Answering the Call of Duty
Spotlight on Jacob Damec, ’20
Written by Jacquelyn Eubanks
Jacob Damec grew up with the military in his blood. His father is a Gulf War veteran, his brother was an officer, and he watched the Twin Towers fall on 9/11—a memory that sticks with him to this day. By the time he was a junior in high school, he felt the need to answer the nation’s call.
Referring to Pericles’ Funeral Oration, Jake explains, “Freedom in a society only lasts when people are willing to sacrifice and do the tough things necessary to preserve it.” He decided to enlist right out of high school to become an infantryman and, later, an Army Ranger.
Jake was deployed to Afghanistan to support the Global War on Terrorism. That was the first time he ever left America, and it changed him.
“It really makes you appreciate the United States as a country,” he says. “There’s nothing better than getting off a plane after a few months in a foreign country, when you step back and you smell America. There’s just something different about America—the air about it.”
During his time in special operations, he experienced combat, faced adversity, and grew in perseverance. Despite the difficulties he endured, he still found enjoyment.
“Deployment’s fun, especially in the special operations community. I mean, there’s fun parts, and there’s really crappy parts. It’s a war. It’s the best times of your life and the worst times of your life.”
Now, as a twenty-two-year-old Hillsdale freshman, Jake recognizes how his experiences put things in perspective and helped him learn what’s worth stressing over and what’s not.
“It’s just like, ‘Okay, whatever, I failed an exam; it’s not that big a deal.’ In Selection, I went four days without eating or sleeping. It’s not that bad.”
Since re-entering civilian life, Jake simply wants to be treated like a normal guy. He believes that veterans are just people who answered the nation’s call because that’s what Americans do.
“I don’t see us as any different than the guys in the Civil War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or any other guys that stepped up. All we did was answer the call of duty.”
But he’s found that many people either think veterans walk on water, or that they’re broken. “In our culture, we have this idea of the broken war veteran. I don’t agree with that. People aren’t broken for the rest of their lives. No, it just means I’m different. I have a different set of life experiences.”
After he left the army, Jake was drawn to Hillsdale because of its dedication to the roots of our nation and its belief in American exceptionalism. He values the rigor of the classes here, the professors, the Hillsdale community, and the liberal arts.
Studying to be a classics major, Jake compares college to the military: “You’re a team leader, and you’re taught to manage it; but you’re also having to think outside the box to solve problems, and that’s the same with liberal arts. You’re given a problem, not a solution, and it’s up to you to figure it out.”
For anyone interested in joining the military, Jake emphasizes the necessity of getting in shape, growing a thick skin, and building mental resiliency.
“You’re gonna be the new guy. You’re not gonna know anything. It’s just like being a freshman in school. You’ll know nothing. You just have to be prepared and then just let stuff roll off your back.”
Jake speaks with a love of country and humility uncommon in modern America. His example is one that reflects the men who served before him, men who served and died for their country out of love for its Constitution and people.
Probably one of the youngest people ever to win three national awards for her novels, teen author Jacquelyn Eubanks, class of ’20, can be spotted sipping tea, typing stories, and (someday) climbing mountains.