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Hanson has passion for Veterans Service job

By Staff | Apr 5, 2010

After 26 1/2 years as Faribault County’s Veterans Service Officer, Bryan Schultz, above left, turns the duties of the job over to David Hanson, above right. LeAnn Eastman, center, has served as the office’s administrative assistant for 19 years.

For the past 17 years, David Hanson has been building roads and bridges in Faribault County and Iraq. Now, after being named the County Veterans Service Officer, he will be building bridges of another kind.

The North Mankato resident has worked as the assistant county engineer in Blue Earth for several years, first with County Engineer Greg Isaacson and most recently with John McDonald. His work with the local department has been interrupted several times through the years due to his military obligations.

Now, he has completely severed his connection with one county office only to take over the reins of another. Hanson recently was selected, out of 48 applicants, to assume the duties as the Veterans Service Officer. He will replace the retiring Bryan Schultz who has held the post for the past 26 1/2 years.

Schultz has high praise for his successor and the utmost confidence Hanson will do well in the position and for his constituents…the veterans of Faribault County.

“Dave’s a very passionate person,” says Schultz. “You have to feel it and care or you miss a lot in this job. Dave will do this. Personally, I can’t imagine anyone doing anything else once they’ve been at this job.”

This certainly must be the case, since Jack Messer held the post for 29 years prior to Schultz’s hiring in September 1983.

Hanson grew up as a ‘Navy brat.’ His father, a Vietnam veteran and career Navy man, moved the family to about 13 different states before David graduated from high school in Waterloo, Iowa.

He then earned a two year degree in civil engineering and construction engineering. This was followed by a degree in construction engineering and business administration.

As for his military background, Hanson enlisted and served as a Navy Seabee from 1985-1997. From 1998-2003, he wore the Army uniform. In 2003, he returned to the Seabees. He retired August 2009 from the Air Force with a rank of technical sergeant.

“I served in different branches because I possessed skills, the aptitude and leadership ability they wanted,” explains Hanson.

His involvement with the different branches should be of great value in his new job.

Hanson’s passion is most evident when he speaks of the year he spent in Iraq while attached with the 1st Marine Division in 2003.

“Ever since I came back from Iraq, I have had a stirring in my heart to help people,” Hanson says. “I didn’t feel that sense of helping others here by building bridges. The pay doesn’t mean anything. This job will fill the void of helping others which I have been missing.”

Hanson says the decision to leave his engineering job of 17 years was not taken lightly.

“I know God’s got a plan for us,” he says. “So, I prayed for a sign from him to tell me what I needed to be doing.”

Hanson received that sign one day in his mailbox in the form of a box addressed to him.

“I had received a box similar to it two years before,” explains a shaken Hanson. “I was afraid to open it because I thought it would contain items from a fellow serviceman’s family.”

With the unopened box sitting near him, he says he polished his shoes and pressed his shirt for the interview he was scheduled to have the next day in Blue Earth for the Veterans Service Officer job.

“I finally got the courage to open it,” says Hanson. “Inside was a ‘thank you’ note from Quantico,Va. and a beautiful handmade patriotic quilt. That was my sign! I knew this interview and job is what I needed to do.”

Hanson was offered and accepted the job.

Since then, he has been trying to absorb as much information as possible from his mentor, Bryan Schultz.

Schultz has been instructing Hanson about the duties a Veterans Service Officer should provide. The main areas targetted include: mental health services; pensions; VA health care and prescription coverage; compensation for service connected disabilities; educational benefits; referrals to CORE of Lutheran Social Services; and transportation to VA hospitals.

“There have been a lot of changes in the 26 1/2 years I have served here,” admits Schultz, a Navy veteran who served from 1967-1971 aboard a diesel submarine. “Probably the biggest change was in electronics and how it brought about a different method of record keeping.”

As for working with the veterans, Schultz says there is not much change in people or their service-connected disabilities. However, he says there is a big difference in the generations.

“The WWII vets were patient,” says Schultz, “but today’s vets are in a different world. They want information immediately.”

He has also seen more severe cases of Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome. On a more positive note, he says the veteran today possesses a lot more technical skills upon discharge than earlier generations did.

Just as Hanson, Schultz says he had a feel for things before he applied for the Veterans Service Officer position years ago.

“I had used the VA after my discharge,” he says. “Like Dave, I was recommended for the job, too. Before being hired here, I had worked six years in the finance business, then I worked for Tri-County Human Services for seven years.”

LeAnn Eastman, Schultz’s administrative assistant for the past 19 years, will help ease the transition within the department. Hanson already knows he can learn even more about the day-to-day operation by accessing her knowledge.

“One of the things I would like to do is to visit the veterans, particularly in the nursing homes, so they know they are not forgotten,” says Hanson.

Schultz adds a last bit of advice to Hanson by saying, “Believe in what you do.”

For now, Hanson will learn his new duties and continue teaching in the engineering and construction management department as he has for the past seven years at MSU. He also will mingle with members of the Blue Earth Legion and VFW Clubs, in which he holds memberships, as well as being a lifetime member of the DAV.

Hanson has come full-circle. From building bridges of cold steel, as an engineer, he now is building bridges by reaching passionately out to help veterans and their families.