The Loras Faith and Values Education Committee hosted a Hospitality Event to commemorate the Centenary of Armistice Day / Veteran’s Day on Tuesday, Nov. 13 in the ACC Ballroom.
The three invited speakers at the event were Father Daniel Mode of the Navy Chaplain Corps, Lt. Colonel Dedra Tentis, USAF, Retired, and David Cochran, Professor of Politics. This article will focus on the remarks that were given by Colonel Tentis. The presentations by the other two speakers will be summarized in a future article.
Colonel Tentis worked for 20 years in higher education as a professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice. That time included several years on the faculty at Loras. For 25 years she served in the USAF and the Minnesota Air National Guard.
During the years 2007-2013, Colonel Tentis was deployed overseas four times, serving along the US-Mexico border, and in Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Kyrgyyzstan.
Colonel Tentis suffered a career-ending injury during her last deployment. She has spent the last four years working with veterans at a nonprofit, organizing, networking, grant-writing, marketing and fundraising. She currently works as a Restorative Justice Coordinator for the Dubuque YMCA, and teaches at the University of Dubuque.
Tentis joined the Air Force right out of high school, and worked in a wide variety of specialty fields, including cooking, mortuary services, field lodging, field fitness, and field sports. Later on, she served as a mobility office, a training officer, a safety officer, and eventually as a deputy commander and then commander. While serving in the Air Force, she took full-time classes at night; she started working on her Criminal Justice degree 1992. She earned her commission as an officer in 1997.
Tentis told the audience, “In 2007, I was selected to be an Inspector General, and that was probably the best-fit job for me in the Air Force … essentially what I was doing there was fraud, waste, and abuse complaints … I also dealt with things like misuse or abuse of authority, unfair treatment, and unfair punishment … that part of my job, too, I really really loved.”
During her deployment along the US-Mexico border, she said, “We had a command center in the Hilton Hotel … and then (we were) going down to Nogales and seeing extreme poverty just on the other side of the fence … for a lot of us that was extremely difficult.” During that deployment the task of the Air Force was to be the eyes and ears of the Border Patrol.
During her civilian life, Tentis deployed mainly during the summers, and one or two weekends a month during the school year. “It worked for me,” she said, “I found a pretty healthy balance with it for the most part.”
In 2013, Tentis said, “I had an injury on the flight line in Afghanistan that ended up being a career-ending injury … that was pretty devastating.” After that injury ended her Air Force career, she tried to come back to teaching at Loras, but found that she was unable to manage it because of her injury. On the other hand, she said, “I was really fortunate, the military completely took care of me … when I got home, I had a whole team …that took care of me.”
Tentis told the audience, “One thing I think a lot of us come back with is shame and guilt with what we experience in our deployment … Shame, meaning I feel bad for what I was part of … That is something that I really had to come to grips with.”
She said, “Even though most people who are deployed never pull their weapon, never shoot anyone, sometimes never even carry a weapon … a lot of us experience the loss of people around us … (and) we oftentimes experience the loss of civilians … And that’s the point that I want to get across to people: the costs of war …not just the monetary cost … but what it does to people afterwards.”
Tentis said, “A lot of veterans … do not like the word ‘hero’ … That was the last word I wanted to hear when I got back, because of that guilt and shame. I didn’t feel good about what I was a part of … I don’t know if you have any idea how many civilians have died as a result of our wars … hundreds of thousands, if you include Iraq …”
While discussing a slide entitled “Raising a Desensitized Generation”, Tentis told the audience, “One of the things that really concerns me is this next generation … A lot of these (Marines) are out doing these missions (in Afghanistan) … and they come back in and immediately go to the R&R sites and they’re playing video games and watching pro sports … and I wonder what’s that going to be like for them once they get back and have to unpack all of that … these are 20-year-olds … most of them aren’t even shaving … they look like little boys.”
While discussing her concluding slide “Developing Purpose After Trauma,” she told the audience, “I’m still trying to figure this one out … I’m developing purpose again … I kind of pay attention more to my self-care than ever before, because of my health issues.”