Veteran and military spouse heads back to school while stationed in Japan

Matt Saintsing
May 16, 2018 - 4:33 pm

Photo courtesy of Yajaira Mitchell

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One high-achieving Marine Corps veteran turned graduate student rose above the ranks to earn a scholarship. And she did it from Japan.

Yajaira Mitchell is a supervisory analyst for Marine Corps Community Services (MCSS) and currently lives in Okinawa, Japan with her husband Jesse, a Marine on active duty, and their two children. She’s also a University of Maryland University College (UMUC) student navigating her way through a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA.)

“I was a little bit hesitant, because I never win anything, but I didn’t have anything to lose so, I applied,” Mitchell said to Connecting Vets.

“The essay asked how I give back to the military community, and a few weeks ago I found out I was selected.”

She’ll receive $750 through the SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society, which she plans on spending on tuition. In a move that will surprise exactly zero veterans, SALUTE is an acronym, which stands for Service Academics Leadership Unity Tribute and Excellence, to recognize academic success among UMUC’s student veterans.

Mitchell did what many high school seniors do after they graduate and enrolled in college. She was just a few weeks into her first semester in 2005 when everything quickly changed.

“One day I was walking in the hallways on campus and saw a Marine recruiter, and I just went up to him said I wanted to join,” says Mitchell.

Just three weeks later she found herself in Boot Camp at Paris Island, S.C on her way to become a United States Marine.

Photo courtesy of Yajaira Mitchell.

Her first assignment was in Okinawa, Japan, then Marine Base Quantico, Va. It was there that she volunteered on-base to read to children of Marines deployed in harm’s way.

“Looking back, I really feel that education is a very important part of any child’s life and so I put myself in those parents’ shoes and I wanted someone to read to my child, if I wasn’t there to do it,” she added.

She met Jesse, her husband, in the Marines and the duo lives and works in Okinawa while Yajaira also studies for an MBA. While making the transition from the military to student can be a challenging time, Mitchell does everything the other students in her program do, but with the added stress of having a 13-hour time difference.

“I’m really the only one not in the same time zone, so I either have to stay up late or get up early to work around the schedule,” she said.

“The disadvantage is when we have group assignments. I have to adjust my schedule to meet the standards.”

In between earning her bachelor’s in business administration and starting her MBA program, she took a modest two-month break. Mitchell graduates in December 2018 with her MBA, but already has plans to continue her coursework with another bachelor’s degree in accounting.

She stresses the importance of education and can’t recommend it enough for active duty military and veterans, alike.

“For active duty, I recommend taking advantage of Tuition Assistance because once your GI Bill runs out, that’s it,” she said.

“If you’re able to just knock out some of the classes on active duty, you could use your GI Bill beyond your undergraduate degree.”

She wants veterans to know there’s life after the military, but success often depends on your own initiative.

“In the military, there’s always someone making sure things get done, but in the civilian world there’s nobody like that. You have to take the initiative and go out and make sure everything is correct and submitted on time,” said Mitchell.