Go Where Needed: National Guard student deployed for Harvey relief

BY Amanda Sotelo

Texas State Technical College student and National Guard reservist Lino Gonzalez was recently deployed to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in coastal East Texas, derailing his plans to attend TSTC for the Fall 2017 semester.

The deployment, originally scheduled for late August through September, forced Gonzalez to withdraw from his Wind Energy Technology classes for fear of falling behind.

However, during deployment his orders changed, and Gonzalez got the opportunity to return home with his wife and two-year-old son earlier than planned. But he had already lost the semester.

“We go when and where we’re needed,” said Gonzalez. “This has in no way discouraged me from coming back.”

The Mercedes native will register to return to TSTC Wind Energy Technology in the spring.

TSTC Veteran Center Director Steve Guevara said that, in accordance with state statutes and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rules, college or university students like Gonzalez who are called to active duty as guard soldiers or reservists have three options. They can choose to receive a full refund of tuition and fees already paid; if eligible, receive an incomplete grade in all courses by designating “withdrawn military” on transcripts; or, as determined by the instructor, receive a final grade or credit if a substantial amount of coursework has been satisfactorily completed.

“We try to assist our active military and veteran students the best way we can,” said Guevara. “Our goal is to help them get the education they deserve and want.”

In Gonzalez’s case, he took the withdrawal option and dropped his courses. He said everything was settled quickly with no penalties, and it was like he never registered for the semester at all.

“Everyone was so helpful,” said Gonzalez. “My withdrawal process was smooth and stress-free, thanks to the help I received from my program instructor David Gomez and Veteran Center staff.”

While deployed, Gonzalez, who is also an Army veteran, helped the communities of Corpus Christi, Victoria, Katy, Beaumont and Port Arthur. He assisted the fire departments with evacuations, search and rescue, and debris cleanup.

“Hurricane Harvey was devastating to many communities and families. What we saw was surreal,” said Gonzalez. “That’s why, no matter the situation, it’s important to me to always help and serve.”

Gonzalez was 22 years old when he enlisted in the Army. The veteran Army specialist served eight years, with two tours in Afghanistan and Korea. During and after his time in the Army he worked as a generator mechanic and provided internet to military bases.

“What I did in the military goes hand in hand with what I’m studying now,” said Gonzalez. “I’m a hands-on learner and worker, and Wind Energy Technology and mechanics is what I see myself doing long term.”

The 31-year-old expects to earn his associate degree in Spring 2019 and looks forward to working as a Wind Turbine Technician.

For more information on the TSTC Veteran Center or Wind Energy Technology, visit tstc.edu.