At Hanover High, Veterans Tell Their Stories

  • Hanover High School sophomore Hope Norman, left, stayed after class to ask advice from Army Capt. Nicolas Fiore, right, about how to choose a branch of the Military Thursday, November 10, 2016. "I kind of want to give back, in a way," said Norman of her interest in joining the military. Fiore, a student at the Tuck School of Business, was one of several veterans who spoke to classes at the school ahead of the Veterans Day holiday. He discussed issues of women serving in combat, LGBTQ soldiers, and race with the students. "When you're making decisions as a team every day, for years, those differences fade away fast," he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rebecca Ivatury, of Hanover, speaks to Hanover High School students in Hanover, N.H. Thursday, November 10, 2016 about her experience serving as an Air Force trauma and combat nurse at Balad Air Base in Iraq. From left are Hanover juniors Hayden Smith, Kezar Berger, Jonah Felde and Lincoln Adam. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Julia Taenzer, 17, right, and Brendan Dufty, 16, left, listen to Navy veteran Bill Brown, of Hanover, describing his service as a submarine officer during the Cold War, to observe Veterans Day at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H. Thursday, November 10, 2016. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Social studies teacher Bill Murphy, left, talks with Air Force veteran Rebecca Ivatory, second from left, about veterans charities as Navy veterans Bill Brown, second from right, and Hohn Donovan, right, talk between classes at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, November 10, 2016. Former and current members of the several branches of the military spoke to classes to give a frame of reference to Friday's holiday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hanover — Addressing a roomful of fresh-faced Hanover High students on Thursday afternoon, Dave Dauphinais recounted deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke proudly of earning his Navy SEAL trident, and reflected on the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life after 10 years in the military.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder is a real thing,” Dauphinais said, seeing the initials written on a chalkboard across the room. “It’s hard to articulate how painful it can be.”

Now studying at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, Dauphinais joined a handful of other area veterans in speaking to social studies classes on Thursday. The visits, now in their sixth year, were timed to occur just before today’s observance of Veterans Day.

“We have a lot more post-9/11 veterans, which is great in terms of connections for students within their historical memory,” said department coordinator Liz Murray, who worked with Tuck’s administration to organize the visits. “I think the biggest thing we hope for is that students get to interact with people who’ve had very different experiences in their lives than they have.”

For Rebecca Ivatury, a former Air Force nurse and current stay-at-home mom, the occasion also provided a welcome chance to connect with fellow veterans.

“I find the most comfort and most ease talking to these guys,” Ivatury said, gesturing to Navy veterans John Donovan and Bill Brown, who served during the Vietnam War and the Cold War, respectively. The group had just presented to a fifth-period class. “It was great; it was cathartic in a way, to listen to them and their stories,” Ivatury said.

Serving in Iraq from 2005 to 2009, Ivatury treated all comers: American and coalition forces, Iraqi civilians, even, she insisted, insurgents.

“If they get to your hospital you’re still treating them; they’re getting very good medical care; they’re still getting treated with respect,” she said.

Students and teachers alike had plenty of questions for their guests. Ninth-grader Will Tarnowski asked Dauphinais, “Who decides where you get deployed?”

The president and secretary of defense, came the response. Deployments are “based on an assessment of the threats around the world, combined with requests from other countries,” Dauphinais said.

Later, he fielded a question about whether he’s suffered bad flashbacks.

“It rarely happens, but it does, and military veterans have to deal with that,” Dauphinais said.

One memory that’s stuck with him is of responding to a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2010. Eleven people died, four of them SEALs, and Dauphinais was charged with preparing the remains to be returned to the U.S.

“That was one of the lowest points in my life, no question, but I was so impressed with how the team came together that day,” he said.

Dauphinais then began questioning the class, asking the students if they knew anybody who had served in the military, and if any of them aspired to do so.

The first question sent up about 10 hands. Students cited an uncle who had served as a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, a dad in the Army Reserve, several grandfathers.

“My dad was in the Navy, and my mom was in the Army,” student Isabel Brennan said.

Dauphinais’ second question drew fewer responses from his young audience. One student, Joey Perras, said he might be interested in attending a military academy.

Bill Brown, the Cold War submariner, said he enjoys discussing his career with students each year, as well as interacting with them in his capacity as a Naval Academy recruiter.

But, he said, “what we’re not picking up on is other organizations that provide service, like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.”

Brown suggested the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps could act as a guide for a future national service program.

The school’s social studies faculty see the visit program as an opportunity to instill in students respect for those who have served.

“It’s great for students,” Murray said, “to watch them leave the room, and every single person says thank you.”

Pamala Miller, in whose class Dauphinais spoke, invoked an October speech by Vice President Joe Biden in which he asserted a “sacred obligation” to care for veterans. “I think it’s such a powerful statement, and it’s absolutely true,” she said.

Miller’s classroom received another special visitor on Thursday: Tuck first year David Bates, who served in the Marines from 2008 through earlier this year.

Bates said he was thinking of becoming a strategy consultant. In the meantime, the network of veterans at Tuck has helped him readjust to civilian life.

“We try not to be totally exclusive, but there’s an instant common bond and connection,” Bates said, “even if they’re different armed forces.”