Fifty-five years ago, well before his appointment as Dean of the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, Daniel Shannon shipped out to Seattle for his U.S. Army assignment at the port of embarkation for troops heading to or from the Far East—Fort Lawton in Seattle, Wash.
Shannon, who operated a broadcast network for the base hospital, recently spoke to a group of former servicemen and servicewomen gathered on campus for a Veterans Day breakfast on Friday, Nov. 11. Shannon described his own service story and talked about his father-in-law, a World War II vet who was aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Bunker Hill during the Battle of Okinawa.
Although collectively all military personnel share the common experience of service to their country, each has a personal history. “It is in the cumulative effect of telling each of our stories that the whole story is told,” Shannon said in his keynote address at the University’s second Veterans Day Recognition Event.
The event is part of several initiatives sponsored by the University’s leadership and the Veterans Outreach Committee, a task force of veterans and University supporters, to improve outreach efforts and services to veterans on campus.
Addressing the group at the recognition event, Veterans Outreach Committee chair Aneesah Ali, Associate Provost and Affirmative Action Officer, explained the University’s initiatives, which include financial assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program , counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder, raising awareness about the benefits of veteran recruitment, and events such as the Veterans Day breakfast and the participation in the Illinois Warriors Summit , held last summer at Soldier Field.
Among the nearly 50 veterans and guests who came to hear Shannon’s talk in the Social Sciences Research Building was Paul Strieleman, Senior Lecturer in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division. A United States Air Force veteran, Strieleman said he and other fellow veterans don’t have many opportunities to discuss their service with each other. “We like to joke about it, talk about it, just talk about some of the crazy things we did,” he said, “but we don’t talk about war that much.”
Shannon recounted the history of Veterans Day and noted the Graham School’s historic ties to veterans and the military. He also delivered the gripping tale of his father-in-law’s service, noting that the World War II veteran only told his story two years ago during a family trip to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans . Founded in 1991 by historian Stephen Ambrose, the museum collects the oral histories of war veterans.
Shannon’s father-in-law, a Chicago native, was aboard the U.S.S. Bunker Hill when two bombs and two kamikaze pilots struck within 30 seconds of each other. The attack, part of the Battle of Okinawa, killed nearly 400 men and wounded more than 250 others.
“Each story adds to the narrative of a single event, or a series of events, or a period of time,” said Shannon. “Unfortunately, many stories go un-recounted, like my father-in-law’s, unless someone chronicles it.”
Richard Scott, Jr., who does design and construction work for Facilities in the Medical Center, spent six years in the United States Navy. He said this was his second time attending the recognition event. “It’s an opportunity to talk to other veterans about our experience, about the time we’ve served. And just as people thank me for my service, I thank them for theirs.”
Scott, a South Side native, spoke of the importance his Navy years played in broadening his horizons. “The Navy was an opportunity to travel. And I met lots of different people from all sorts of different cultures. Today, at the University of Chicago, I come across different people from all walks of life, and I think my time in the Navy prepared me for that.”
Dylan Hall, a first-year masters student in the Computer Science Professional Program, is studying with the help of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. “As the years go by, I’m trying to not be as angry and spiteful of my time,” Hall said about his recent experience in the Navy.
Hall said that UChicago’s outreach staff and initiatives have been supportive. In particular, he singled out JoAnn Creviston, Lead Project Assistant for Student Support and Veteran's Affairs, for her prompt responses to his questions. “JoAnn has just been incredible,” Hall said. “Every time I email her she gets back to me within half an hour. That’s certainly made it easier. She’s been really great.”
Hall was not the only veteran who spoke of mixed feelings about his service. Strieleman, who served in Vietnam and benefited from his generation’s version of the G.I. Bill, discussed his struggles with his connection to the war that provoked so much political turmoil in the 1960s and 1970s. “It was an era when the service was not held in high regard,” he said, “because it was an unpopular war. And when I served, it was not a good time; I served during the withdrawal. So my perspective on the military is perhaps a bit different.”
Still, reflecting on his service, Strieleman acknowledged the bond he maintained with a retired former colleague, who also served in Vietnam, and with the rest of his fellow veterans. “We had an unspoken understanding about that shared experience,” he said, “So maybe that’s what brings me to these events.”