Photo Information

Bill Felmer poses for a photograph in his office at the Core Fitness Health Club, on May 5. Felmer recently became the first veteran to complete Western Connecticut State University’s Honors Program while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in political science. The 28-year-old Marine veteran is a Bethel, Connecticut native. (Official Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Blumenstein).

Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

Returning quality citizens: Bethel, Connecticut, native first student veteran to earn degree with honors from Western Connecticut State University

2 Jun 2015 | Staff Sgt. Richard Blumenstein 1st Marine Corps District

The Marine Corps is known for doing three things: Making Marines, winning our nations battles and returning quality citizens.

Bill Felmer is every bit the quality citizen the Marine Corps promised it would make him. He recently became the first student veteran to complete Western Connecticut State University’s Honors Program while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in political science.

According to Felmer, nearly a decade ago, his life seemed aimless. He graduated from Bethel High School in his home town of Bethel, Connecticut and had no plan for his future, enrolled in a local community college, and failed out from a lack of interest and discipline.    

“I got out of high school, and for two years I sat around and did meaningless jobs,” the 28-year-old said. “ I was working at Costco, it was a good job, but I wanted more.”

One of Felmer’s fellow workers at the time was a former Marine who was using his GI Bill to attend college. Felmer’s father and grandfather were both Marines and after interacting with the former Marine he said he knew what he had to do with his life.

“I met him, and then it all clicked in my head,” he said. “That’s what I need to be, to become a better man, a better person.”

He traveled to his local recruiting office and a month later he was standing on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, training to become a Marine.

He enlisted with a contract that would place him in any number of military occupationally specialties, and received the MOS bulk fuel specialist. During his time in the Marines, he deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“The thing that is cool about bulk fuel is that when I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, I did convoy security, so I was a gunner,” he said. “The Marines that I was with were great. I had great leadership, and great lifetime friends.”

While near the end of his enlistment and on his final deployment to Afghanistan, he began preparing himself for college back near his home town.

Unfortunately, while serving as a turret gunner during a convoy, the driver of his vehicle swerved to avoid a potential IED. He sustained a back injury as a result of the event. He was medically evacuated from Afghanistan and recovered from some of his injury through physical therapy. 

“I was planning my college future when I was in Afghanistan,” he said. “Once I got out, it was just a matter of turning in a couple of pieces of paper and taking a placement test. I didn’t waste any time.”

He finished his contract in the Marines and then applied to Western Connecticut State University. His time in the Marines provided him with 28 transfer credits toward his degree program. Using a combination of his GI Bill, and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, a program that helps veterans find employment and pays for their education, he was able to cover the cost of his tuition.

Now, he has earned his degree, is looking to buy a home, and has a number of other promising career opportunities ahead of him.

“When anyone asks me, at the finish line of my life, ‘how did you get here?’ it’s the Marine Corps, it is just that simple,” he said.