COD Student Veterans Make Service to Country and Community their Career
By Mike McKissack
College of DuPage students and former Marines Mike and Kevin Xu have done more than their fair share of service to country and community. As new recruits in the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy (SLEA) at COD, they will continue their tradition of service into their long-term careers as law enforcement officers.
Since they were in middle school, the identical twin brothers have known exactly what they wanted to do: join the military and eventually work in law enforcement.
“We like to travel and we like adventure,” Kevin said. “In the Marines, we received both of those things, but we also joined the Marines to build character and get an experience we could never get in the civilian world,” Kevin said. “We knew it would help prepare us for our future careers.”
Mike added that their path of service also reflects their passion to “help people and to be remembered as heroes.”
Currently residents of Bloomingdale, the Xu brothers were born in Harbin, China, where they lived until coming to the U.S. at age 11. After graduating high school in 2007, the brothers immediately enlisted in the Marines, attended boot camp and went on to receive specialized infantry training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, California. Temporarily separated to different companies as “Thundering” Third Battalion, First Marine infantrymen during further training, Mike and Kevin later ended up serving in the same deployment and in the same unit fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Deployed during the Spring Offensive of 2010, the brother’s unit was directed to “clear, hold and build” – clear the area of enemies; hold the area; and build the infrastructure and economy of the area. During their deployment, the brothers were faced with a number of dangers and trials, including 130-degree temperatures, dehydration, sand mites, strategically placed improvised explosive devices (IEDs), heart-breaking civilian suffering and intense firefights with Taliban combatants. Despite the hard work, challenges and danger of their mission, the brothers enjoyed their time in the Marines, describing it as an experience that has shaped them in adulthood and enabled them to appreciate the basic things in life they might otherwise take for granted.
The brothers are currently completing the last of their bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice through the College of DuPage’s 3+1 transfer program with Lewis University. They said that returning to civilian life after completing their service in the Marines was tough, particularly the first semester, but the support they received from COD’s Veteran’s Service office, as well as the friendships they found among other returning veterans, helped ease the transition.
“After completing our service in the Marines, we knew we wanted to go into law enforcement,” said Kevin. “We saw how great the facilities at COD were and learned about the 3+1 bachelor’s in Criminal Justice program. Not only that, we saw that the College was also a very veteran-friendly school with great amenities, benefits and services for veterans.”
Mike and Kevin are attending COD through the Post 911 G.I. Bill, an education benefit program that provides financial resources for service members who have completed 90 or more days in active service since September 10, 2001. The program’s coverage includes tuition, fees and books, as well as a housing allowance. Mike said that since their education was covered, their choice to attend COD was based off of the quality of the school.
“We’re not paying to attend college so we could have chosen just about anywhere,” Mike said. “We chose COD because of the quality of the school and its exceptional support of veterans.”
The brothers said that once they start something they go all the way to the finish. In addition to being full-time students, they stayed in uniform in the Marine Corps Reserves and worked in the College’s Veteran’s Services office, first through the work-study program and later hired on as student workers. All told, they spent nearly four years at COD helping other veterans through the same process they once had to go through to meet their educational goals.
According to COD Manager of Veteran’s Services José Alferez, Mike and Kevin exemplify service to others as well as what it means to live the American dream.
“I am extremely proud of both of these men,” Alferez said. “They enlisted in one of the toughest branches of the military, volunteered for one of the toughest jobs the Marines Corps has to offer and were deployed to one of the toughest regions in the world to fight America’s enemies. They will make outstanding law enforcement officers because they genuinely care about their community and love their country.”
Alferez, a Marine veteran of two tours in Iraq and a College of DuPage graduate, said that upon completing their tour of duty with the Marines, Mike and Kevin embraced college life at COD and in particular, the services to veterans the College provides. He said they were committed to helping their brothers and sisters in arms make the same successful transition they made, and demonstrated their dedication through working in the College’s Veteran’s Services Office, attending presentations on veteran’s topics, participating in the Veteran’s Association and volunteering for veteran’s events like “Rockin’ for the Troops.” He said that during their time in Veteran’s Services, they always provided service with a smile and a touch of humor.
“That they left active duty service, started college and took jobs helping fellow veterans make the transition from military to civilian life does not surprise me in the least,” Alferez said. “Most members of the military continue to have a strong sense of giving of themselves for others after they separate from the military but Mike and Kevin have turned service to others into their profession.”
Veteran’s Services at College of DuPage provides a broad range of services to veterans and military personnel, including providing information on scholarships and emergency loans, access to VA work-study programs, a student veteran’s lounge and help with processing educational benefits. COD recognizes a number of veteran education benefits, including the Montgomery G.I. Bill, Survivors and Dependent Educational Assistance Program, and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program. The College also accepts the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which can provide full-tuition coverage, a monthly housing allowance and a yearly book and supply stipend of up to $1,000 for qualifying veterans. In 2015, for the sixth consecutive year, COD was included in the list of “Military-Friendly Schools” compiled by the veteran-owned publication G.I. Jobs. Assisting approximately 700 veterans each semester, COD ranked number two in Illinois for federal benefits processed for veterans in academic calendar year 2013-2015, behind only Southwestern Illinois College which is located five miles from Scott Air Force Base.
Click here for more information about Veteran’s Services at College of DuPage.
SLEA is one of the premier training academies for police officers in Illinois. To date, the academy has maintained a 99 percent graduation rate, training 2,878 basic academy recruits from approximately 216 police departments and law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois. Since 1999, SLEA has offered Continuing Education courses for current security, law enforcement and safety personnel covering such topics as administration, digital and Internet crimes, emergency management and response, investigations and patrol operations. SLEA has trained more than 26,000 police officers and deputy sheriffs in courses that have been offered on the College’s main campus as well as at numerous training units in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Click here for more information about the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy.
(Pictured: Mike and Kevin Xu in the Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center at COD in front of the College’s permanent memorial to 9/11, a ceiling beam taken from the Twin Towers. College of DuPage was one of only a few educational institutions to receive a relic from the Twin Towers following 9/11.)
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