SOM Students Mark Veterans Day
In recognition of Veterans Day, eight SOM students discussed their military experiences before an audience of students, faculty, and staff in the GM Room on November 10. "Veterans Day is a unique opportunity," Matthew Iames '12 said. "It's important to recognize the sacrifices that war requires of everyone."
The presenters were Richard Buonauito '12, Steve Gluth '12, Matthew Iames '12, Zandra Minor '11, John Perez '12, Luke Putz '12, Matt Schmitt '12, and Christine Zens '11. They cited camaraderie, public service, and a sense of mission as motivations for entering the military. Most had seen deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both.
In discussing their day-to-day experiences, they said that a sense of larger purpose was important, as daily tasks could grow repetitive to the point of monotony. The movie Groundhog Day, where the main character relives a single day again and again, was referenced numerous times. Even combat operations had long dull lulls that could end in an instant. "It went from boring to intensely scary," said Steve Gluth, a helicopter pilot who flew in Iraq.
Gluth and others cited instances when they felt like they witnessed, and participated in, historic moments. Gluth described flying over the normally teeming streets of Baghdad on the morning of the referendum to ratify the new constitution in 2005. With vehicles banned for security reasons there was an extraordinary stillness at the cusp of a moment of change.
The challenge of leadership was another theme of the discussion. The students said that leadership depends less on rank than many outside the military believe and more on developing relationships.
"Above all, military officers are leaders," said John Perez. They are responsible for solving problems. "How do you bring electricity to a small town in Diyala province in Iraq? No one is specifically trained for this. You get some smart people together and figure out how to go about solving the problem."
They also talked about what life was like when the workday came to an end. There was time to catch up with family or to work out, but many of the errands of everyday life-grocery shopping or getting the car in for an oil change-aren't part of a military life. Off hours were spent playing video games or watching DVDs. Desperate Housewives was surprisingly popular even in all-male attack helicopter flight crews.
These veterans spoke of Veterans Day as a time to think of those who served in earlier conflicts. They also cited their own service as making them keenly aware of what they have at home.