A quartet of U.S. Marines served together, and now they study together.
Veterans Chris Geiler, Oscar Pingatore, Brandon Underwood and Corey Davis are all studying at Laurel Ridge under the G.I. Bill.
San Diego native Pingatore, his sister, Erika, and Underwood, who is from Florida, share a home with Geiler and his wife and son.
The group first got to know each other in 2012 while stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. There, they did electrical engineering work on Harrier jets. Geiler and Pingatore were discharged in 2016, followed by Davis in 2017 and Underwood two years later.
Geiler, Pingatore and Davis, who is from Tennessee, are all studying computer science while Underwood is studying cybersecurity engineering, as is Erika. The plan is to transfer to George Mason University after graduation.
Underwood and Erika Pingatore enrolled at Laurel Ridge in spring 2021, while the others enrolled in 2020.
After Geiler, who hails from Oklahoma, got out of the Marines, he and his wife moved to Puerto Rico and worked in aviation, while Pingatore moved to North Dakota. Pingatore encouraged the Geilers to join him in North Dakota in 2017.
Meanwhile, Davis was working for Intel-Micron in Utah. He invited his friends Geiler and Pingatore to apply at his work. They did and were hired in 2018.
The three were transferred to Virginia in February 2020. Geiler and his wife found a house in Middletown. Underwood was discharged from the Marines in December of 2019, and had moved in with his friends, planning to work with them.
“I decided to move to Virginia since I hadn’t set down any roots yet,” he said.
In the summer of 2020, the Marine buddies decided to further their education.
“One day, I was like, ‘Let’s just apply tonight,’” said Pingatore, who also served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. “I saw Laurel Ridge was just down the road, and the college had good reviews and a transfer program.”
He told his friends to talk to Laurel Ridge veteran academic advisor/school certifying official Sharon Painter about taking advantage of their G.I. Bill benefits.
“I was really scared,” said Pingatore about going to college. “I didn’t know if I could work full time and go to school full time.
“I like going to Laurel Ridge. I’m impressed because, in my mind, community college had a stigma, but walking into Cornerstone Hall my first day, I thought, ‘This is nice.’ I’m glad we chose to come here. All the computer science classes have been fun.”
Said Underwood, “I’ve also enjoyed my two computer sciences classes the most so far.”
Physics Professor Ray Rogers has made a good impression on Geiler – “He’s awesome.”
While the guys get asked if they ever get sick of each other, they point out the house is very large, and they give each other their space. Sometimes they all study together, too.
“It kind of just worked out,” Pingatore said of the continuing bond the men share. “We’ve been living together for almost 10 years now.”
Learn more about veteran services available at Laurel Ridge at laurelridge.edu/veteran.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.