After serving in the United States Army for 12 years, Hector Rivera traded in his weapons for clippers. “It’s a little bit hard and challenging,” he said.

He suffers from traumatic brain injury and PTSD, among other things, after a car bomb exploded and injured him while in Iraq.

“It was a little bit hard. You know depression kicked in, didn’t have anything to do,” Rivera explained. “On top of that this was a new place, didn't know anyone here.”

Thanks to the GI Bill, Rivera is now enrolled at Florida Technical College where he is studying to become a barber. He said it keeps him busy and helps him forget darker times.

“That you have to adapt back to society. So they don’t understand where you are coming from,” he said.

Rivera said that despite having left part of himself in the combat zone, he’s trying to focus on a new battle and trying his best to become a productive member of society.

“Our veterans have relatable skills that they learn in the military. It’s just getting that to translate that to the civilian world,” said Gabriel Garces, the executive director for Florida Technical College. “By way of a career, by way of something that translates to what they did in the military.”

With everything he’s learned here, Rivera hopes to one day start his own barber shop.

“It’s going to be challenging but I think with the right people mentoring me, I will be fine,” Rivera added.

Learn about FTC's programs on the college's website.