Navy SEAL James Hatch was on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009. It would be his last. After 26 years in the Navy, he was seriously wounded and eventually left the military. Since then, he has done a number of interesting things, but he is now set for the next iteration of his life – the Ivy League.


Hatch was wounded in Afghanistan while looking for Bow Bergdahl. The wound ended his career.

If you didn't quite catch how long Hatch had been in the Navy before Bergdahl walked off his post, his 26 years as a Navy SEAL and dog handler before leaving the service in 2009 makes Hatch a 52-year-old freshman today. But as daunting as the first day in a new school can be, Hatch is unlikely to be deterred by social anxiety. If anything the former special operator sees it as another challenge to be handled.

"My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best," he told NBC News. "But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out."

James Hatch and his service dog, Mina at Yale.

Hatch joined the military right after high school instead of going to college. He joined the Navy and became a SEAL spending his career serving in some of the most dangerous and topical areas in the world. After leaving the military in 2009 four years shy of a 30-year career, he suffered from depression like many separating vets. Drinking, drugs, and attempted suicide became the norm. But Hatch sought help and is now turning everything around. Aside from joining the ranks of the Ivy League elite, he also runs Spikes K-9 Fund, a non-profit that pays for healthcare and protective gear for police and military working dogs.

He got into the school through the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale. The Eli Whitney program is for students with "extraordinary backgrounds" who have had their educational journeys interrupted for some reason. Hatch seems to be the perfect fit for such a program. On top of that, the GI Bill, scholarships, and Yale itself will cover the costs of his tuition.

"He brings just an incredibly different perspective," the Director of Admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program told NBC. "We don't have anyone here that is like Jimmy and just his life and professional experiences will add tremendously to the Yale classroom, to the Yale community."

In particular, his fellow Yale students will see Hatch in class with his service dog, Mina – whom they already love.