most military veterans, Colangelo found transitioning back to civilian life difficult, particularly because he wasn't a traditional student. He found it hard to relate after years in the USMC and being stationed overseas.

The Student Veterans Association

That's when the SVA entered the picture.

The SVA is an association that provides military veterans attending HFC with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education.

“The SVA made the transition easier because of the like-minded people involved. Many students veterans are in the same boat,” said Colangelo. “The SVA’s been a godsend not only for me, but for many of my fellow veterans at HFC.”

Colangelo became the president of SVA in 2018. He wants to me make the SVA more visible on campus by the time he graduates from HFC. One of those goals is establishing an SVA Center on campus.

“The SVA is a great support network,” said Colangelo. “It opened up doors for me that I didn’t think were possible.”