HAGER HILL – Bryan Prince’s road is one less traveled.
Prince, 30, of South Williamson, travels more than 100 miles round trip to class in the diesel technology program at Big Sandy Community and Technical College’s (BSCTC) Hager Hill campus. That’s nothing compared to the two tours of duty he spent in the U.S. Marine Corps. in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
After serving as a federal police officer for the U.S. Navy, Prince wanted to return home.
That’s when he became a statistic. Prince, who served in the Marines from 2007 to 2011, found himself struggling to find gainful employment.
“The jobs that were here were in the service industry,” said Prince. “I wanted to find something that was meaningful, that involved my hands and talent, and that had a result at the end of it.”
He found that at BSCTC.
Prince is in his second year and will graduate in May with an Associate in Applied Science degree in General Occupational/Technical Studies.
“I’m proud of [Bryan],” said Aaron Brooks, instructor of the diesel technology program at BSCTC. “I’m proud that our program and our college has a passion for our students, especially those who have served our country.”
Prince said the diesel technology program has helped him cope with the readjustment of life from tours overseas. He was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event like war.
“When I returned home, I felt misunderstood,” added Prince. “And, I admit, I was scared about what was built up inside of me.”
Attending BSCTC was somewhat therapeutic for Prince. Classes are small, courses are hands on and instructors forge a close relationship with students.
“It’s nice to work with a team towards something and see the results,” said Prince. “I like to be able to work and step back, if needed, and take a breath.”
Jimmy Wright, dean of student affairs, said that the college offers specialized services to veterans. BSCTC has specialized counselors who can help veterans navigate the process through the veterans administration and others organizations.
“Our veterans have protected the rights and freedoms that we often take for granted,” said Wright. “It is an honor and privilege to be able to help our veterans go back to school or learn a new skill or trade to allow them find gainful employment.”
Prince said graduation will be a special day.
“It’ll be the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one,” he said.