Veterans Testimonials

Oscar Valdez

I joined the United States Marine Corps in 2004 one month after my 18th birthday as I felt the need to serve my country and wanted to do something that was bigger than myself. I served 5 years as a CH-53E helicopter mechanic/aircraft captain in which I served three deployments during my time in service, two in support of OIF and one OEF tour.  

Entering my desired program was rather simple as I had the grades and my military benefits (post 9/11 GI Bill) transferred over with no problems. I applied to my program one week before the fall semester started, was accepted, enrolled and in classes in less than a week. The process of applying for classes each semester is relatively hassle free as communication with the VA representative, and my vocational-rehabilitation counselor are well coordinated and allow for a well-structured plan to optimize my schedule and maximize my VA benefits. In addition, I am now using my vocational rehabilitation program to finish out my master degree which not only covers my tuition and my books, but also provides me with BAH. With the Academic Records Coordinator for Veterans Services on the side of the veterans, it is easier to get answers in regards to use of benefits or to solve any problems with the VA which I have not encountered any.

I love that my class sizes are small as I feel that they contribute to my ability to learn the material. A highlight of attending classes is when the professor leads the class in prayer or makes biblical references in regards to human behavior as I am a devout Christian and that was one of my deciding factors for attending this university. I find my classes challenging as they all should be and find that I am able to complete my assignments as my basic allowance for housing alleviates the stress of working full time allowing me to concentrate on my education and my passion, working with other veterans. 

As a veteran I do find myself drawn to other vets and that’s why I chose to be involved with the Student Veterans Association (SVA) at CBU. The other veterans involved in the SVA and I are working at increasing veteran based activities on campus to increase veteran awareness in the community and also walk side by side with our brothers and sisters who served. It’s no doubt that transitioning from military life to civilian life has been a culture shock, but I for one feel that my interaction with other vets has helped, and I plan to be a part in helping others transition as well. I have seen quite a bit of veteran involvement in the SVA, and as president of the Student Veterans Association I hope to see even more vet involvement in the SVA as the veteran population grows alongside with CBU. 

Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology (MFT with LPCC concentration)

Edward Figueroa

I first applied to California Baptist University when I was transitioning from Active Duty in the U.S. Air Force to civilian life. The application process was very easy, I was able to complete all necessary actions online, and via email. I was concerned about attending CBU at first, since it is a private institution, and at a higher cost to attend. But when I was researching and found that CBU participated in the Yellow Ribbon Program, that all ceased. I joined the military in hopes of attending college one day, and if I was unable to afford to go to a great institution like CBU, I would have failed to achieve one of my main goals. The staff at CBU made this very simple, they gave me all the necessary documents and helped me along the way. With the assistance of Academic Advising helping to guide me though my degree plan and my academic goals, I was able to graduate from CBU! 

This journey has not been easy, I had gone from a Staff Sargent in the U.S. Air Force, as a Security Forces member for over eight years, to a student. I was married, had established a family, and was usually 10 years older than my classmates. But, I was able to integrate effectively at CBU, meet other veterans, and use my life experiences to my advantage in my classes. My age and life experiences differences did not really hinder relationships I made in many classes, I was able to learn from them as well.  I also met an amazing teaching staff, some of whom are veterans also. These professors are very helpful, all you have to do is ask for help and they will! One of the many positives of attending CBU, is the small classroom sizes, because of this, you will get to know your professors very well, and in many cases they will know that you are having difficulties. I did not have many issues in my courses, and I also did not have to balance the Reserves or Guard, since I had completed my service obligation.

When I first attended CBU three years ago, there was were some small issues with veteran’s and benefits, but this has only improved. I have seen a constant improvement is veteran services and assistance at CBU. I look forward to what the new veterans will bring to CBU and to what other great additions can be made for the veterans and by the veterans. I am currently in CBU's 12 month MBA program. 

Anna Garduno

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Anna Garduno is not the typical CBU student. Before coming here, her path led to the Army National Guard and Iraq, but she said would not trade that time for anything.

Garduno was working two jobs and attending Purdue University when her younger brother signed up for the Army National Guard. After hearing it would pay for school and praying about it, Garduno joined the guard as well.

She spent 10 years in the guard, where she helped with security at big events such as the Indy 500 and provided assistance during flooding.

She also spent a year in Iraq. She faced challenges. She was promoted to sergeant and placed with another unit. She was away from family and friends. Her brother was in Afghanistan at the same time and during that one of his friends was killed. Meanwhile, her unit hauled fuel and supplies.

“When you’re a truck driver, you’re kind of a sitting duck just waiting to be attacked,” Garduno said. “There’s no guarantee that I get life tomorrow, and so today could be it, which is a very humbling place to be. It puts a dependence on the Lord and a view of truly living each day for itself in a way that I’d never lived before.”

One time, her unit hit a road-side bomb. People in other vehicles were injured, but she and her partner in the truck were spared. A piece of shrapnel started to come through the window. Garduno has that shrapnel at home. Through her experience, her faith became even deeper.

“I really had to lean on that scripture that says ‘for I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ It’s not just words,” she said. “It’s one of those things, like anything when you come out of a trial or difficulty, to truly be able to say, the Lord is good in all things and I will glorify his name.”

After being discharged, Garduno had to figure out what she wanted to do. Her bachelor’s was in fitness management, and athletic training interested her. When she read about CBU’s athletic training graduate program and that it is aimed at looking at the whole person and not just the injury, she was hooked. Garduno wants to work as an athletic trainer either at a high school, a college or with the military.

“If you have the opportunity to share the love of Christ or encourage them and lift them up in another way, that was how I wanted to serve in my job. CBU fit that completely,” Garduno said. “Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m here. … [The Lord] brought me to a place that I never would have dreamed or looked at for myself and he brought it to my attention.”

When she tells classmates or friends she was in the military, they have a hard time believing her at first and will ask her questions of how she did it. They are fun conversations, she said, talking about the challenges, the time of growth and how amazing the Lord was through it all.

Garduno feels like CBU acknowledges veterans more than other places, and she is thankful for that.

“To know that people care, it just really touched my heart as a veteran,” she said.

Travis Bolio

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Travis Bolio came from Maryland to attend California Baptist University on a swimming scholarship in 2007. At home he was a good swimmer, but when he came here, he realized he was not as good as he thought he was.

But he still wanted to go to CBU, so he looked for other options to pay for school.

Earlier that year, CBU had started the Army ROTC program. Bolio’s father, stepmother and grandfather had been in the military. Bolio decided he wanted to serve his country, plus it would help pay for school, so he signed up.

When he graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s in mathematics, he commissioned into the Army Reserve.

“In the reserves, you have to do everything that you would do on active duty, but you only have a little bit of time to do it,” he said.

He spent a year in Afghanistan in 2012, working on the strategic plan to enable stability and security in eastern Afghanistan. He also developed projects that helped to rebuild infrastructure, economics, agriculture and village stability.

He remains in the reserves as a first lieutenant. When he returned to the States, he found a job at US Bank, which has a program aimed at hiring veterans. He is an assistant vice president, a branch manager and helps run the military recruiting for Southern California.

Bolio wanted to move up in the company, so he decided to come back to CBU to earn his MBA. He appreciates it when his professors acknowledges his military experience.

“One of the challenges for a lot of veterans is kind of fitting in as far as life experiences. It’s hard to compare veterans’ life experiences to those of somebody else their age,” he said. He added that the professors accommodate his schedule in the reserves when there are conflicts. “I’ve never had a time where they weren’t able to say, ‘well, this is what we’ll do to work around that.’”

Along with the reserves, work and school, Bolio balancing the job of being a new dad.

Since returning to CBU, Bolio noticed there are more veterans as students.

“It’s a brotherhood that never goes away, whether you’ve been out for 30 years or whether you just got out.”

Bolio plans to continue developing his skills in the military and civilian sectors.

“I am very happy where I am right now, but I am very excited to see the doors that a CBU MBA can open up for me in the future,” he said. “I’m excited to see whatever the Lord has planned for my life.”