Honoring veterans like Dan

By Jordan Harp

While most of us on Halloween were worrying about costumes, heading to parties hoping what we had on was the cleverest there, and praying we weren’t the ones who were going to be shot, Daniel Papas was beginning his deployment to Afghanistan.

The sophomore in business management has been with the Air Force for about three years. He enlisted right after high school and entered into basic training right away. His reason for joining was simple: “This was just something I always wanted to do. I’ve always had a great sense of patriotism, I was raised like that.”

He now serves as a crew chief on the C-130 Hercules with the Illinois Air National Guard. The National Guard offered him the ability to serve his country and to be a full-time student at the same time. As a crew chief, he is responsible for the upkeep of the planes, and the lives of the crewmembers. His planes go where others can’t and deliver supplies to Special Forces on the ground.

A Hoosier for most of his life, Dan chose Illinois because when he visited, “it just felt like home.” It’s a decision that he couldn’t be happier with. Dan had just gotten into the College of Business this semester, his goal since entering the University. Is he disappointed that he has to deploy now? Not in the least. As he says about serving, “It’s truly an honor. It’s for a country we love. What better cause could there be than serving America and protecting our brothers and sisters out there on the front lines?” And Dan only has good things to say about the College of Business and the respect and help it has given him. That respect was on display when, in a lecture the two of us have together, the professor acknowledged Dan at the end of class, and the students then gave Dan an ovation. It made me proud to see such respect, and it made Dan proud too.

Yet this is column isn’t just about Dan, but all those like him who serve. Today is Veterans Day, a day in which we are supposed to commemorate those who have served, and also those who currently are.

It might be easy to forget about them this year, still flush with excitement after such a momentous election. Our current soldiers can also get lost amidst the politics involved with war. Iraq has been weighing on the public’s collective mind now for a while, and until recently, seemed to be a constant stream of bad news. Afghanistan has fallen on rough times now itself. People become tired quickly and disillusioned, but as Dan told me, we often don’t see both sides of the story. “We’re doing a lot of good out there. When you see those brave men and women out there, and see the good that they’re doing and progress that they’re making, and what’s going to come of that, what’s going to happen in the future, I think you would have a definite different opinion.”

Even in addition to all of that, we can get lost in our studies, and lose perspective and worry incessantly about grades and GPA. Dan has some perspective. He told me of a time last semester around finals when, while studying in the library, he overheard a nearby frustrated student say that sometimes he would rather go through basic training than finals, to which he thought, “Man, you do not wish that.” Don’t lose sight of the fact that while whatever you might be doing may be important, it isn’t nearly as important as what our current soldiers do, and our veterans did.

So this Veterans Day, try not to overlook or forget them. Try doing something that says you appreciate what they do. As Dan told me repeatedly, it isn’t about the glory, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to give them a little. After all, they give up quite a bit themselves. Dan’s deployment isn’t long, he’ll be back in time for second semester, but he will be missing Thanksgiving and Christmas. Does that anger him at all? Of course not, as he says the guys with families get to go home, never mind that he has one himself. The one thing he will miss though? “Bears games. That’s my true love and joy.”

I was given a quote for this column, by an unknown author, “A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’ That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.'”

For this Veterans Day, this column is my small way of showing I appreciate what they do.

For all those out there like Dan who serve, or have served, for whatever it’s worth: Thank you.

Jordan is a junior in MCB and is really pumped for the new James Bond movie this weekend.