Veterans reflect on experience for DPHS students


Violet Smale, Staff writer

On Nov. 12, ten United States veterans representing branches of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army Reserves set aside time fourth hour to speak to a few De Pere High School classes about their experiences in the Armed Forces.

Their accounts of experiences from bootcamp to the battlefield were informative and fused with patriotism.

When asked about their intentions in enlisting, many of the veterans shared that it was a combination of honoring past generations and simply a call of duty.

“I honored the fact that our forefathers fought for everything we have,” stated Steve Wolfcale, a DPHS custodian who served in the Navy.

Enlisting was not a simple journey for some of the veterans. A former Air Force pilot, Lt. Col. Vic Kapinos explained his extensive background in military training, including two separate rounds of pilot training and 20 years of active duty.

The men and women speaking had mostly positive memories to share of their time in the service.

“The army helped shape me to who I am,” said Army Reserves soldier David Mickles.

Others fondly recalled how the military gave them a whole second family. Whether it was spurred by a shared hatred for their drill sergeant in boot camp, or just the intense experiences they shared, all of the speakers seemed to agree that the bonds they formed with their fellow servicemen and women were priceless.

“The people are always what I think about most,” said DPHS social studies teacher Mr. Oslund, who served on the Marines.

Along with the valuable friendships, a few of the veterans seemed to enjoy the travel aspect of service. Kapinos traveled to 25 countries and every U.S state while serving.

“The military allowed me to experience a multitude of things I never would’ve experienced as a farm kid,” he said. “A lot of positives, but  an equal amount of negatives. Being associated with war, there’s nothing glorious about it. It leaves a lasting impression on your brain that never goes away.”

A surprising mix of positive and negative remarks emerged at the mention of bootcamp. Mr. Cartier, having served in the U.S. Navy, explained the shock of entering boot camp.

“You were a civilian here, and then you’re serving in the military,” he said. “It’s like two different worlds.”

Kapinos explained how bootcamp essentially stripped soldiers of their individuality.

“First of all, they cut all your hair off,” he said. “They don’t treat you like you’re anything more than pond scum.”

Kapinos felt boot camp was a true reality check: “Right now, you don’t know where you’re at. Whereas in bootcamp, you know exactly where you’re at.”

(Photos by Ivy Hamblen, Hannah Sandberg)