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Month of Heroes: Danielle D’Amato

Meet Danielle D’Amato.monthofheroes-danielledamato

Age: 30

Year and major: Senior/Biology

Hometown: Woodstock, N.Y.

Branch/Rank: U.S. Navy/CS2 culinary specialist second class E5

Service: 8 years active duty; stationed at Tinker AFB for five years and NAS Key West for three years.

Tell us about your service experience. While I was in the Navy I was a chef, so my biggest danger was burning myself with bacon grease. However, going in the Navy saved my father’s life. Let me explain:  most people do not know that my “DEP” – the date I was to fly into boot camp — was 9-11. On that day I said my goodbyes to my little siblings, and they headed off to school. My father was going to drive me two hours to the closest airport, and I had to be there by 1 p.m. We never made it to the airport that day because my recruiter called and told me about the terrorist attack in New York City. My father works for the New York Department of Transportation and had a meeting in one of the buildings that was attacked. He ended up missing the meeting because he felt seeing me off to boot camp was more important. My father lost a lot of friends and co-workers that day. Everyone remembers 9-11 differently. I remember my father’s life being spared because I decided to join the Navy.

What are some of your memorable experiences in college? I have had a lot of wonderful learning opportunities at JU, including field trips as part of my biology major. I have seen wildlife and exotic species in different areas of the country that I have never had the opportunity to see before. Also, I have always wanted to work with lemurs, and a research project at the Jacksonville Zoo made that dream come true.

Any favorite classes? My favorite classes have been herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) and vertebrate biology, which goes through the entire scale of vertebrates. Both of these classes had a lot of field work involved, and I enjoy getting out of the classroom to learn.

Tell us about JU’s role in your transition to civilian life. I had already transitioned to civilian life, but what I was lacking that JU provided was consistency. I had been at another school where there were different students in every class. At JU, most of my classes have the same students, so you really get to know people. Also, JU has a high percentage of military individuals, so it is nice to be able to walk around campus and meet more people in my same shoes, who are going back to school after the military.

What sets JU apart? The student-to-teacher ratio is great; it enables veterans transitioning into college to have a close experience with their teachers so they are not just a number in the seat in an auditorium setting. Teachers at JU get to know the students, and veterans feel more comfortable going to the teachers and asking for help, or even finding mentorship with a professor. As a biology major I have had the opportunity to get to know a lot of other students in my major; because the class sizes are small, students are able to form a close-knit group. In addition, JU is a private university, and often veterans must pay out of pocket to attend private schools. But JU offers a 100% match of the Yellow Ribbon program in most degrees, which enables veterans to attend and no out-of-pocket costs. Finally, JU has teachers who are veterans and that can help student veterans because the teachers understand the challenges student veterans can go through.

What might surprise others about you? I was punk teenager! When I went to boot camp, I had bright pink hair, and as a teen I had hair every color of the rainbow. Also, I just submitted my first research article to be reviewed and published in a scientific journal. And I’m aiming to obtain a PhD. In order to teach. Ideally, I would love to come back to JU and teach.

Meet the other students we’re recognizing during the Month of Heroeslearn more about our military students and alumni here on Wave Magazine, or visit the Veterans and Military Resource Center online to learn how JU serves those who’ve served.