Veterans give so much and their sacrifice creates a bigger impact than can be honored in a few days. So we have decided to #SALUTEaVET all year long. Dan Van De Hey, U.S. Air Force veteran, is one of many who has served our country.
When Van De Hey, an Oregon native and proud father of four, graduated from high school he wanted to do something that would allow him to develop who he was and gain new skills before pursuing a degree. The military offered a great opportunity to that and so much more.
Now he supervises mechanical maintenance at Georgia-Pacific’s Halsey, Oregon, paper mill, ensuring everything runs smoothly on the ground. Van De Hey found his time in the military very rewarding and likes to help veterans transitioning into civilian life.
What was your job in the military?
I was a Jet Engine Mechanic. It was my job to make sure that everything operated properly for the pilots to fly their jets.
What was your proudest moment in the Air Force?
One that sticks out was my squadron’s reaction to the hours following the 9/11 attacks. We went from being a training unit to a full-fledged active alert squadron in an incredibly short amount of time. As mechanics, we were in charge of readying the jets in case they were needed for our defense. This usually takes days, but we did it in just hours. It was very cool to be a part of the teamwork, camaraderie and dedication displayed during that time.
How has your family supported your military service?
I was married to my wife for 16 of my 22 years in the military. She always supported me and had to play “single mom” whenever I was on duty away from home. My kids supported me by understanding sometimes they had to go without Dad at their events. Even though this was hard on them, they handled it well. I’m really honored that my service made them proud of me and our mission, and that it instilled a deep sense of patriotism in them too.
If you could only use one word to describe your military experience, what would it be?
Rewarding— the military allows you to be a part of something and know you are helping people.
What lessons did your service teach you that you still carry with you?
It taught me that hard work, integrity and commitment are keys to success. Also, it taught me about people—that regardless of where someone comes from, we are essentially the same.
Which of those lessons can you apply to your current position?
The Air Force Core Values are: Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do. Culturally, these core values mirrored closely with Georgia-Pacific’s Guiding Principles. I think the values, work ethic and leadership skills I learned in the military have been a good fit in my transition to Georgia-Pacific.
What advice would you give to those preparing to enter the civilian work force?
I would tell them not to underestimate what they did in the military and the skills they acquired. Many think, “I was just doing my job,” but because of their time in the military, they have many abilities needed in a job including leadership, managerial experience and being accustomed to working under intense pressures. These are all strong qualities that they can offer to their next employer.