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Called to Serve

Ann Lewis

Sophomore, Management and Sport Management Double Major

  • U.S. Army, Military Police Officer
  • Five years active duty, 14 months in the reserves
  • 10-month deployment, Operation Iraqi Freedom

Read Ann's story

Ben Cooper

Freshman, Management Major

  • U.S. Army, Combat Medic
  • Four years active duty
  • One year deployment,
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn

Read Ben's story

James Gnau

Sophomore, Accounting Major

  • U.S. Air Force, Postal Specialist
  • Nine years, six months of active duty
  • Four deployments to combat zones

Read James' story

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Dicke Magazine and included profiles of current DCBA faculty members who also served. Click here to access an online copy of the issue where you can read the article in its entirety.


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When she was a little girl, Ann Lewis  saw soldiers from her hometown, Mount Healthy, Ohio, on television and was awed by their regal bearing. She remembers thinking: “I want to wear a uniform someday.”

Her fascination with the military didn’t fade with age, and she joined the U.S. Army right out of high school. “I trained to become a military police officer, which was a perfect fit, because I had also considered a career as a cop,” she says.

The Army gave Lewis, a small town girl, the chance to see the world. Stationed at a base in Italy for two years, she explored Europe, with excursions to England, Germany and Switzerland.

Throughout her military career, Lewis took on increasing levels of responsibility. While stationed in upstate New York, she even assumed oversight for her units’ ammunition supply, a job that required meticulous record-keeping.

The Army then deployed Lewis to Taji, Iraq, where she served for 10 months as a prison guard overseeing the medical care and family visitations for prisoners suspected of killing or plotting against U.S. soldiers.

After almost five years of active duty, Lewis served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 14 months. She enrolled at ONU in fall 2012 to pursue a bachelor’s degree with a dual major in management and sport management.

“I had actually visited ONU when I was in high school, and I fell in love with the campus,” says Lewis. “I made up my mind then and there that I would return to ONU after the Army.”

Serving in the military taught Lewis how to manage her time wisely, pay attention to details, and handle conflict and stress. These skills serve her well in college, she explains.

“College doesn’t stress me out like it does some of my fellow students,” she says. “After being in Iraq, I’m not stressed by anything that isn’t a life-or-death situation.”

Lewis, who’s a huge NASCAR fan, dreams of embarking on a career in the sports field after graduation.

“The Army taught me I could do more than I thought I was capable of,” she says. “No matter where God leads me in life, I will have my skills and experiences from the Army to make use of the best that I can.”

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One Veterans Day, Ben Cooper spent five hours sitting at the Vietnam Memorial in his hometown of Bellefontaine, Ohio. He felt frustrated and sad that no one else stopped by to pay their respects. “To most people, it was just a day off of work,” he says.

Shortly after, Cooper put aside his misgivings and enlisted in the U.S. Army. Wanting to take care of others, he became a combat medic. “I figured if I could save someone’s life, it would be worth it,” he says.

While stationed in the U.S., Cooper’s duties included maintaining medical records, keeping vaccinations current, and training more than 1,000 soldiers in combat lifesaving techniques.

In August 2010, the Army deployed Cooper’s company, Maddog, to Iraq to spearhead the end of Iraqi Freedom and the launch of Operation New Dawn. “We were a transition team with the main goal of security and reconstruction,” he explains.

Cooper describes his tour of duty in Iraq as “surreal.” The intense heat and constant threat of enemy attack took a toll. On the front lines of the conflict, Maddog company encountered sniper fire, mortars, improvised explosives and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

One day, a military truck carrying members of Cooper’s company took a direct hit from an RPG. Cooper was the first medic to respond, and the sight and smells remain etched in his memory. The men who perished in this attack, and several others from Cooper’s company, never made it home.

Today, Cooper struggles with nightmares and anxiety triggered by his war experiences. The logical part of his brain knows he is safe, but sometimes he can’t shake the fear that something bad is about to happen. “In Iraq, we never knew who the enemy was,” he says. “It makes it hard to trust people.”

Cooper enrolled at ONU and majored in business to set a new course for his life. He praises the professors and staff at ONU for their helpfulness and understanding. ONU even helped Cooper, a non-traditional student, find an apartment so that his young daughter could visit him on the weekends. “College has been a real blessing for me,” he says. “It offers a completely different pace with new projects and ideas.”

After graduation, Cooper hopes to find a position in management at a technology company. “I’m a hard worker and very disciplined,” he says. “My plan is to keep putting my best foot forward.”

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James Gnau, from Richmond, Ind., enlisted in the U.S. Air Force right after high school, following in the footsteps of his dad, an Air Force veteran, and his grandfather, who served under Patton during World War II.

The 9/11 attacks occurred when Gnau was in basic training. He had joined the Air Force during peace time, but now the country was at war. He knew this devastating event would define his military service. “I spent my entire enlistment during the Iraq War, from the initial invasion to the withdrawal of troops,” he says.

Gnau received a special-duty assignment as a postal specialist. His responsibilities including sorting and delivering mail and dealing with customs authorities and international regulations. During his nine years in the Air Force, he was stationed at bases in Japan, Germany and Norway.

Gnau was also deployed to combat zones four times. In 2003 and 2004, he served in Kuwait, where he once had to wear a chemical-protection suit for two straight weeks because of the threat of a chemical attack.

In 2006, the Air Force sent him to Baghdad, Iraq, where he managed a mailroom in the Green Zone for an Army Forward Operating Base. For a time, he worked next door to the building where Saddam Hussein was facing trial. In Iraq, Gnau often flew in BlackHawk helicopters to deliver much-anticipated care packages and letters from home to troops stationed outside the Green Zone.

“It was neat to be the middle man – that person who made sure soldiers received their packages,” he says. “We received a lot of support from families and organizations back home. Everyone was thankful and appreciative for that.”

Gnau served his last deployment in 2008 in Qatar, where he unloaded and loaded shipments at the International Airport.

While in the Air Force, Gnau became intrigued with finance and investing. He decided to pursue these interests by attending ONU and majoring in accounting. He describes the students and professors at ONU as “exceptionally kind.” “I haven’t had a problem fitting in, even though I’m a non-traditional student,” he says.

After graduation, Gnau hopes to find a position in accounting or finance at a well-established firm.

He also plans to continue to expand his worldview. “The Air Force taught me that there’s more to the world than what is outside the door or street where you live,” he says.

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