The Story of a Combat Veteran Making a Difference in the T1D Community – Naithen Schirmer

DRC Naithen

Today is a day we honor all veterans and give thanks for their sacrifice. As a combat veteran, I know firsthand the sacrifices made daily by those who serve or have served. When I was a young boy, I would sit around and listen to the men in my family share their stories about their time in the military and knew that I would follow in their footsteps one day.

In 2009, I joined the Army and soon after was deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. While in Iraq, I advised and assisted in training the U.S. military personnel as well as the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Special Forces in night vision special electronics, thermal imagery and tactical satellite communications.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a local Iraqi towards the end of my time there. I was at Camp Liberty in Baghdad and the U.S. was shutting down the base and handing everything over to the Iraqi’s. During my time in Iraq, I did not interact much with the local civilians, but since we were transitioning this base over, I was able to. After connecting with one man in particular, I realized that we had the same goals. Even though we came from different cultures and were very different from each other, we both wanted the same things; love, to do right by our family and keep them happy, healthy and safe. Finding a connection like this in the middle of a war zone was rare and something I will always remember.

After four years of service with the storied 1st Infantry Division, aka the Big Red One, I was medically retired and pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Point Loma Nazarene University. My heart for service did not end with the military. After graduating with my degree, I began a career in the nonprofit sector. Several of my family members have diabetes so I know how devastating the disease is. Working with the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) as the Administrative Assistant is incredibly rewarding because I have an opportunity to be a part of a community working hard to find a cure. The early-career scientists I have the pleasure of working with at DRC have innovative research ideas and it gives me hope that their scientific breakthrough may be what leads to a cure for my family members and all those affected by type 1 diabetes.

Being involved in the community is important to me so I also volunteer my time at the Veterans of Foreign War as a Junior Vice Commander, a mentor to children of military personnel who have either died in combat or due to PTSD-related suicide while serving on active duty at a local nonprofit called Active Valor, and as the Podcast Creator and Director for Triple B Adventures.

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