Veterans share their stories in honor of Veterans Day

Hannah Shillo, Campus Reporter

Veterans Day happens every year, but students can celebrate on more than one day a year and in many different ways.

From respecting veterans for their sacrifices to sending current troops care packages, or simply thanking a veteran for all of their work, the federal holiday is meant to honor those who have served in the United States military.

Eastern will be celebrating veterans by having a Veteran’s Day ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 12 in Old Main’s Cougill Foyer.

Dave McDaniel is a Vietnam veteran who served active duty in the Navy from 1971 to 1973 and in the Navy Reserves until 1976.

He said his options were to be drafted into a random branch or select one that he thought was more appealing, so he chose the Navy because his grandfather served in the Italian Navy.

McDaniel said the military taught him how to turn strangers into friends quickly.

“You have to rely on them to get your job done,” he said, “and they have to rely on you to get their job done.”

He said he credits the military for his leadership skills as well.

“Being responsible for your own actions, and sometimes the actions of others, gives a person a better perspective on their ability to become a leader,” he said.

Dillon Ervin served active duty in the Army from 2013 to 2016 and is currently serving his Inactive Reserves duty until 2020.

He said he chose to enlist as an infantryman, despite many people telling him not to.

“My Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery score was high enough to get around 80 percent of the jobs,” he said. “I still chose infantry because I wanted to make sure that during my time serving I felt as though I really made a difference.”

Ervin said he credits the Army for shaping him into the man he is now.

“The experiences in the service, and the mindset, forced me to dig deep down and become an adult,” he said. “I am much more mature now and have a different outlook on life. I no longer sweat the little things, I embrace life’s challenges and I enjoy every single day.”

Shawn Carson served in the Army from 1989 to 1992, where he worked in Army Intelligence.

He said he chose that branch because his grandfather also served in the Army.

Carson said his time in the military affected him in life-changing ways.

“I would credit my positive outlook and motivation for life entirely to the military,” he said. “The mental and physical foundation (the Army) provide are second to none.”

He said he made the best friends of his life while in the Army, and he still talks to and visits with many of them on a regular basis.

“These friendships are more like brotherhoods,” he said. “When you go through trials, tribulations, extreme stress and basically growing up together and depending on one another, it creates a very unique and long-lasting bond.”

As a veteran, Carson said Veterans Day is important to him, and he celebrates by talking to his veteran friends and occasionally watching his favorite military-themed movies.

“Veterans day is extremely important to me,” he said. “Not to celebrate myself but celebrate all — especially those who sacrificed and lost more than I did. I am glad this holiday exists so the public never forgets that the life we live here would not be possible without our military and those who serve and sacrifice for it.”

Ervin said he made plenty of close friendships while in the service and still keeps in contact with a lot of them.

“Veterans Day reminds me of the days spent with my military brothers. The laughs, screams, jokes (and) anger — all of it,” he said. “It reminds me of what feels like another life I lived (and) makes me miss my brothers. Usually, I will contact some of my brothers and spend hours reminiscing about the times we had.”

McDaniel said Veterans Day gives him a sense of accomplishment, knowing he was able to serve his country, and he celebrates by thinking of those who are still serving and hoping they stay safe.

He said students can celebrate Veterans Day by appreciating where they live.

“Celebrate that you live in the greatest nation in the world and are free,” he said.

Ervin said students can celebrate in different ways, depending on the age of each veteran specifically.

“For the older vets, I would say students can spend time just talking to them and be an ear for them to tell their stories,” he said. “For us younger veterans, in my opinion, it’s as easy as a simple ‘thank you,’ or maybe shake a veteran’s hand if you see one passing through.”

Carson said students can celebrate by learning more about military service, going to the VA to talk with veterans, thanking veterans when passing by and sending care packages to troops.

“Students can thank a veteran for their freedom and way of life,” he said. “Surviving veterans often feel guilty if you simply thank them for their service, because they survived, and chances are they know someone that did not. Care packages to troops anywhere is also a rewarding way to celebrate and could boost morale more than you realize.”

Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].