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Alumnus guest of First Lady at State of the Union

February 22, 2010

Scott Vycital, accounting, '08, an Army veteran wounded in Iraq, was a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Jan. 27.

Scott Vycital, accounting, '08, was a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Jan. 27.

Finding direction

In 2002, Scott Vycital was 26 years old and stuck in a rut. He had been working on a bachelor’s degree for years and did well in school but lacked direction. His best friends were heading off to law school and medical school and he wanted to better himself and regain some discipline.

The son of an Air Force colonel, Vycital decided to get himself back on track by enlisting in the Army. “I wanted to jump out of airplanes,” he says. And so he went to basic training and airborne training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He followed that with special forces training. Ultimately, he was not selected for the Green Berets, but he was sent to Camp McCall at Fort Bragg as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. In August 2003, his company was sent to Iraq.

Gunshot wounds to face, neck, shoulder

Eight months later, in February 2004, Specialist Vycital sustained gunshot wounds on the right side of the face, neck, and shoulder from enemy fire. He was sent to Walter Reid Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and in November 2004, he was medically retired.

By January 2005, his physical injuries healed as well as they would – the right side of his face is paralyzed and he lost hearing in his right ear – and Vycital and his wife moved to Phoenix where Vycital picked up his studies at Arizona State University.

“I was excited to start a new chapter of life,” he says. But that new chapter came rather quickly to a halt. “I requested a medical withdrawal, and upon urging from my wife, I got help from the VA in Phoenix,” he says. Through group and individualized therapy from the Veterans Affairs Hospital, Vycital was able to process through the emotional and mental injuries he suffered from the war.

Degree led to career with Federal Highway Administration

Scott Vycital and his wife, Jarah, met with Sen. Inouye of Hawaii while in Washington, D.C.

With the help of the Vocational Rehabilitation program and the G.I. Bill, Vycital began college at CSU and completed a degree in accounting in December 2008. Shortly after, and with the help of the Army’s Wounded Warrior program, he was hired by the Federal Highway Administration as a programs and planning financial specialist where he helps project managers budget monies for their projects.

“None of this would have happened without the benefits offered to veterans,” he says. “There are a lot of veterans’ agencies and they all helped me. I couldn’t be luckier.”

A much-lauded story among military circles, Vycital is an example to other veterans and politicians of the importance of the President’s executive order to employ veterans in the federal government. His situation is so well regarded that Vycital received an invitation from First Lady Michelle Obama to sit with her (and 19 other invitees) at the State of the Union address on Jan. 27, 2010.

Washington whirlwind

Vycital and his wife spent several days in Washington meeting with various elected and appointed officials, including all of the senators and congress members from:

While Vycital’s wife and the other guests watched the speech from the White House Theater (complete with red velvet walls), Vycital and the other invitees received a police escort through Washington and were ushered into assigned seats in the First Lady’s box. “It was really interesting to see the divide between the parties – when people stood or sat, applauded or didn’t.”

Sen. Udall of Colorado greeted Scott and his wife, Jarah, during their January trip to Washington.

Following the speech, all of Mrs. Obama’s guests were ushered into a room where the president greeted them. Vycital had just enough time to introduce himself, thank the First Lady for the invitation, and take a photo.

Huge honor

The impact of the trip is still resonating for Vycital. “I was glad to do it, especially meeting with the senators and nation’s leaders,” says Vycital. “But I’m still digesting it. I didn’t realize what a huge honor it was.”

Vycital’s self-described 15 minutes of fame has subsided and he is happy to return to his day-to-day life. He’s up at 4 a.m. to commute to Lakewood for his job, back home at 5 p.m. to play with his children, aged four and 17 months, and spend time with his wife. “We’re homebodies and like to spend quiet time together,” he says.


This story originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of AlumLine, a monthly e-newsletter for members of the Alumni Association.

Contact: Beth Etter
Phone: (970) 491-6533