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Duke Veterans Reflect on Service to Country

Duke honors staff and faculty with military service on Nov. 11

ROTC students at the 2012 Veterans Day event. Photo by Bryan Roth.
ROTC students at the 2012 Veterans Day event. Photo by Bryan Roth.

Duke has long had strong connections with the military.

In 1922, students nicknamed the athletic teams "Blue Devils," the name of a regiment of French alpine troops widely known for their exploits in World War I. During World War II, the Navy began Duke's first Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) on campus. And currently, there are about 122 veterans enrolled as students at Duke and 700 self-identified military veterans in Duke's workforce.

At 11 a.m. Nov. 11, Duke will host its annual Veterans Day ceremony on the Chapel Quad to thank and honor all those who served in peacetime and wartime. The event will include the presentation of the American flag by ROTC students and remarks from senior administrators and Karen Jean Hunt, a Duke librarian and veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

As part of this year's Veterans Day recognition, Hunt and four other employees shared how military service has affected their lives.

Anthony Garza, Distance Learning CoordinatorNicholas School of the EnvironmentU.S. Air Force, 1984 to 1998,  First Lieutenant

What prompted you to join the military?

I always wanted to join. My father and brother were in the Air Force, and I was fascinated with airplanes. I joined my high school's Air Force JROTC and enlisted at age 19. I completed my bachelor's degree in education and training and my master's degree in organizational management while I was in the Air Force. The Air Force taught me the lessons I needed to be successful. I only left because I wanted to start a family.

How will you celebrate Veterans Day?

I'll display miniature U.S. flags in my front yard, remember all the men and women I worked with who helped mold me into the person I am today, and pray for those who continue to serve.

Karen Jean Hunt African and African-American Studies LibrarianU.S. Air Force, 1975 to 1980 . Sergeant

How did military service affect your career?

I was the first woman at Norton Air Force Base to work in my warehouse. My job was tracking inventory and supplies and getting them where they needed to be. Now I'm a librarian, and I still track and deliver things, only it is books and information rather than aircraft parts. If I hadn't joined the Air Force, I never would have made it to college.

How will you celebrate Veterans Day?

I have a T-shirt that says "Women are Veterans... and I'm one" that I always wear on Veterans Day.

Bernie BallAssociate in Research, Marine LabU.S. Marine Corps, 1978 to 1998 . Staff Sergeant

What skills learned in the military do you use now at Duke?

Time management. As a recruit, there is always something to work on. You don't sit around. You look at what has to be done to advance the team, and you do it. At Duke's Marine Lab, I often find myself showing new students how to optimize their time in the lab.

How will you celebrate Veterans Day?

I will have a long phone conversation with several of my retired Marine buddies.

Abdur AkbarResearch Coordinator, Genito Urinary Oncology ClinicU.S. Army, 1998 to 2003 . Sergeant

How are Duke and the Army alike?

At Duke there is a team culture, so the collective effort of the military transfers well. I also discovered that the Army prepared me well for the intense learning atmosphere I encountered when I enrolled in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at Duke.

How will you celebrate Veterans Day?

I'll call my grandfather, who was a Tuskegee bugle boy, and my father, who was a U.S. Marine. Then I'll have dinner with my family at an establishment recognizing military veterans.

Stephen SmithChief Human Resources Officer, Duke University Health SystemU.S. Army, 1971 to 1998 . Brigadier General

How is working for Duke different than being in the Army?

There are far fewer demands on the family at Duke because you don't have to move as often. In the 27 years I served in the Army, my family moved 18 times.  But I have loved working in both places because in both places there is a sense of service - an opportunity to give on behalf of others.

How will you celebrate Veterans Day?

I'll send cards and emails to dear friends I made in the Army, and phone my wife's stepfather, who is a World War II veteran. I also often agree to speak at Veterans Day events because I believe so strongly in honoring the sacrifice and service of those who have served.