A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By David R. Botello
Every day you pass them in the hallways. You sit next to them in class, unaware of the sacrifices they have made to keep America safe. Veterans are just like you. There aren’t any flashing lights or neon signs over their heads making them easy to recognize. Mark Elliott seeks out these veterans and is eager to lend a helping hand. Elliott’s official title at HCC is Veterans Benefits Advisor, but to those who have sat down with him, Elliott is much more than that. Most days, vets patiently wait at Elliott’s office, sometimes for hours, just for a moment of his time. Elliott’s outgoing personality and easygoing attitude make him a perfect fit for the job that was created just 15 months ago with people like him in mind. Five years ago, after serving in the Army for 30 years, Elliott retired with the rank of command sergeant major. His dedication to helping fellow service members has been a lifelong passion. “I loved taking care of soldiers when I was in the military,” Elliott said. “As a leader, you’re constantly taking care of your men and women, looking out for their welfare and everything else, and so that’s what I’m doing now.” Elliott, 51, was born in Alabama, but as an Army brat grew up all around the world. While serving in the Army, Elliott had the chance to venture to all parts of the globe. His devotion to his country shines through to his current duty station, which serves a new generation of veterans seeking information about health care and education benefits. With new education programs, such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, veterans have the opportunity to excel in the classroom like never before. “You paid the price for this; don’t let it be wasted,” he said. When asked about the reward of helping fellow veterans achieve their goals and dreams, Elliott responds as only he can. “Oh man, it’s awesome,” Elliott said. “I can get up in the morning, shave my face and look in the mirror and be happy, and I can go to bed at night and feel good about what I’m doing.”