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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Summer 2004 > A Soldier’s Tale

A Soldier’s Tale

1 | 2 | 3 | Rieckhoff Speaks Out | Other Amherst Grads in Military

Other Amherst Grads in Military

Paul Rieckhoff is not the only Amherst graduate to have chosen a life in the military. Rieckhoff’s classmate, Mike Anderson ’98, now a captain in the Air Force, became involved through ROTC. “I was awarded an Air Force ROTC scholarship when I was a senior in high school and used it at Amherst,” he says. “I attended my ROTC classes and other commitments at the ROTC detachment at UMass. To be honest, ROTC started out mainly as a way to pay for college; but I was also attracted to the notion of serving my country, as well as the travel opportunities and challenges that the Air Force could present.”

Assigned to Kadena Air Base in Japan, Anderson was involved in operations before, during, and after the war in Iraq. He also flew during the Iraq invasion. “Like a lot of units,” he says, “we trained and exercised constantly before the onset of hostilities. The training was tough and demanding, crafted to create as stressful an environment as possible. As a result, my guys (many not too far removed from high school) had to perform under pressure, and they did just that. Really, I couldn't be prouder of the work they did during the war.”

“I encourage anyone,” he says, “Amherst community included, to consider and explore careers that serve their community, their country, their faith or whatever greater purpose attracts them, and to appreciate the efforts of others engaged in service. Amherst students are gifted in ability and circumstance; it’s a great thing when those gifts are used to serve others.”

Matt Flavin ’02 was moved to join the military by the tragedies of Sept 11. “As I arrived at Amherst in the fall of 2001,” he says, “I was quite happy to complete my senior year and slowly ease out of the comfort of my life at Amherst. I had no real direction and was considering a wide range of options; everything from the corporate life of a job on Wall Street to the not-so-enriching but perhaps more rewarding work of Teach for America. As I watched the two planes crash into the World Trade Center, I was forcibly pushed out of this state of complacency and indecision.

“Later that day, the leadership at Amherst organized a forum in the Alumni Gym to discuss the attack. Quite insensitively, some present made the case for the terrorists’ actions. I firmly believe nothing warrants an attack on a civilian populace. There is no injustice great enough to validate the death of thousands of innocents. How could anyone dismiss the emotion and humanity of the tragedy so easily? In truth, I was completely disgusted by what occurred at the forum. However, as I thought more about the event, I came to appreciate what we have at Amherst. The meeting was a manifestation of the freedoms we enjoy. I decided to take an active role in defending those freedoms. By the end of that week, I made up my mind to join the United States Navy.”

Flavin says his time at Amherst has been crucial in shaping his military career. “The critical thinking central to an Amherst education has become central in shaping my personality as an officer,” he says. “In a leadership role, I derive a sense of reasonableness and understanding from my experience at Amherst. Operating on my own, I feel confident and poised.”



Online Extra

Complete text of the interviews with Paul Rieckhoff ’98

Transcript of Paul Rieckhoff's Talk at Amherst

Audio excerpts from Rieckhoff's talk at Amherst


Rieckhoff's organization, Operation Truth:

Transcript of the original “60 Minutes” story on Rieckhoff

Memorial pages for Spc. Robert Wise, who was killed in action:

Memorial pages for CSM Eric Cooke, who was killed in action on Christmas Eve:

TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) supports the families of injured, wounded or killed soldiers:

Pages about Sgt. Dustin Tuller, who lost his legs in combat:

A Trust Fund for Sgt. Tuller’s wife and three children, titled the "Tuller Family Benefit Fund," has been set up through the Bank of America. Contributions can be made at any Bank of America, or at the the following address:

Bank of America
"The Tuller Family Benefit Fund"
c/o Debbie Booth
100 West Garden St 4th Floor
Pensacola, Fl 32501

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