Justin Jacobson grew up with four siblings on a ranch in Oakdale. Several of his family members served in the Army, with the exceptions of his father and oldest brother who served in the Marines. Jacobson grew up listening to his father describe his deployment in Desert Storm; stories which greatly influenced his decision to join the Marines. During his junior year in high school, just after turning 17, Jacobson enlisted in the Marine Corps with consent of his parents. 

“I joined the Marine Corps infantry because it fully embodies the highest degree of professionalism, selflessness and service to this country,” Jacobson said.  

Jacobson was discharged from the Marine Corps at the rank of sergeant. When he got out, he knew he had challenges ahead if he wanted to pursue higher education, as he did not complete all needed prerequisites in high school necessary for university admission.  

Justin JacobsonEstablished in 2012, the Veterans Education Program at Fresno State provides opportunity and access to resources and connects veterans to support organizations in the Central Valley, facilitating a sense of belonging.

“I saw how well Fresno State took care of my family during their pursuit of higher education, so I reached out for guidance on applying. This is where my journey with the Veterans Education Program began,” Jacobson said.   

Jacobson’s family has a long history at Fresno State. Two of his brothers, one being a Marine veteran as well, and two cousins went to Fresno State. Jacobson’s brother, Joshua, played on Fresno State’s club men’s rugby team, which won the American College Rugby’s DI-AA national championship in 2021.  

Jacobson is a junior at Fresno State pursuing a bachelor’s degree in animal science. Below are excerpts from the speech he delivered at his cohort completion ceremony.


Good afternoon,

Thank you all for showing your support of me and the Veterans Education Program. 

My name is Justin Jacobson. I served in the Marine Corps and ended my service as a sergeant in the infantry. I then went to work as a structural welder. It was soon thereafter that I realized I wanted to pursue something that meant more to me, so I moved back home to Oakdale,  California. I started up a short-lived beef cattle business which ended abruptly. I found myself sitting in the cab of a tractor for 12 to 14 hours a day, just aimlessly drifting, questioning the life decisions I had made. 

So I looked to my brother, who was attending Fresno State, and with his help, I contacted the university and found the Veterans Education Program, which saved me from [struggling to meet] admission rules. 

This program opened my eyes to the world of opportunity, and I chased these opportunities to where I am today. I’m a fire academy instructor. I am a volunteer firefighter/EMT and a full-time student with straight A’s. I also revamped my beef cattle business and it’s been successful for the past year and a half. And, most importantly, I’ll be here in Fresno for the rest of my bachelor of science degree in animal science.

I’ll share with you that this road was not always easy. This Veterans Education Program, most of all, helped me transition. As veterans, we oftentimes carry things upon our shoulders and bring people with us everywhere we go. This adds to an already stressful environment, as we don’t want to let down the people we carry with us. We have been conditioned to believe the false narrative that any failure results in catastrophic consequences. 

This program gave me direction when I needed it most. Thank you.

(Written by Dean Scott Moore. Letter written by Justin Jacobson. This story and letter was first published in ACCESS Magazine, a publication of the Division of Continuing and Global Education.)