Young veteran seeking to assist other veterans

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer
March 20, 2014

MONMOUTH — Veterans have many faces. Their history has been fascinating to study, said Dolan Kasnick, 28.

“Vietnam is the most galvanized in our minds,” he said. “World War II had ticker-tape parades, but with Vietnam, that was a most unfortunate situation.”

Those returning from the Vietnam War were spit on in the streets, Kasnick said.

Today, young veterans like Kasnick have reaped some benefits from the lessons society learned with Vietnam.

“People are more sympathetic with outreach, but as a whole, the public doesn’t know what to do with us,” he said.

Kasnick has been out of the service for two and a half years, after having served six years in the Navy as a chaplain’s body guard.

“It’s one of the smallest (jobs) in the Navy, but I actually loved that job,” he said.

He worked as the chaplain’s secretary, event planner, crisis counselor, funeral planner and even could help read last rights to the dying.

“Every day was different,” Kasnick said. “I got to help people.”

Being a chaplain’s assistant, Kasnick is no stranger to death.

Photo of Dolan Kasnick
Dolan Kasnick, 28, studies criminal justice at Western Oregon University. The Navy veteran plans to return to the military upon graduation as an officer.

“I’ve known a few who died personally,” he added.

Memorial Day is a time to reach out to those he knows who don’t cope with things as well as he can.

“I reach out to those I know and lend support,” Kasnick said.

When he left the military, Kasnick wanted to use his Montgomery GI Bill before Congress did something to alter it. He said Congress had tried a few times to change the way it worked.

“I was hoping if they took away the benefits, I would be grandfathered in,” he said.

Kasnick, a 2004 graduate of Central High School, comes from a long line of Oregon State University graduates, but when OSU didn’t offer the criminal justice program he was looking for, he turned to Western Oregon University.

“They have dedicated professors and I am loving it,” he said.

But even with a degree, Kasnick doesn’t expect much to change for veterans like himself.

The job market is particularly tough for vets, he explained. Even when a veteran comes out of the military and has no mental or physical disabilities, they have a hard time finding a job.

“I’ve been turned away from jobs because they’re afraid of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” he said.

After he graduates from WOU, Kasnick has decided to go back into the military as an officer.

“It was struggle to work in a competitive field or go back in (the military) for 14 years and retire with benefits,” he said.

He hopes to educate fellow soldiers before they leave the service about what to expect, and help them avoid painful hurdles.

“I need to be helping people,” Kasnick said. “If I’m not helping people, I’m not living a full life.”

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