SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — When Frank Heffner graduated from Sloan’s Westwood High School, in the 1970s, higher education seemed out of reach.

“I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college and at the time there was the G.I. Bill plus there was a little tradition in the family of having served in the military,” Heffner said.

So, in 1974 at the age of 17 Heffner enlisted in the army. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle. After basic training, Heffner was selected to study Korean at the Defense Language Institute. It was an education that proved useful when he was deployed to South Korea.

“We basically eavesdropped on North Koreans. We intercepted their communications. Some messages were irrelevant,” Heffner said.

Other messages, he said, were alarming and highlighted the tensions between North and South Korea.

“Something important would be like the North Koreans had free rockets overground. If they moved one of those or whatever you know that would be a major issue,” said Heffner.

After Heffner left the army in 1977, he attended Morningside University where he earned a doctorate in history. Since then, he has taught at Western Iowa Tech Community College for the past 30 years.

As the Program Director of Digital Entertainment Arts Online, he said he enjoys opening up a world of possibilities for students.

“If you want to do well in life you’re going to have to pick up skills and learn them and you hopefully can help people not make the same mistakes you made when you were young although that’s difficult,” said Heffner.

Heffner said the digital entertainment arts program is expanding internationally and he’s sharing his knowledge with students in Cambodia and Vietnam.