Military

Hero of the Day – Nov. 23

November 23, 2015 by Cindy O'Dell
Brandon Paniagua, Brandman University

Brandon Paniagua

Military service: Currently enrolled in the Master’s of Arts in organizational leadership (M.A.O.L.) in an effort to provide the best leadership to my soldiers. I graduate in the spring and I’m currently stationed in El Paso, Texas (Fort Bliss). Joined US Army in 2002, 6 months after 9/11. Medical evacuation pilot (MEDEVAC), two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. Still serving.

What does Veterans Day mean to you? Honestly, it is like any other day for me, in that I work hard to do what I volunteered to do, serve this country.  I learned early in my childhood about why we have a standing military and the necessity of it to continue enjoying the freedoms we have.  I do enjoy the mass expressions of patriotism across the country on days like Nov. 11.  It reminds me that there are still a few things that we can unite on.  I make an extra effort every day to seek older veterans (Vietnam/Korea Era) and not simply thank them but also acknowledge that I understand what they dealt with then and continue to deal with today (PTSD).  You can usually find these vets because they wear hats that they proudly display.  This is not so people will thank them.  There is a special kind of brotherhood and patriotism that you develop in combat which is unexplainable.  You want to be in the fight even if it was 50 years ago.  One example was I have found myself in Starbucks and this old veteran was drinking coffee by himself, looking out the window.  I asked if he minded me sitting across from him.  I ended up chatting with him for hours when I should have been doing homework.  The courtesy driver (Vietnam vet) at the dealership took me back to work when I dropped my car off.  We talked the entire way and when we got there I took him inside to give him a tour of our advanced medical evacuation helicopters.  He was smiling from ear to ear.  Turns out that the last time he had been that close to a helicopter was when he was being evacuated out of Vietnam.  I view it as showing them (older vets) that our new generation is still doing our part to maintain what they built and now they can sleep safe at night.  These vets have experienced and survived things that most could not bear to watch on television.  We, as a country, drafted most of those older vets and forced them to go and fight.  Therefore, we have a responsibility to care for them.  I understand there are is an issue with the Veterans Affairs and I hope that it is being managed better.  Veterans Day is a day to acknowledge sacrifices made by those who have put on the uniform.

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