Spring 2023 Veterans History Project Interviews
The students in Dr. Lauren Rule Maxwell’s Spring 2023 undergraduate Advanced Composition class conducted oral history interviews with a diverse group of U.S. veterans to learn about their military experiences. In addition to conducting interviews, the students incorporated the veterans’ stories into a range of writing exercises, including abstracts and feature articles, which appear with the interviews online.
Click on the hyperlinked headings below to see video recordings of the interviews, which also will be archived in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. It is our hope that, by capturing these histories, the interviews will do justice to the veterans’ stories while paying homage to their legacy and the principled leadership they inspire.
Many people deserve thanks for helping make this project a reality. In particular, we’d like to thank Lawrence Galasso, John Stabinger, and the staff of The Daniel Library.
Interview of GySgt Danielle Beck by Jillian Aylsworth, March 28, 2023
Born in California on March 18th, 1986, Danielle Beck is far today from where she ever thought that she’d be. From a very young age, Danielle has been exposed to military life; with her dad in the Army, both of her grandfathers in the Marine Corps, and her uncle in the Navy, this was not an alien lifestyle to her. Out of high school, Danielle was pressured to attend college first. She attended St. Mary’s, where she was involved in many extracurricular activities, including the rowing team. During her years in college, she felt as though it wasn’t the right fit for her. Eventually, Danielle made the daring decision to follow her true passion.
She left college to enlist in the Marine Corps, where she served from 2009 to 2021. During her time as a Marine, Danielle was involved in many service-based opportunities that helped women get to the chance serve in combat. After serving, she decided it was time for her to go back to college and finish her degree. She attended The Citadel as a MECEP student; she majored in Criminal Justice and Psychology and graduated in May of 2021.
Upon graduating from college and earning her bachelor’s degree, Danielle planned to be commissioned into the Marine Corps; she is now currently earning her MBA at The Citadel. Despite the adversity in her life, she has continued to rise above and keep pushing forward, blazing a trail for those to follow.
Interview of Captain David Walters, Sr. by Sam Wilson, March 28, 2023
David M. Walters, Army Captain, Pilot, and Aide-de-Camp to General Seignious, grew up as a boy with his head in the clouds, dreaming about being an Army aviator. From his birth, David was on track to becoming a Citadel Man, as his father and father-in-law were both in the class of 1942. Both of these gentlemen would go on to serve in World War II, with his father in Europe as a part of the 10th Armored Division and his father-in-law serving in the Pacific, building airfields. Growing up on the move across the United States, Walters matriculated to The Citadel and would be a part of the class of 1967. After earning an Army Contract, he would commission in the spring of 1967.
Shortly before starting flight school to become a helicopter pilot, he married the love of his life, Lucy Grange Jones, in February of 1968. His father-in-law had met his wife one Sunday, freshman year, at a dinner after church. Making it a family tradition, David also met Lucy one Sunday, freshman year, at a dinner after church. But soon after marrying his love, he left everything he knew behind in a plane hopping from island to island in the Pacific, ending up in Vietnam in 1969.
David says that the thing he remembers most about that first day was the humid heat, which was similar to but much worse than what we have in South Carolina. In Vietnam, David would serve as a Huey Pilot, transporting supplies, weapons, and men around North Vietnam in the mountains. Here, he would work with special forces, Republic of Vietnam troopers, and the famed 101st Airborne. Making it through this rough year, he was then asked to serve under General Seignious, a classmate of his father and mentor to him, as his Aide-de-Camp. This job would take him around the world once again, this time ending in Berlin.
At the 20th century’s intersection of nuclear nations, General Seignious was serving as the U.S. Commander of Berlin. Being in the city as his aide, Walters would gain the WWII occupation ribbon, something that his father also had from nearly a quarter of a century earlier. Dealing with the British, the French, and the Soviets held new surprises each day. Captain David Walters would leave the Army in the fall of 1971, returning to South Carolina and taking over the family business, Jones Ford, a car dealership. David has two sons, David M. Walters, Jr., a Citadel graduate and member of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Advisory Board, and Michael A. Walters, a graduate of the Covenant College and a current ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. This interview of David M. Walters, Sr., represents his story of sacrifice, courage, and commitment, a story that continues to inspire Citadel students today.
Interview of Col Giles Boyce by Sgt Brenna Curtin, March 29, 2023
Colonel Giles “Russ” Boyce is closing in on retirement after 30 years of service: he truly has led from the front in every clime and place. From all over the world, Colonel Boyce worked hard with his Marines, always putting them and their well-being first. After 10 deployments, ranging from combat to humanitarian, he had to practice tough decision-making and true responsibility as a leader, which he did with the same calm and stoic demeanor he has had for his entire career.
Choosing to be an Infantry Officer was always his dream as he grew up wanting nothing more than to be a Marine. During his Marine Corps career, he had the opportunity to utilize his field skills, training abilities, and mentorship. He was an asset to the Marine Corps more than he realizes. With the support of his wife and two sons, he has been able to serve the Marine Corps fully, never having to say no and always putting his best foot forward for his Marines, his family, and his Country.
Interview of Specialist Jon May by Aidan Harpstrite, March 29, 2023
Jon Paul May was born on July 14, 1944, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father served in World War II in the Army Air Corps, but he never heard any stories about his father’s time in the Army. Thus, when Jon was growing up, his father’s service had no impact on his desire to join the military life or career path.
It wasn’t until he received his draft notice from the United States Army in 1966 that he decided to enlist in the Army. He then went on to attend Basic Training at Fort Leonard-Wood, Missouri, when he was 21 years old, which prompted his fellow trainees to refer to him as “the old man” even though they were only a couple years younger than he was.
During his time in Basic Training, he began to form a philosophy that would follow him through the rest of his military career and life: “Do what is necessary to the best of your ability.” After graduation, he moved on to Advanced Training to become a clerk typist. May was assigned to the 7th Medical Brigade HQ in Ludwigsburg, Germany. There he would spend his career serving under Colonel Clell J. Windham for three years as a clerk typist until he retired as a Specialist. Jon May’s story is one of the thousands of stories that are not often told, yet it is men and women like him who have carried the United States Army’s fighters to victory since the American Revolution.
Interview of CW2 Nick Lavery by Ashlyn Howard, March 30, 2023
Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nick Lavery is the epitome of resilience. He is the first Special Forces operator to return to combat as an above-the-knee-amputee. You may be thinking, “how did this happen?” or “why did he go back into service?” For Nick, the answer is simple: resilience and mental toughness. This training began in Boston, Massachusetts, when he was a child. Nick was the new kid in school every year until he attended Boston College High School. It was through this constant shuffle that his conditioning started.
Nick originally had ambitions to become a Marine, but that was put on hold when he began his recruitment process for college football. It was during his sophomore year at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell when the horrific events of 9/11 occurred. Watching fellow Americans make the choice of either burning alive or jumping to their death created a fire within Nick to want to do something for his country. It was that event that reinvigorated Nick’s desire to serve. After he graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Since then, Nick has served multiple tours and has endured three major wounds from action: grenade shrapnel to his shoulder, an AK-47 round to the face, and the loss of his right leg above the knee. He is the very definition of resilience, the warrior ethos, and what it means to be an American Soldier. I am honored to be a part of sharing his story and hope you enjoy the interview.
Interview of CW5 Steven Knight by SSgt Benjamin Knight, April 3, 2023
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Knight has been an inspiration to his family and is a legend in the Chinook helicopter community within the U.S. Army. Besides his accomplished career as an aviator, CW5 Knight, who is my uncle, is a generous family man and someone to look up to for future generations.
I can remember visiting my Uncle Steve and Aunt Sherry as a young man in Clarksville, Tennessee. My aunt got a call; no words were spoken, but we heard the thumping of propeller blades through the line. That was the signal to step outside. We went out into the night; we could hear the helicopter in the distance but couldn’t see it. Then the enormous spotlight flipped on and illuminated us in body and mind. As the Chinook flew over on a training flight, my uncle made sure to add that little stop to say goodnight to the family and give us impressionable kids a little thrill.
While serving as a Chinook pilot from 1975 to 1997 and working with the best of the best in the 160th Night Stalkers special operations community, CW5 Knight made lasting impressions among fellow soldiers and was one of the groundbreakers for aerial refueling via Chinooks. Developing these policies and procedures and teaching them to new pilots helped evolve our capabilities as a fighting force.
The interview outlines his contributions to Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm/Desert Shield, and Uphold Democracy and his serving in West Virginia during the flooding of 1985, for which he was recognized by the Secretary of the Army. I’m proud of him as his nephew, as a fellow member of the armed forces, and as a man. Whether you are a young military leader, a person interested in aviation, or a student of history, you should take a few moments to enjoy this interview.