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Vincent Acevedo

College: Borough of Manhattan Community College
Awards: 3.94 GPA, Accepted to John Jay College, 2012

A Victory for Iraq War Vet

Vincent Acevedo will always remember where he was and what he was doing on Aug. 25, 2006.

"I was an explosives handler in the U.S. Marine Corps on assignment in Iraq," he says. "We'd taken over an insurgent stronghold right outside the city of Ramadi, about 65 miles west of Baghdad."

Acevedo and his buddies were bunked down in a house that night when the blast from a rocket-propelled grenade hurled him through a wall. "Thankfully, I'm in one piece," he says quietly. "I had all my gear on, and that saved my life."

In June, Acevedo will graduate with an associate degree in criminal justice and a 3.94 GPA, and in the fall, he'll begin working toward his bachelor's degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

But the journey from that terrible night in Ramadi has been anything but smooth. "I'd suffered what was diagnosed as a mild traumatic brain injury," says Acevedo, who was hospitalized at several military hospitals and underwent cognitive rehabilitation to relearn the language and functional skills compromised by his injury.

"Repetition is key to recovery, and I work at it every day," he says. In class, he records lectures and discussions and listens to them at home, over and over.

"I think of the brain as a muscle that has to be constantly trained," he says. "I needed to get my mind right again; I needed to get back to classes. There was no way I was just going to sit around."