Michigan veterans ready for baby’s first Christmas amid work, school and drills
The Oakland Press is following the lives of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan for its American Homecomings series.
Veterans who are returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan and want to share their stories should email Megan Semeraz at Megan.Semeraz@oakpress.com.
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Though Tyler Kenny is still actively drilling for the National Guard, he has begun focusing more of his attention on his Oakland County job as a Veterans’ Benefits Counselor.
When Tyler is not busy with his graduate school classes and his family — wife Rosemarie and his eight-month old son, Aedan — he is at work at his county office where he helps other veterans and their families receive benefits. Benefits include disability, pension, compensation, health care enrollment, burial benefits and education benefits.
Tyler was hired for the job more than a year ago. He went through an extensive year-long training program, including a test to become an accredited veterans counselor.
Every day, Tyler sees about 8 to 10 clients at the office. He said it is nice because they are not overwhelmed, and can provide a better service.
Garth Wootten, division manager of Veterans’ Services and Tyler’s boss, said Tyler is a great asset to their department because of his experience in both the National Guard and the Marine Corps.
“It’s been a real pleasure to have him here because he brings with him the knowledge of current conflicts having served in Iraq and North Africa … we can use him as a resource,” Wootten said. “… He’s had some real successes with some of the claims he’s filed … It’s real nice when you get a claim that you actually realize you’ve been able to help somebody get the benefits they’re entitled to.”
“Somebody coming into the office and they’re able to talk to another veteran, they might be a little more open with me than they would be with other counselors,” Tyler said. “… I have a little bit of understanding of what they’ve gone through.”
Tyler said the Oakland County office is unique as far as the number of veterans counselors available to help residents.
“(My experience) makes it a little more rewarding because I can help those vets who come in here with nothing and serve and they have no idea what kind of benefits they’re eligible … it can really make or break somebody’s life,” Tyler said.
The Kennys are both nearing the end of the semester of school. Rosemarie goes to Eastern Michigan University, and Tyler goes to Oakland University. Both receive the Post-9/11 GI Bill to help with the cost of their education.
“Going back to school has been interesting … you just can’t go home and relax anymore, it’s like, you’ve got a paper to write, you’ve got to do something online … I don’t really mind getting back into the swing of things because it’ll be worth it in the end,” Tyler said.
Rosemarie has only five classes left until she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She was originally planning to be a police officer, but is now looking to get into the same type of work Tyler is in, or work in probation.
“I’m not wanting to do the police officer anymore because I want more safety for my child,” Rosemarie said.
Though balancing school and a baby has been hard, Rosemarie said things have been good.
“It’s getting easier-ish,” Rosemarie said. “It’s getting easier being away from Aedan.”
The couple is excited for the holidays and recently set up their Christmas tree. Aedan also seems to like some of the holiday elements, but Rosemarie isn’t sure how he will do with Santa Claus, but the couple wants to get his picture taken with him.
“We put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving,” Rosemarie said. “Aedan just sat there and stared at it. I’m very excited about the holidays”.
Aedan is also getting bigger, Tyler said. He is sitting up on his own and he can crawl in reverse.
“He’s keeping us pretty busy between Rose going to school — she’s had a lot of reports and exams lately, so we are still doing that ‘you watch him today, and I’ll watch him for you tomorrow’ so we can get our stuff done, but it’s working out … a lot of late nights once and awhile,” Tyler said.
Rosemarie said she sometimes has a difficult time focusing on school work while the baby is around because she wants to give him attention and play with him, but so far she has been able to get through with perfect grades.
Though Rosemarie only has a few more classes left until she graduates, she and Tyler are thinking about adding another element to their hectic schedules.
“Early next year, we want to start trying to have another baby,” Rosemarie said.
Contact Megan Semeraz at 248-745-4628 or email Megan.Semeraz@oakpress.com or follow her on Twitter @MeganSemeraz