When Marine Corps heavy machine gunner Erik DeGiorgi returned to his native Plymouth in 2005, the South Shore town seemed nearly as foreign as the endless valleys his unit cleared in Afghanistan.
“I had changed. I didn’t know how to even communicate with my friends and family here,” he said. “Our unit in Afghanistan, we were the first ones there. Our job was to push north and gain territory, and it was just day-to-day. Coming back was an extreme change and I didn’t know how to deal with it . . . I was hugely adrift.”
But on Saturday, DeGiorgi stood at a podium in front of fellow veterans and high-level political leaders as an Ivy League student, a successful entrepreneur, and the point person of a new state initiative to help Massachusetts’s roughly 8,500 student veterans.