Veteran Voices of the Central Coast – Max Peck

Max Peck

Though he doesn’t wear the uniform anymore, Max Peck hasn’t stopped serving others.
In his new role as Administrative Lead of Veteran & Military Services at UC Santa Barbara, Peck guides student veterans as they enter civilian and university life and facilitates access to veteran benefits, resources, and mentors to help them complete their degree.
A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he credits his five years in the service for helping develop the leadership skills needed in his role as an advocate for students.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. In June, he was honored in Sacramento by Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) as the 2017 Veteran of the Year for the 37th Assembly District for both his accomplishments during his military service as well as his work for veterans at UCSB.
Hailing from Rochester, N.Y., Peck enlisted shortly after graduating high school in 2007.
“I always had a sense of patriotism,” he said. “I also wanted to fulfill my desire for adventure and establish myself.”
He picked the Marine Corps not only because his friend was joining, but also because as a talented high school athlete, he wanted a challenge.
He said that while he went in with “rose-colored glasses,” he quickly started to complain along with many of his fellow Devil Dogs.
“I was resistant to the whole thing at first,” he said, referring to the rules and orderly conduct expected of servicemembers.
Eventually, he realized his attitude was causing his misery and decided to make a change. With a new outlook, he said life in the Marines got easier and he started to develop leadership skills.
Peck began in a specialized anti-terrorism unit that deployed around the globe to ensure the security of American diplomats. He then transitioned to an infantry unit, 3rd Battalion 1st Marines in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
He earned a Navy and Marine Corps achievement medal during his deployment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan for his role in protecting Afghan people from improvised explosive devices (commonly used as roadside bombs) and for his performance during combat operations.
He concluded his service in fall of 2012 with the rank of Sergeant.
“Once you shed the Marine Corps skin and you’re not in it anymore, you start to appreciate it,” said Peck. “At 24, I already lived a lot of life.”
After starting school in 2013 at Orange Coast College (OCC) in Costa Mesa, Calif., he served as Vice President of OCC’s Student Veterans Organization, where he organized fundraisers and registered the club with Student Veterans of America.  
When he transferred to UCSB in 2015, he was elected President of the UCSB Veteran Resource Center. As President, he worked on outreach projects that brought more veterans to campus, built relationships with local businesses looking to hire veterans, and advocated for changes in university housing policy to better meet student veteran needs.
At UCSB, veterans make up less than one percent of the student body and usually come in as third-year transfer students at an average age of 30 years old.
“This place is built for the traditional college experience,” Peck said of UCSB. “It’s nice to have our own section of campus with students that have similar life experiences, are of similar age, and have a similar lexicon.”
Peck graduated from UCSB this summer with a degree in communication and came full circle by transitioning to the role of Administrative Lead for Veteran and Military Services for the campus.
He said one of the biggest challenges for student veterans is financial insecurity. Though they have benefits from the G.I. Bill, those benefits are not always comprehensive and many veterans are parents who need to support their families as well.
Peck said this is why it is critical for student veterans to have support from the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, which provides additional funding for needs not covered by government support so student veterans can be successful.
“If given the resources, veterans can be movers and shakers in the community,” he said.

To support the mission to ensure that the local men and women who have served our country, such as Max Peck, are “Never Forgotten,” you can make a donation by mailing a check to the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Fund, 1187 Coast Village Rd, Suite 1-334, Santa Barbara, CA or donate at