Camouflage background with books and a rolled diploma.
Ryan Costanzo, the son of a U.S. Army veteran, said he’s received a lot of support from VCU’s Military Student Services, which creates a tight-knit community for veterans and family members. (Getty Images)

Student reflects on his father’s military service and how it has helped his education

“I'm proud of what my father did because it takes a lot to stand up to protect your country,” said Ryan Costanzo, whose father served in the U.S. Army.

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Ryan Costanzo is a junior earning his B.S. in mass communications with a concentration in public relations in the Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s attending with a full scholarship as a result of his father’s military service.

Costanzo said his father signed up for the army at 18 years old, right out of high school. His father knew there was conflict overseas and wanted to “stand up for his country.”

“That's what he wanted to do, he wanted to honor America,” Costanzo said.

Costanzo’s father served for eight years when Ryan was growing up. He remembers his father being absent for long stretches because he was overseas.

“But he would come [home] and I'd get like a week or two with him and it would just be a great time,” Costanzo said.

Because of his father’s military status, the family also moved around a lot, including living two years in Germany. Costanzo, who has two younger twin siblings, said moving around was difficult because he didn’t get the opportunity to build a solid group of friends.

“And it is tough being a military kid, but I like to show off my dad and what he did for the country,” he said.

While on tour in Iraq, Costanzo’s father was severely injured when his convoy was ambushed, Costanzo said. For veterans disability compensation purposes, Constanzo said his father first received a disability rating of 90 percent but that measurement has since grown to 100 percent.

Costanzo said this disability rating gives his father certain benefits, such as being able to cut the line at Disney World and allowing Ryan to attend VCU for free. He also gets a monthly stipend for rent. Costanzo said he is grateful that he is benefiting from his father’s service.

“It's just taken copious amounts of stress off of my shoulders when I didn't even have to put in that work. That was my father that did that,” Costanzo said. “So again, I'm just so thankful and the amount of help and assistance is just unreal.”

Costanzo said he’s received a lot of support from VCU’s Military Student Services. He said the center, located in Grace E. Harris Hall, creates a tight-knit community for veterans and family members.

“They help me tremendously in every aspect of school, as well as just well-being,” he said.

Even with his military benefits, life after the injury has been hard for Costanzo’s father. In addition to the physical scars, his father’s service left him with PTSD, Costanzo said. He can no longer celebrate the Fourth of July and standing in large crowds makes him anxious as well.

However, the Costanzo family has done their best to support him in his recovery and Costanzo said he’s getting better.

Now an adult, Costanzo said he has even more respect for his father’s decision to enlist.

“I'm 22, and that's past 18 when he enlisted,” he said. “I find myself a little scared and everything, and he was just so brave. It is an act of bravery if you go and fight for this country.”