By Ariel Tausk & Mary Husser
managing news & staff writer
After eight years in Iraq, the US declared an end to the war on Dec. 15, 2011. Although no weapons of mass destruction were found during those eight years, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the efforts of US soldiers were fundamental to establishing a democracy in the country.
Meanwhile, soldiers have been stationed in Afghanistan for a decade. The conflict in Afghanistan has been making headlines for years, with President Obama announcing a plan for troop withdrawal in 2011 after Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEAL Team Six.
Although these wars may not directly affect most people, several members of DHS have significant connections to the military.
The state has recently requested information on the number of students coming from military families. A “military family” is defined as having a parent or parents who currently serve or have served in any branch of the military. Assistant principal Ted Davis is responsible for collecting this information for DHS. He estimates that there are about five students at DHS who come from military families.
The Partlos are one such family. Loren Partlo, father of DHS freshman Megan, sophomore Erik and senior Ashley, is currently a civilian working for the Department of the Navy as an Educational Specialist.
“Dow High has many connections to the military in all branches,” Loren typed in an e-mail. “You would be surprised how many people from the area are involved with the military or are veterans.”
One DHS alumnus who is now in the military is Cory Kastl, son of Principal Pam Kastl. After graduating in 2004, Cory trained at Westpoint Military Academy. He dedicated himself for eight more years, becoming a commander.
“In a time of war, to sign up to go to Westpoint is a pretty big commitment,” Pam said.
In May 2011, Cory returned home from his twelve-month deployment in Afghanistan. Pam said that what Cory experienced overseas was intense, so she is relieved to finally have her son home.
“He was definitely in a war zone in an area that was very much unprotected,” Pam said. “He saw a lot of action, a lot of conflict, a lot of things I frankly wish he never had to go through or had to watch other people go through. It was a constant, 24/7 worry.”
In Afghanistan, Cory was responsible for a platoon of 36 men.
“I also met a lot of Afghanis who I worked with,” Cory said. “It was pretty cool to learn their culture and perspective on things.”
He also said that life in America significantly differs from life in Afghanistan.
“It’s good to be home,” he said. “It takes a few months to get used to again. Over there, you’re always so on-edge.”
Loren explains why many choose to join the military. According to him, some join for financial reasons, since serving in the military is a way to pay for college. There is also the benefit of keeping a steady job and receiving a retirement plan after 20 years. Many people are familiar with military life from having relatives who have joined.
“My grandpa was in the military for a while during World War II,” Cory said.
Some enlist for practical reasons. Loren said the skills that can be learned in the military are helpful.
“I have piloted five different types of military helicopters,” Loren said. “If I wanted to, I could transfer this experience to becoming a commercial pilot.”
Others join for more sentimental reasons. The military can provide adventure and travel, since it often gives people a sense of responsibility and leadership. And there are those who wish to serve to support American values and the way of life.
Cory Kastl dedicated himself to the military for this purpose. Pam said her son, a DHS sophomore at the time, experienced a personal call-to-duty during the 9/11 attacks.
“He felt like he needed to do something to protect all of us here,” she said. “It was really all about protecting America and protecting his family.”
Although he normally resides in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Cory is currently training troops in Louisiana and getting them ready to deploy. He will take company command in two weeks.
“As long as there’s a war to be fought, I’ll stay in,” Cory said.
Pam is proud of her son’s service.
“Our soldiers that are over there make huge sacrifices to protect all of
us,” she said.