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Moravian College Veterans Oral History Project

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Moravian College Veterans Oral History Project

The Moravian College Veterans Oral History Project highlights the proud history of military service by Moravian alumni. Spanning the decades from the late 1940s up to the present, this collection of stories encompasses the Cold War, Vietnam War, Iraqi War, and Afghanistan. Veteran Hounds tell of their Moravian College years, their military training, their roles supporting or engaging in combat, and the day-to-day challenges of serving their country. The project team would like to acknowledge and thank the Library of Congress Veterans History Project for the use of some of their interview questions in our project.

Korean War and Cold War Era

John (Jack) Burke, Class of 1956
B.A., History, Moravian College
M.Ed., Lehigh University

1948-1952: U.S. Air Force, Staff Sergeant, Special Intelligence Security Code Breakers

Travel with Jack Burke to England during the Cold War and learn about his life as a code breaker and experiences living among the British. Later, as a veteran attending Moravian College join Jack as he and other Korean War vets create and are active in the first student veterans’ group.

Interview Recording
Interview Transcript

Nevin Cope, Class of 1952
B.S., Biology, Moravian College
D.D.S., Temple University School of Dentistry

1956-1958: U.S. Navy Reserve, Lieutenant, US MCAS Dental Department

For Dr. Nevin Cope, DDS life in the Navy dental department was a breeze! His military service followed long hours working at Bethlehem Steel while attending Moravian College and multiple jobs (e.g., the Philly Post Office, Campbell’s Soup) while attending Temple dental school. He referred to his navy service as a vacation.

Interview Recording
Interview Transcript

Vietnam War

Gary Sandercock, Class of 1963
B.A., Business Administration, Accounting & Economics, Moravian College

1963-1968: U.S. Navy: Lieutenant, Assistant Supply Officer, U.S.S. Charles F. Adams

A ship does not sail without a myriad of supplies and logistical operations in place. Utilizing his bachelor’s in business administration from Moravian College, Gary Sandercock filled the role of Assistant Supply Officer and describes life at sea on a warship.

Interview Recording
Interview Transcript

James McMahan, Class of 1966
B.A., History, Moravian College
J.D., Columbia University Law School

1966-1968:U.S. Army, 82nd Signal BN, 82nd Airborne Div.

Jim was a Hound with strong ideas and a spirit of involvement which was in evidence when he attended Moravian. Learn how Jim advocated for change both for students’ campus life and for the U.S. strategy in the Vietnam War. With a family history of military service and the Vietnam conflict underway, Jim volunteered for the draft serving two years stateside. Learn about weapons training, jump school training, signal battalions, and other ways that college grads were utilized in the military.

Interview Recording
Interview Transcript

Gene Tavianini, Class of 1966
B.A., English, Moravian College
1966-1969: U.S. Army, Lieutenant, Americal Division, 198th Infantry Brigade, A Company 1st Platoon
Deployed: Vietnam

Gene Tavianini tells his story of an American young man who was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam conflict. He explains how college grads were valued as platoon leaders and the rigorous pre-combat training that equipped them for war. Gene focuses on telling some lighter incidents of his experiences, the contrast of war being “boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror,” the importance of communications from home, and the ultimate influence on his life (and all soldiers) who have survived combat experiences.

Interview Recording
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Joe Kempfer, Class of 1974
BS, Psychology, Moravian College
1968-1970: U.S. Army, Specialist 4, Delta Battery, 5th Battalion, 1st Artillery
Stationed: Germany, Nike Hercules Missile Site

In the Vietnam era, we picture soldiers engaged in guerilla warfare with the Viet Cong. Soldiers like Joe Kempfer defended the country in a different manner as part of the Nike Hercule Missile program. Following his military service, he joined other Vietnam vets at Moravian and began a lifetime of educational service to people with disabilities.

Interview Recording
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Arthur Smith, Class of 1968
B.A., History, Moravian College
M.A., Teaching Arts, Lehigh University

1968-1971: U.S. Army, 1st Lieutenant, Company C, 7th Battalion, First Air Cavalry
Deployed: Vietnam

Like many Vietnam vets, Art Smith chose the delayed enlistment program to be able to choose when his service would begin and he chose officer candidate school to lead other men. He shares with listeners his Vietnam tour, the realities of wartime, how his platoon was ambushed, and the road to recovery.

Interview Recording
Interview Transcript

Iraq & Afghanistan

Todd Burkhardt, Class of 1994
B.A., Sociology, Moravian College
Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Tennessee
1988-1991; 1994-2019
ROTC; U.S. Army; Lt. Colonel, Special operations Advisory Group, NATO Special Operations Component Command, Afghanistan
Deployments: Saud Arabia, Afghanistan

After a year at Moravian, Todd enlists in the U.S. Army and serves as an M1 tank crewman. After seeing the merits of being an officer, Todd returns to Moravian, joins the ROTC program, and becomes an infantry captain. Over his 28 years in the service, Todd achieves his Ph.D. in Philosophy, teaches at West Point, writes a book, and is deployed to Saudi and Afghanistan. In his inspiring story, he shares accomplishments and the challenges of military service in his personal life.

Interview Recording
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Mark R. Strohl, Class of 1999
B.A., History, Moravian College
2001-2015: U.S. Navy; E-6
Deployments: Iraq, Thailand & Indonesia, Surge Deployment, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, USS John C Stennis, Middle East

From ship to shore, Mark Strohl’s 14 years in the U.S. Navy highlight the diversity of locations and assignments a sailor can sail to and serve in. As an Aviation Storekeeper, Mark was stationed on the USS Abraham Lincoln CVN-72 and sent to the Middle East for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While describing the daily routine as the sailor’s version of groundhog day, Mark shares the stories about the different groups he worked with, including the Seals in the United Arab Emirates, Joint Special Operations in the Philippines, and the F18 Fighter Squadron.

Interview Recording
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Robert Opp, Class of 2006
B.A. Criminal Justice, Moravian College

2010-2020: U.S. Army Reserves; Captain (03)
Deployed: Bagram, Afghanistan
Assignment: Jordan

Interview Recording
Interview Transcript

Josh Gonzalez, Class of 2015
B.S. Physics, Moravian College
2015- Present: U.S. Army, Captain, U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command
Deployments: Korea, Bagram, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Afghanistan

Captain Joshua Gonzalez, an El Salvadoran American, and first-generation college student was an ROTC cadet gaining a scholarship to Moravian College. Currently, serving in the U.S. Army, follow Captain Gonzalez’s journey from the U.S. to Korea, Malawi and Burkina Faso, Atlanta Georgia, Afghanistan, and back to the states. His enthusiasm for the different roles he has played in the military from engineer to aide-de-camp during the army response to Hurricanes Florence and Michael, to project engineer, and now his role in the Joint Modernization Command highlights the diversity of roles an officer can play in today’s army.

Interview Recording
Interview Transcript