MANSFIELD -- From 1987 to 1991, Mansfielder Duke Kornsuwan worked as a mechanic on military vehicles for the U.S. Army. He left for basic training less than a week after graduating high school.
“That’s what I did straight out of high school. Three days after receiving my diploma, I was gone,” Kornsuwan recalled.
As is often the case, there wasn’t just one thing that motivated him to enlist—it was a melting pot of pure youth, patriotism, wanderlust and education. “There’s many layers of why I went into the military,” he said. “I’m sure if you asked these kids out of high school right now they’ll give you many layers of answers of why they went in.”
And so he spent his four years in the military as much in service to others as he was to himself, traveling Europe during his time stationed in Germany and taking college classes in his free time.
“I went to college at night when I was done with my duties during the day… and got college credit for it,” said Kornsuwan. “[I] came from a poor family, my parents couldn’t afford paying for college,” he continued.
After finishing up his service, Kornsuwan used the credit he earned from those classes, as well as his G.I. Bill, to enroll in police academy. “I took advantage of what was given to me in the military, what I learned, the foundation, and then I took it to civilian life and went to the police academy,” he explained.
Being a police officer seemed to Kornsuwan a natural choice to follow his time in the military with its structure and service mentality. Indeed, he never felt much concern about how to transition from his time in the military; he simply knew he would keep serving.
“It’s almost like a calling, and you can’t explain it unless you have it and not everybody has it; not everybody was meant to do this,” Kornsuwan reflected.
He then spent nearly 27 years serving as a police officer, a career he still sometimes misses and fondly recalls as “very rewarding.” But when his son came to Ohio for college, Kornsuwan and his wife, who previously lived in southern Florida, decided to follow.
“We decided to come up here, be closer to our son who’s attending Ohio State [University] and go to every home game…I, too, wanted something a little more simpler,” he explained.
But although he and his wife could have settled into retirement after the move, Kornsuwan knew, as someone who had spent his life working and serving, he would probably find his way back into another role helping others.
Sure enough, it wasn’t long after they moved that he saw a job posting to work as a Veteran Service Officer at the Richland County Veterans Commission. Suddenly, Kornsuwan saw his life coming full circle.
“The honor of trying to help veterans really peaked my interest…[and] when I saw the posting online for this job, I said to myself, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be a great opportunity to go back to where I started, the military?’…What an opportunity,” he said resoundingly.
As a veteran who’s spent his life in service, including now to other veterans, Kornsuwan has a simple piece of advice for how to honor today: “A veteran would love it if you tell them thank you very much for your sacrifice and service.”
In honor of Veterans Day, we would like to thank Duke Kornsuwan and all veterans for their service to our country and sacrifices for our safety.