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As students took the day off Thursday, small U.S. flags waved around the Tempe campus to commemorate Veterans Day.

Secondary education junior Christopher Manning, president of the ASU Veterans Club, worked with club members to put the flags up on Tuesday night in honor of American veterans.

Manning joined the Army National Guard as an infantry soldier in 2006 because the Guard allowed him to dually continue school and serve his country.

“Some of the best times were when we were deployed to Afghanistan,” he said. “I really enjoyed the guys in my platoon, and while you’re over there you [develop] a bond that can’t be topped by anything in the civilian world.”

Last month, the veterans group partnered with Greek Life to mail more than 100 care packages to soldiers serving foreign deployments, many of which included letters of appreciation written by ASU students.

Manning was deployed in Afghanistan between January 2007 and March 2008.

He served as security infantry for provisional reconstruction teams, so he helped rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan.

“Spending times overseas was the best time, but at the same time it was my worst experience in the military,” he said. “Two guys in my company were killed.”

Manning said it was difficult to lose Staff Sgt. Charles Browning, who was killed June 1, 2007, by an improvised explosive device, and Michael Miller, who died in September 2007.

“Those were definitely some rough days, but they were serving their country and I don’t think they would have it any other way,” he said.

Manning said anyone considering joining the military should be confident in his or her choice.

“Talk to people that have served, and if possible find somebody who has already done what they want to do,” he said.

1,767 veterans or their dependents are currently attending ASU using the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill benefits, said ASU’s associate registrar Kathy McBride.

This is up since 2009, when 1,269 veterans or their dependents attended ASU using the GI Bill, McBride said.

Between January 2005 and March 2009, criminal justice junior Jess Acosta served as a specialist in military intelligence in the U.S. Army.

Acosta said he is attending ASU after reaching the credit limit at Glendale Community College.

During his first of two Iraq deployments he was responsible for analyzing enemy attack trends. Throughout the second deployment, which came four months after the original, Acosta’s duties were the removal of high-value targets, significant leaders and threats.

Acosta said his reason for enlisting in the armed forces was atypical.

“I was getting in a lot of trouble, so instead of facing severe jail time I joined the service,” he said.

Acosta cautioned students who are interested in joining the military.

“Don’t do it unless your situation warrants a significant change,” he said. “The military is not a fun institution; they don’t look out for the best interest of the soldier, they look out for the best interest of the unit.”

Acosta said although he advises against military enlistment, his time spent serving in the Army reshaped his life.

“I stopped getting in trouble, but the biggest element is it took me from my current situation and gave me an opportunity to make something of myself [and] to show to others that I’m just as capable as the next person,” he said. “When I got out, I had no desire to return to my old ways.”

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