Ester WarrenFollow




School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Fred Milacci


Combat Veterans, Degree Attainment, Educational Resilience, Online Higher Education, Post Traumatic Growth


Disability and Equity in Education | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Higher Education | Other Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the essence of the experiences of combat veterans with significant combat exposure who successfully completed their bachelor’s degree through a private online program despite the presence of challenges related and unrelated to their combat exposure. For the purpose of this study, combat veteran was generally defined as a veteran of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or National Guard who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or Operation New Dawn (OND). In addition, significant combat exposure was indicated by a score of “light-moderate” to “heavy” on the Combat Exposure Scale (CES). Educational resilience cycle and posttraumatic growth (PTG) were the two theories that guided this study. Data was collected through in-depth interviews, focus-groups, and document analysis. This study sought to answer four research questions: (1) How do combat veterans with significant combat exposure describe the experience of attaining their bachelor’s degree through an online program? (2) What challenges, if any, do participants describe they encountered as they pursued their online bachelor’s degree? (3) How do participants describe the experience of overcoming the challenges they identify to subsequently attain their online bachelor’s degree? (4) How do participants describe the impact of their combat experience(s) on their degree attainment? Transcendental phenomenological analysis was utilized to reveal two major themes that emerged from the data: It was (1) A Challenging Journey, and (2) A Fulfilling Journey. In addition to study findings and limitations, implications for stakeholders and recommendations for future research are presented.