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Steve with daughters Hillary and Hannah

I am a very fortunate student. I have been going to school for seven years. I have completed two associate degrees and will complete my bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism in spring of 2019.

Yes, I realize I very well could have become a doctor at this point in my life, with the many years and hours I’ve put into my education. The thing is, I love school and learning.

You may wonder how I have the time and money to complete so many years of schooling.

The reason I can afford tuition is because of my father and hero, Stephen Francis Patrick Reilly. My dad was a part of the Navy EOD.

EOD stands for explosive ordinance disposal. Basically, my dad “blew shit up” for his job and he loved it.

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Steve Reilly, 19yrs old

My dad entered the Navy when he was only 19 years old. He had no way of knowing then, but he would end up being honorably discharged from the Navy after a lifetime of struggle and scars.

He was in a terrible explosion that left him with a broken neck and post-traumatic stress disorder. Miraculously, he recovered from his broken neck, an injury that should have killed him or left him paralyzed, but he still lives with his PTSD. On top of that, he suffers from bipolar disorder.

I grew up with a father who dealt with things most people will never have to experience. My father would wake up in the middle of the night with night terrors from his navy days and scream at the top of his lungs. He was unable to work the rest of his adult life and was house-bound for about 13 years when we first moved to Utah.

My dad began treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital, which he has been doing for 30 years now. He got the cutest service dog ever: Capone the pitbull who became his best friend and life-saver.

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Steve Reilly and service dog Capone

Capone gave my dad the ability to get out of the house and socialize with people who came up to him asking about his adorable canine companion.

My dad’s struggles and misfortune turned into the reason I am where I am today. His honorable discharge left him with 100 percent disability, which allows me to be his dependent and benefit from his sacrifice.

These benefits have put me through college, where I’ve earned three degrees and have been inducted into two honors societies. I look back now and think if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Throughout these years, I have made friends, experienced so many different facets of college life and have been able to share these experiences with my dad.

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Hillary and Steve

He has always cheered me on and supported me. I have called him crying because I was so frustrated and wanted to quit, and he always talked me down from the ledge. He’s attended many after-school activities with me to support my love for education.

My dad has been and always will be there for me, and I know he’ll be unbelievably proud of me for graduating. He’ll be in the front row.

I can’t thank him enough for the sacrifices he’s made. I’m also grateful to the VA for having a program for veterans and their dependents. I am a chapter 35 dependent, a program which has paid for my degrees, numerous books and at times has given me a little extra cash in my pocket.

Although his life didn’t turn out the way he expected, my dad knows it has undoubtedly altered my life for the best, and I know he’s proud of that. The things I’ve learned has made everything worth it.

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