The men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces risk their lives on a daily basis to protect the freedom of their nation and its people. As Americans, we owe our day-to-day safety to these dedicated service members. Thank you for your hard work, your bravery, your perseverance. Your country will forever be indebted to you.

As a member of the military, you have likely put your own future on hold to preserve the future of others. And in recognition of your dedication, courage and personal sacrifice, you deserve nothing but the best. An education is the surest way to guarantee the future you want; the bright future you have earned. You have served your country; now it is time for your country to serve you and make it possible for you to achieve your educational goals.

Regardless of your military status or the particular branch you affiliate with, the truth remains that you must think about and prepare for life after the military. Transitioning out of the military may require you to make many difficult and potentially life-changing decisions. This is a stressful time for many men and women, as the routine of your life can change drastically and quickly. Leaving the service may be bittersweet and emotional, but you can help to ease the transition back into your former life by planning for the future.

You can take your life in any direction you want after the military, whether that means returning home to raise a family, training to work for the Department of Homeland Security, or even enrolling in medical school to become a doctor. In any case, career opportunities may be limited without a college degree.

Traditional methods of higher education present limitations to military service members, particularly those of active duty or reserve status. According to the American Council on Education (ACE), military students tend to be older than traditional undergraduate students; 85 percent of military undergraduates enrolled during the 2007-2008 school year were at least 24 years of age. The majority of military service members delay higher education until they leave service. ACE reports that 75 percent of all military undergraduates during that same academic year were veterans. But online education can help to break the trend of military service members putting their education on hold, and make it possible to earn a degree while on active duty or reserve.

Beginning college or going back to school may not be at the forefront of your mind while stationed overseas, or as you prepare to leave service. But today’s flexible options—like online education—and financial assistance programs including the GI Bill can make it easier than ever to start or continue your education and qualify for the lifelong career that you want.

Keep Reading: Benefits of Military Education Online