Veterans Day is a special day for the country to honor the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
We're profiling a number of brave veterans whose roles varied widely -- from nurses to cooks to helicopter pilots. One thing they all had in common is that they played an integral part in ensuring the safety of the country.
Milton White followed in his father’s footprints when he decided to join the Marine Corps in 1984. “I always knew I wanted to serve the country in some capacity,” said White. He was a Marine for 25 years, serving during the Iraq and Afghanistan Gulf Wars. White worked a variety of jobs, from an aviation ordnance mechanic and nuclear weapons tech and instructor of jets to an equal opportunity advisor. After the Marine Corps, he helped start the Veterans Success Center at USF St. Petersburg.
Judith Turner served in the Army National Guard for four years as a Spec-4 Specialist. As a reservist, she served in Brooklyn, New York and in St. Petersburg, Florida. Turner comes from a long family line of soldiers and when observing Veterans Day, she remembers her cousins as well as her older brother who served in the Vietnam War. Today, Turner is a state certified building contractor for E-Construction Group, which won the Veteran Owned Business of the Year Award in 2014.
Kenneth Smet was drafted into the U.S. Army for the Vietnam War in 1968 and served for five and a half years. Army needed helicopter pilots and Smet agreed to go to flight school. “I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn to fly,” said Smet. After school and training, he became part of the 187th Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam. During his time in the Army, Smet climbed from Second Lieutenant and First Lieutenant to Captain.
Kathryn Benton served in the Navy from 2003 to 2013 and ended as an E-5. During her Navy career, she had two jobs: aviation structural mechanic and hospital corpsman. She remembers her first deployment to Sicily, Italy and having a “wonderful” career, helping injured service members and their families. After serving in the Navy, Benton wanted to help veterans and is currently working at the Veterans Success Center at USF St. Petersburg.
Benjamin Smet joined the Navy just a couple of months before the World Trade Center was struck on Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, Smet believed it was part of the training when they were told they would be going to war. “I grew up quick that day,” said Smet. He remained in the Navy until 2009 but never saw combat. His first assignment was in Roda, Spain, supporting an aviation squadron and later worked in San Diego, California on the USS Ronald Reagan. Smet is now completing his Doctorate in Education to help people in the military transition back to civilian life.
Andrew Lott joined the Air Force for a little over six years. He worked in civil engineering and later deployed to United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq. “It was cool being a part of something,” said Lott. “To help the country, help the world.” Lott finished as a Staff Sergeant and is now working on his Bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Keanu Masuda decided to join the Army right after high school and served four years as a Specialist. He worked primarily as a cook, but also did electrical work, vehicle maintenance and basic patrols. Masuda’s mother is also a veteran; she served in the Air Force and at times they observe Veterans Day together. Masuda enjoys working with his hands and is currently attending college to start a new career in health services.