Army to Astrophysicist

My son's name is Jesse Hanowell and I'm pretty damn proud of him.  


All mother's think their sons are special (and they are) "“ but Jesse is a particularly exemplary man.  He's an accomplished artist and photographer (attended the famous San Francisco Art Institute where Ansel Adams taught.)  He's an astounding poet and essayist "“ and I just know he's got a few books in him as well.


And he's done things that most of us can't do, or won't do "“ including serving his country with distinction as 101st Infantry 2/327 receiving two medals for Meritorious Service, with on of them awarded for his service in the Battle of Lake Thar Thar.  But now he needs your help "“ but he won't ask for it.


So I am.


If I could I'd do it myself but, like so many of us who've been impacted by the economy, we've run out of resources.  We do what we can "“ but it isn't enough.


Jesse is currently studying at New Mexico Tech "“ a small school with a huge reputation. You might know it via the Very Large Array (it was featured in the movie Contact.)  His goal?  A Ph.D. in Astrophysics.


And he'll do it.  He made it through not just Army boot camp, but did it when he was 29 AND came out of boot camp  as an Infantryman of the famous 101st 2/327 and was discharged  4 years later as an E4 "“  Specialist Hanowell, Jesse.


But he can't make it through university without some financial help.  Oh, he had it all planned out but, like so many Veterans have discovered since discharge, things didn't always turn out like you were told while you were on active duty.


Plan A was that he'd apply for the Pell grant and loan when his education benefit ran out.  But that fell through after he found out that, unlike what he'd been told, his previous loan wasn't forgiven due to his tenure in the Army.  If he'd known that he would have paid it off while he was serving.  


Plan B was that he'd save his disability pension until his benefits ran out and then use savings for school.  Well, that's not going to work because he's been waiting for three years for his claims to be authorized.  His, along with about 900,000 other claims.  America should be so ashamed of how we treat our Veterans.


I want to respect his privacy, but I asked him if I could share a couple things that challenge him as far as studying is concerned and he said OK.


He studies calculus and physics while his ears are constantly ringing "“ comes from shooting those really big guns right next to your ear.  A ringing that would make most of us crazy "“ not to mention never even THINK of re-entering university, never mind major in physics.  But he says it isn't going to stop him.  The math and science distract him during the day.  It's really hard to sleep, but sometimes the sound of a fan helps a bit.


And he can't go outside, even when cloudy or raining, without his glasses on.  Sunglasses.  Since his tour of duty his eyes just can't take normal daylight for more than a few minutes.


Those are just a couple things that will never be the same for him since serving my country for me.  They may sound small, but try living with your ears constantly ringing and never being able to walk out your door without having sunglasses on or keeping your eyes closed.


He's got other physical challenges, some I really worry about, that are combat related.  But it doesn't look like he will ever see his disability.  But he says that's not going to stop him either.


It isn't a big loan he needs to pay back before he requalifies for the Pell "“ not even 5 figures "“ but it's beyond our means to pay it, so he says he's going to sell his Jeep.


He doesn't mind selling his Jeep, but I do.  That jeep is a symbol to me as he bought it when he returned after combat.  It is my symbol of how lucky and blessed I am that my son came home.  Other mothers of soldiers in his unit had their hearts broken, as did their fellow Brother Soldiers who will miss them forever in a way no one who hasn't fought beside someone can ever truly know.


But it does break my heart to see him sell his Jeep.  He loves that damn Jeep.  Even if my plans work, he's still going to have to sell it.  But he says he'll buy another one after he gets that diploma with those very special letters on it:  "P" "“ "H" "“ and "D" and gets a job.  Oh, I forgot to tell you, he not only goes to school full time, he works part-time as well.


So, here is my plan:


Step One:  Do what they now call "crowdfund" his next year's tuition.  For those of you who don't know what the heck that means, it means asking for a small donation.  If I can find 100 people willing to send $30 each "“ that's a year's tuition.


Step Two:  If we can collect enough for tuition, I'll run another round to see if we can get his books paid for.  That would mean I need to find another 100 people willing to donate $20.


Step Three:  If we can get his tuition and books paid for this upcoming year AND he can sell his Jeep, the grant and loan should pay his living expenses with enough to spare to pay at least part of next year's living expenses.  It looks like he'll keep his job at the observatory, which will make a huge difference.


It is going to take years and years until he's through.  But I happen to have another son I am really proud of who is working on his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Anthropology (he's probably working on it as you read this) "“ so I know that it gets somewhat "easier" to find money for post-grad work.  In the meantime, we've got to get Jesse through the next couple years of his undergraduate work.


So, that's my plan.  I'm putting a website together so you can get a better picture of not only what kind of man my son is, but also why you should care to help produce an American astrophysicist.  It may seem like we can live without them "“ but they are much more important to the future of our nation and our planet than you think.  You can take a look at what I've got so far here (for the most part the same thing I've got here, but with some pictures that make it a whole lot more interesting :)


I'm still building this website and will be adding more information on what Jesse's up to at school now along with showing you his artistic side.  And I'm going to try and talk him into keeping a blog "“ but he's kinda busy, all those weird-looking calculations and asteroid watching, we'll have to see how that goes.



Thanks ahead of time "“ please send what you can.  It doesn't matter if it's $3 or $30, every dollar gets him closer to his doctorate


Here's short little video I made as a tribute to Jesse and the 101st



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