Military service is a tradition in Levi Kammes’ family.
His grandfather was a U.S. Marine; his uncle was a Marine, and the 28-year-old NIU anthropology major from Crystal Lake was a Marine.
Kammes said it was natural and understood that he would join the military not out of obligation, but to serve his country – a decision he made on his own.
“It’s pretty special to be willing to make a sacrifice for a country,” said Kammes, the president of the NIU Veterans Club. “I was fortunate; I came back. There are plenty of men and women who did not come back.”
When the NIU community assembles at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at the flagpole across from Altgeld Hall for the annual Veterans Day ceremony, Kammes said he wants the crowd to remember living and fallen veterans. He wants spectators to remember those soldiers still serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and on other foreign soils for their courage, sacrifice and willing to serve their country.
Kammes served in the Marines for four years. He joined before Sept. 11, and when the airplanes struck the Twin Towers in New York City, he was in his second week of boot camp. He and his comrades were isolated from media accounts of the attack.
If the attacks had occurred while he was a civilian, it would have played a minor role in his decision to join the military, but he already had his mind made up. He wanted to walk in the footprints of his grandfather and uncle. Serving is the right thing to do, he said.
“I was stationed at Camp Fallujah in Iraq. My job was to patrol the camp and the outlying area,” he said. “I wasn’t involved in any fighting, but it was still scary, especially at night when we went out. We always had to be on our guard because anything could happen.”
After serving in the Marines, Kammes joined the National Guard, a military branch that allows him to continue serving closer to home.
But wherever men and women in the military are stationed, and whatever their assignments are, he said that all deserve honor and gratitude for standing in harm’s way for their country.
When Kammes and other NIU veterans and spectators stand at the flagpole Nov. 11, they will hear speeches by U.S. Army veteran and Reservist Clay Campbell, the DeKalb County State’s Attorney. Members of the NIU Army ROTC program also will talk about the significance of the day.
Members of the NIU ROTC will provide the color guard and a 21-gun salute.
For more information about the Veterans Day events, call Kammes at (815) 375-3413.
by Gerard Dziuba