By Ethan Hamilton/reporter
Military veteran and NE student Robert Shaver takes classes in search of a degree to move up in the aviation field.
“Mainly why I’m wanting to do this is to set an example for my daughter, because she is 11 and I am trying to let her know it’s never too late to follow your dream,” Shaver said.
Before arriving at TCC, Shaver opted to join a long line of family members in serving the U.S. rather than following his passion for art and attending art school.
Shaver’s nine-year-long journey started in the military as an aviation communication equipment repairer. After graduating, he changed his military occupational specialty to special operation communication sergeant.
“I spent most of my time in the army. I have [been] deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Shaver said.
Shaver was declared 100% disabled by military doctors because of problems with his back and knee that he accumulated over time. He was forced to retire.
This was difficult for Shaver since he wanted to serve his country for the rest of his life. Now, he would have to find a new direction for his life to go.
“Only being 37 and having all these issues already, people ask me would I join the army again, and my response is I would in a heartbeat,” Shaver said.
After the army, Shaver had a difficult time finding what he was going to do with his time.
“It kinda sucked because, at that point, the military was the only thing I knew,” Shaver said. “I was good at it, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet.”
By transferring some of the skills he learned in the army into the workplace, Shaver was able to get a license to work on airplanes.
After a while, Shaver was led to TCC.
“How I learned about TCC was I’m going through [a] program through VA,” Shaver said. “It’s called Vocational Rehabilitation. They help me find a job or skill set that I’ll be interested in that won’t affect any of my disabilities that I acquired while being in the military.”
Shaver would also need help from one furry little creature.
“My doctor recommended that I would benefit from having a service dog,” Shaver said. “I actually found her on the side of the road by the humane society and got her entered into a program called Shepherds for Lost Sheep, and they mainly work with veterans.”
Now, he has a support dog named Horchata, a brown husky he takes everywhere he goes, including the classroom where students and professors have taken notice.
“Robert has had the first service animal in my class,” NE government professor Lisa Uhlir said.
Uhlir helped organize the veterans association on campus.
“On the one hand, it makes him stand out which can be difficult. While on the other hand, it helps the students in the class because they are more aware and can maybe take steps to help or assist,” she said.
Shaver has connected to other students in his classes who are struggling or are in need of assistance like him. NE student Matthew Preece is a military veteran who takes classes with Shaver.
“Going back to school has been a challenge,” Preece said. “I just got out of the military like six months ago so for me it’s [a] fresh change, and it’s honestly good to have people like Robert in class because me knowing someone who has been through similar situations is really eye-opening.”