Veterans Day reflection

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Dordt reflects on Veterans Day

This fall, Dordt University President Dr. Erik Hoekstra shared a little-known fact during Convocation: the American flag that was flying on campus at that time had flown over Iraq and Syria on March 24, 2021 in an AC-130W “Stinger II” Gunship, in honor of Dordt.

The flag was a gift to Dordt from Jordan Helming, husband to Dr. Luralyn Helming, professor of psychology at Dordt. Jordan Helming had recently spent just over eight months at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq as a chaplain for the 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery Regiment, and he brought back the flag to thank and acknowledge the support that Dordt had shown the Helming family during his time overseas.

“This was my first deployment, so we really didn’t know what to expect,” says Helming. “So many faculty and staff at Dordt were eager to support us in unexpected ways. Dordt demonstrated to us that faith truly is integral to every part of campus life as they loved our family during this difficult year.”

Throughout Defender Nation, many have served in the military—current students, alumni, faculty, staff, and supporters. Veterans Day offers an opportunity to give thanks for their contributions.

“I have always had a desire to serve in the military,” says Landon Van Middendorp, a current Dordt student who served in the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. “It was something that I was very passionate about and one of the few things I cared about as a carefree teenager."

Van Middendorp was deployed overseas and spent time in numerous countries including Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Japan, and South Korea.

“It was the experience of a lifetime, and I made many memories and friendships that I will cherish my entire life,” says Van Middendorp. “The military has also given me many benefits outside of my service that I am able to enjoy. Through the GI Bill, I qualified for what is essentially a full ride that has provided me the opportunity to go to school and start a family with my wife at the same time.”

Dordt has participated in the Yellow Ribbon program for many years and is able to use it to assist both veteran students and their dependents. The program is an added benefit of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, for those veterans who meet the service time required for 100 percent eligibility. The Yellow Ribbon program allows a private school to pay for a select portion of tuition not covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill yearly cap and this amount is then matched by Veterans Affairs.

Shane Kramer currently studies theology at Dordt and has served as a member of the Minnesota National Guard for 12 years. He is currently a Staff Sergeant in the 34th infantry division.

“I chose to serve in high school because someone I cared for very dearly told me I would do great in the Army,” says Kramer. “They passed before I joined, so I stay in to develop future leaders and help kids through tough times. I hope to stay in and be a First Sergeant of a unit someday.”

Kramer plans to use his theology degree to serve as a youth pastor and walk alongside young adults and church members.

“I want to walk with them through their struggles and questions while helping them look beyond the small world they have already seen.”

Kramer has appreciated the support Dordt has provided as he juggles school and service.

Dordt has been extremely helpful with Merrill McCarthy [Registrar’s Office] working with me when I am away. I have been gone for up to a month, and most professors work very well without pressuring me or overwhelming me.”

Professor of Nursing Kate Vander Veen is an Airforce veteran who served 21 years as a nurse overseas in Germany and Japan as well as stateside. When she was first commissioned, she never imagined that God would call her to a lengthy military career as a nurse, but she found later just how well it prepared her for work at Dordt.

“The vast array of experiences, both within the nursing practice and the global exposure provided, prepared me to serve my classroom—bringing a passion to serve the Lord by reconnecting with our humanity,” says Vander Veen. “I see my calling as one to inspire hope among our young nurses and encourage them to reclaim humaneness in their practice. I hope they will set aside personal issues and trust in our awesome Lord’s directive to care about and to care for the vulnerable in such ways as to glorify God.”

Alumnus Grant De Nooy (’17), served alongside Jordan Helming overseas, as a member of the Iowa Army National Guard, and served by operating the C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar) system, in the 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery. He served a year-long deployment to Erbil, Iraq from August 2020-2021. He currently serves as the 13J – Fire Control Specialist and processes artillery fire missions.

“I chose to join the Guard primarily as a way to give back; to do my part in helping preserve the environment I was born and raised in that I'm so grateful for,” says De Nooy. “My experience at Dordt has given me a more missional perspective for my time in service. I often heard "every square inch" on campus and recognized that the military is no exception. In response to that, I've felt called to be an ambassador for Christ's love to those I serve with as well as others I otherwise wouldn't encounter outside of service.”

Aaron Van Beek (’18), is an alumnus who supports local veterans in his community. Van Beek serves as president of the Sioux Center branch of the Midwest Honor Flight, a nonprofit that charters one-day flights to Washington D.C., free of charge for veterans. The groups spend 10 hours at the capitol, watching the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, visiting war memorials, and taking a bus tour of downtown Washington D.C.

Van Beek believes that seeing the memorials provides healing and closure for the veterans.

“When they see the memorials, they can see that their service matters, that their service isn’t forgotten,” says Van Beek. “Generations to come will be able to visit the memorial and see what they did for their country.”

Dordt University is thankful for each of these veterans and all who have served.