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GI BILL TURNS 50 AMID LOTS OF GRATITUDE

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The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill, turned 50 on Wednesday after helping finance more than 20 million college educations and sponsoring 15 million home loans.

In Utah, the Veterans Administration celebrated the event by recognizing both the 100,000th VA loan recipient in the state and the earliest Utah VA loan recipient it could find, and by honoring Utah college students currently receiving GI Bill education benefits.President Franklin Roosevelt signed the act into law June 22, 1944. Servicemen were already streaming home by the time World War II ended in 1945. By 1947, half of all college students were veterans, with eight million World War II veterans using the GI Bill to go to college, according to the VA.

Benefits from GI Bill programs over the years total $67 billion.

The VA in Utah sponsored an anniversary essay contest in conjunction with the anniversary for college students eligible for veterans benefits. The essay topic was "The Impact of the GI Bill on America and Me." First place winner Larry W. Marshall attends the College of Eastern Utah in Price. The Army veteran won $1,000 for his entry.

Second place and a $500 savings bond went to Pamela K. Nicholson, a Utah Air National Guard member and student at Columbia College in Salt Lake. Third place and a $200 dollar savings bond went to Ian G. Willard, a Utah Army National Guard member attending Brigham Young University.

"The GI Bill is allowing me the opportunity to acquire new skills and increases my chances of earning a decent living for my family. I feel I have earned these benefits through my 20 years of faithful service to this great country," said Marshall in his essay. "I also realize that after I graduate as a registered nurse, my increased earning power will allow me the privilege of repaying, through taxes, that which I have been given in my time of need."

VA regional officials planned a Wednesday afternoon ceremony at the state Capitol to honor the essay contest winners plus Army Staff Sgt. Elliott Johnson of West Valley City, who is the 100,000th Utah Veteran to receive educational benefits, according to the VA, and Earl Groneman Jr., of Murray, who was one of the first veterans in Utah to receive financing for a home loan through the VA, said spokesman Dave Phillips.