West Seneca, NY -- A West Seneca Marine will fly to Chicago next week with his family to be honored by the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. Its Heroes Tribute Scholarship Program awards scholarships to the children of Marines.
Michael and Hannah Mazzuto started dating when they were 16. A lot has changed since then. They got married and are now raising 13-month-old Abram. But before all of that happened, Michael joined the Marines and Hannah went to college.
"I didn't even think about going to school 'til I got out, but I think it's a good decision," says Michael.
Michael trained in North Carolina before serving in Iraq. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his service and came back to the U.S. about five years ago before graduating from college with a journalism degree.
While little Abram hasn't mastered walking just yet, he already has a college scholarship.
"It's great. I mean, school's expensive. I went on the G.I. Bill. And, if he doesn't join the military himself, this will be another way to pay for school for him," says Michael.
The Mazzutos will fly to Chicago next week for a special dinner in Michael's honor.
The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation honors Marines by awarding scholarships of $30,000 to their children long before some of them are even old enough to talk about what they want to be when they grow up.
"A chef maybe. I know he likes to eat a lot. Right now, he's a little over one, but I'll support him in basically whatever he wants to do," says Michael.
Michael and Hannah say transitioning back into civilian life isn't easy, but having a support network makes it easier.
"She's, like I said, my rock. Anytime I have problems. She's the only one who's really seen me any time I've had troubles or anything like that," he says.
"I think the biggest thing is just to be there and make sure that, you know, that you're there to listen," says Hannah.
They say the local VA also offers a lot of services.
But the biggest piece of advice they have is to just talk to people.
"Just don't shut yourself out, because people want to help you. They just don't know how. That could be the tricky thing," they say.
When we asked them if they would have done anything differently, Michael said he has no regrets.
"You live life. You learn from your experiences, good or bad. I'm happy with how I turned out. I have a healthy kid. I have a nice wife, here. A dog," he says.
Last year, the dinner in Chicago raised $1.3 million to support the Heroes Tribute Scholarship Program.