Picture of the Week: Gold Star Military Museum

By Joseph L. Murphy, Iowa Soybean Association

Our "Picture of the Week" takes us to the Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston, where Daniel Gannon, a Vietnam veteran, spoke during the museum's Veterans Tribute Celebration.

Captain (Retired) Gannon has fond memories of growing up and working on what now is a century farm near Mingo with his 12 brothers and sisters. After graduating from high school, he went to Iowa State University to study agriculture.

"Back in the 60s it was expected that the oldest boy would go back and farm," Gannon says. "So, my career was set for me."

But those plans were interrupted in 1968, when Gannon received word from the Jasper County Draft Board that he would eventually be drafted as the Vietnam War continued to escalate. Instead of waiting for his draft orders, he volunteered for the Marine Corps.

"My focus was to graduate and then I thought ‘you can have me,’" he says. "For some reason, I decided I wanted to be a Marine. So, I signed up for the Marine Corps officer program."

After training, Gannon found himself in Vietnam as a first lieutenant commanding a platoon. Much of his time in Vietnam was spent patrolling the jungle. He was wounded during his service and spent three weeks in a field hospital. After 12 months of combat service, Gannon was sent back to the U.S. to finish his active duty. He was decorated with the Navy Commendation Award for meritorious service with a "V" for valor.

After his military service, Gannon returned to the farm.

"I got back to the farm and that lasted about nine months," he says. "I was a changed human being. I stepped away from the farm and never went back. I had a lot of trauma from my time in Vietnam and I was restless."

Gannon worked as a banker and in several management roles with United Parcel Service before retiring. Since his retirement, Gannon has been active in helping other veterans and active service members.

"I have a passion for all of the men and women that have served our country or are now in the military," Gannon says. "I spend the majority of my time volunteering for Veterans organizations, helping those veterans that are in need, especially with their veteran benefits."

During his speech on Saturday, he hopes to convey two important messages. That veterans need to talk and they need to act.

"By talking, I mean we have to constantly talk about our service, so people remember the sacrifice," he says. "We also have to do various activities during Veteran's Day and events like Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day."

Gannon says those activities keep awareness in front of everybody. About 1% of the U.S. population serves in the military today, parallel to the 2% of the U.S. population who farm.

"We need to keep people aware of the sacrifices that people are making," he says. "There are 869 names on the wall over at the capitol. Those are Iowans who died in the Vietnam War. Their sacrifices and disabilities need to be talked about, so Veterans can get what they deserve."