Medical Assisting student honored for military service
On July 1, Gov. Rick Scott was in West Palm Beach to present 187 veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award, a medal for Floridians who have served in a U.S. military branch. Thomas Whelan was among them.
Whelan, who is enrolled in Palm Beach State College’s Medical Assisting program, was honored for his service in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989-94. A Sergeant E-5, he served during Operation Desert Storm (Gulf War) and Operation Restore Hope (Somalia).
A Florida native from Jacksonville, Whelan worked for a government contractor after he left the military, handling hazardous materials, and then as a shipping supervisor at Naval Air Station Jacksonville before moving to South Florida. After a layoff and coping with service-related injuries that finally necessitated a career change, Whelan learned about VRAP, the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which helped pay his tuition to go back to school and get trained in another field. “I had some medical training when I was in the Marine Corps, so I became interested in medical assisting,” he said. He’ll graduate in December, along with his wife, Christina, who is completing the College’s Patient Care Assistant program.
The award for his distinguished service means a great deal to Whelan. “A lot of people have forgotten,” he said. “They call the Korean War the forgotten war, but a lot of the Gulf War veterans are getting forgotten about too. So that’s why I felt it was a good thing for the Governor to do.”