Danner urges LU ROTC students to have patience
Saturday, November 12, 2011
In Missouri Adjutant General Steve Danner’s years of military service, some things have changed dramatically — while others virtually are the same.
Danner has been in the Army National Guard since 1981 when, fresh out of the University of Missouri law school, he joined as a member of the Judge Advocate Corps.
But he initially joined the Army in 1972, out of high school, and served as a combat engineer with the 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division.
His many experiences prompted him to make some changes in programs for Missouri’s National Guard soldiers and airmen, he said, after he became adjutant general in 2009.
“As a nation, we’ve had a pretty good track record, lately, of honoring our returning veterans,” he told Lincoln University ROTC cadets, and their veteran visitors, during the annual Blue Tiger Battalion Veteran’s Day Breakfast. “But it’s not been perfect.
“We’ve heard about the treatment that our Vietnam veterans received when they returned and, hopefully, we’ve learned our lesson — today, we in the National Guard make sure that all our units are received with the honors that they deserve when they return home.”
He said today’s social attitude toward soldiers returning from a war zone is “180 degrees” different from 40 years ago.
“Yes, I served in 1972, and there were restaurants and other public facilities that just had signs saying ‘Soldiers are not welcome,’” he recalled. “And you could always tell the difference with us, because we always had the short hair and nobody else did.
“And it made it very difficult at that time. Those of us who are veterans now understand that, and we try to make it different.
“And it is different.”
Still, he said during Friday morning’s speech, his own return from the Middle East in January 2007 was marked with “a nice, short 15-minute ceremony and then it was, ‘Thank you for your service.’ And ‘Good-bye. See you at drill again in 90 days.’
“As if nothing happened.”
So one of his efforts as the Missouri Guard’s top commander has been “an integration program that, actually, begins even before an airman or a soldier deploys. Their family and friends and civilian employers are also a part of our key programs,” Danner explained. “They learn about their legal rights, and the rights they have with their employers, as citizen-soldiers.
“They learn about the benefits they are due as members of the military, and veterans. Perhaps, most importantly, they learn about the physical- and mental-health resources available to them.”