ServingSociety

The Long Road Home

Remains of Phi Kap Fighter Pilot Laid To Rest After Fifty Years

by Gene Ney
Slippery Rock University, ‘90

U.S. Air Force pilot David T. Dinan III (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ‘65).

U.S. Air Force pilot David T. Dinan III (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ‘65).

It was on St. Patrick’s Day of 1969 that David Thomas Dinan, III (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ‘65) lost his life serving our country in the Vietnam war. A native of Nutley, New Jersey, David was born in January of 1944. He was educated and graduated from Seton Hall Prep in 1961. According to his brother Charles, who currently resides in McMurray, Pennsylvania, “he was both athletic and intelligent.” David excelled in science, and, following his graduation from Seton Hall Prep, he applied and was accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at M.I.T., he majored in Physics.

As a young student at M.I.T., David attended a rush event at the Phi Kappa Theta chapter on his campus which was chartered in 1919. According to one of his brothers, Frank Russo ‘64, “Dave was a quiet, thoughtful, solid, sober, devout young Catholic man, perhaps more so than the rest of us.” An outstanding student, and a loyal brother, David graduated from M.I.T. and enlisted in the Air Force in 1966.

Just as he had excelled in school, athletics and the fraternity, David quickly rose within the ranks of the Air Force. He became a First Lieutenant and was awarded two medals. Those medals were the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered serving our country. He was a member of the 34th Tactical Fighting Squadron.

On that very fateful day, March 17, 1969, David and another pilot were on a mission flying over northern Laos. His F-105 had been hit by an enemy attack, and he radioed in a distress message. To avoid a crash, he ejected himself from the plane with his parachute which landed in trees in a remote area. Unfortunately, the parachute tore on tree limbs and David tragically dropped to his death on the jungle floor. His plane subsequently crashed and burned.

A search and rescue team arrived, found the wreckage, the parachute and David’s remains, but had to evacuate given enemy fire. Unfortunately, neither David’s body, or any of the debris from the wreckage were ever recovered. As a man of 25, who was engaged to be married, this was an extremely tragic way to die. According to his brother Charles, “We anticipated his remains to be returned a week or two after he went down,” but that never happened.

Retired Col. Ed Sykes, one of David’s roommates at the Korat Royal Air Force Base in Thailand, and David’s biological brothers began lobbying for his remains to be located and returned for proper burial. Through their efforts and those of Leland Sorenson, who was a member of the original search and rescue mission who had identified the remains back in 1969, the group returned to Laos in March of 2014, 45 years after David’s plane crashed and burned. On the third day of their mission near Ban Khap in the Xiangkoang Province, they discovered David’s plastic identification card. In June of 2016, an excavating crew was sent to the area where they collected his remains which were positively identified on August 7, 2017.

David’s remains were flown from Laos to Hawaii, and then to Washington, D.C., where he was interred in Arlington National Cemetery on April 25th of this year. David was one of 600 Americans who disappeared or were lost during the Vietnam War in Laos. A total of 1,597 Americans are still unaccounted for from that war.

According to Frank Russo ’64, “When I heard that David had been killed over there, my initial reaction was of great sadness, that such a good and gentle soul, with so many gifts, should have been lost in such a place.” David now rests in peace at Arlington National Cemetery with many other Phi Kaps including our late President, John F. Kennedy.

Main Image: Above: The remains of U.S. Air Force pilot David T. Dinan III (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ‘65), of Nutley, killed in the Vietnam War, proceed through Arlington National Cemetery on April 25, 2018.

History And Lessons Along The Way

by Kyle Bueno
Bridgwater State University, ‘18

Brotherhood (n): An association, society, or community of people linked by a common interest, religion, or trade.

Phi Kappa Theta – Love, Brotherhood, God.

Brother Kyle Bueno (Bridgewater State University, ‘18) (center).

Brother Kyle Bueno (Bridgewater State University, ‘18) (center).

Those were the three words that united myself and my brothers together to form this brotherhood. As I write this on the 5:57pm commuter train out of South Station, Boston, MA, and heading to Middleborough/Lakeville, I begin to reflect on the good, the bad, and ugly times from my chapter. I am fortunate enough to have ended my collegiate experience on a good note and kept the faith for better days ahead.

The experiences I am about to write to you all have helped shaped me into the man I am today. It has made me realize I need these traits in order to not only be a good brother, but a gentleman. Honesty (even if it may sting), Integrity, Loyalty, Respect, and Compassion.

I begin the journey of my Greek Life experience as a second semester freshman. At first, I was hesitant about seeing what other fraternities had to even offer as I was thinking about how the movie Animal House depicted all Greek members as 24/7 partiers. That was not the college experience I wanted to have. But, nevertheless, my best friend from high school Jacob Bolarinho (past sage of Sigma Pi), encouraged me to join him and keep an open mind. So, I did, and I am beyond grateful to take that giant step out of my comfort zone.

Now, not to say the other organizations weren’t welcoming, because I have some amazing friends from other fraternities, but I felt more included in Phi Kappa Theta because the men whom recruited me were involved in various facets of campus; from Student Government Association, to Residence Life and Housing, to even working on campus. I wanted to be involved as much as possible. To this day, I do not regret my decision to join this amazing organization.

Kyle Bueno helping build a house in Connecticut. Spring 2017.

Kyle Bueno helping build a house in Connecticut. Spring 2017.

At my first chapter, I was feeling mixed emotions. I was so excited for the unknown, but nervous as hell, praying I wouldn’t get hazed or see anything like Animal House. I let those fears subside and looked for ways as a new member to get involved. I knew I always had an interest in service, so I ran for Community Service Chair and won the position. In hindsight, I couldn’t even imagine seeing that position springboard me into serving as Vice President of Social Development and later on as President.

Serving as Community Service Chair for the chapter had in no way prepared me for what was to come as Vice President of Social Development. It is still known as one of the biggest positions in the chapter as it oversees Philanthropy, Social, Community Service, Public Relations, and Risk Management. Yes, Risk Management. When I started, I had no idea how to talk to brothers who would do things that broke FIPG rules. One of the biggest areas needing improvement was social media.

Our social media was so horrendous that it became a mini part of a larger conversation we had as a chapter at Fireside. Which, as a second year, I absolutely regretted. Up till Junior year, our Fireside events would always be viewed as shouting matches between brothers. It would bring our morale way down and I mean, waaaay down. I realized a central part of what was missing was brothers understanding each other. We needed to speak with each other as brothers, not as Presidents or Vice Presidents, just brothers. It was at this point I realized Phi Kap wasn’t what was told to me at recruitment, but I wanted to do something about changing it.

I would be lying to you if I only wrote about all the good times I had as President of this organization. There were really tough moments I, and brothers on the E-board serving alongside me, had to experience. I also was working as a Resident Assistant, part-time at the information desk and serving as Student Trustee. It was a lot on my plate, making me realize the importance of self-care (which I’ll explain later). But I am proud of the work our chapter made in making it better than in years past.

We were able to fill our calendar with an abundance of events from brotherhood, to philanthropy, and socials. We even made Fireside enjoyable. However, I came to a point during my tenure when I wanted to just give up. It was during the summer before entering my senior year where we were going to hold our annual Quo Vadis retreat. During that planned day, a torrential downpour hit our campsite and I decided to cancel the event altogether. The next day, however, turned out to be amazing outside; sunny and hot. I was so disappointed with myself because I felt I let the chapter down.

So, I did not realize how my careless attitude brought negative energy towards the chapter. Morale was low, brothers were forming clichés, rumors were even spreading. In order to help tackle this, with the help of Executive Vice President, Robert Riggs, CAE (RPI, ’02), we decided to create an in chapter brotherhood event. We set up chairs in a circle and talked to each other about our feelings, aspirations in life, etc.

Brother Kyle Bueno (Bridgewater State University, ‘18) participates in the interactive storytelling/portrait shoot project to unify his campus. Spring 2017.

Brother Kyle Bueno (Bridgewater State University, ‘18) participates in the interactive storytelling/portrait shoot project to unify his campus. Spring 2017.

It was at this moment I felt I needed to get something off my chest and explain what was on my mind. I felt comfortable enough to come out to the chapter. It was the first time I ever spoke about it to anyone. It was because of this constant weight, and the other positions I had on campus, I did not have time to reflect on my own life. It was so nice to just take it off my chest and what was going on in my mind.

I learned a big part of leading is being honest with myself, to others around me, and having integrity. It was because of this, I, alongside the E-board, noticed a change and carried through strong towards the end of the semester.

Some people may ask themselves, “is there anything I would have done differently in college”? For me, the answer is no. It was because of all these experiences during my 4 years at Bridgewater State University, I am the person I am today. I realized I am a better friend, person, and brother because of the experiences I have dealt with and, in return, volunteer my time back as a Performance Coach for chapters in the Northeast.

I realized how important it is to not stretch yourself too thin and to stay humble. For those reading, I hope you too can love yourself as much as I can, are loyal to your brothers, friends, and family, and lead as REAL gentlemen should, with honesty and integrity. TBIS.

Main Image: Kyle Bueno during a service project to Cambodia. Spring 2018.

Overcoming Adversity to Give Back to Others

Colin Nguyen: 2018 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award Recipient

by Kathy Jonas
Indiana University, ‘78

There’s the picture of Colin Nguyen (University of Washington, ‘05) as the very definition of the American Dream. Immigrating to the United States as Communism took over South Vietnam while just seven years old, he spent time in a camp in Thailand where he and other children took used syringes and made them into water guns.

He was the recipient of the College Success Foundation Scholarship, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates. He went on to run one of the leading real estate companies in the Pacific North West. Along the way he conceived and organized an annual toy drive to benefit children spending the holidays in Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Then there’s the Colin Nguyen who entered a gang. The promising student who dropped out of college when his mother died. The successful college grad who lost his high-powered job and his fortune when the bottom dropped out of the economy while working for one of the largest mortgage companies in the country.

Both pictures represent the qualities espoused by Phi Kappa Theta: struggle through adversity, leadership, integrity, service to others, spiritual contemplation and reflection in times of loss and failure, the forgiving nature of brotherhood and the power of perseverance and courage.

“The greatest opportunity in life is the opportunity to experience the peaks and valleys that life has to offer,” said Nguyen as he received the Phi Kappa Theta Foundation Outstanding Young Alumnus Award at IMPACT18 in Orlando, Florida. The award is given to an alumnus under the age of 35 who exemplifies the ideals of Phi Kappa Theta through success and service to the community.

The journey Nguyen has traveled is as circuitous as his journey from Vietnam in 1990 and neither pictures of him accurately portray the man he has become. But a few things stand out: the love and respect of a parent, the fidelity of brotherhood and the resiliency of the human spirit.

In his speech given after receiving the award, Nguyen remembers his first Christmas in the United States when he and his family were at a food bank. They found themselves in line looking at used toys to take home. His mom suggested that a stuffed teddy bear might be a nice toy to select. “That night my mom taught me a profound lesson: that our attitude and perception will often determine our outcomes in life.”

While his early years were often plagued by bullying because of his inability to speak English, he said his mother refused to give up on him despite hanging out with the wrong crowd and even finding himself being held at gunpoint.

“There are moments in life, though, when we come to a crossroads and we need to look at ourselves in a mirror and decide what path to follow.”

That moment happened after coming home from a street fight one night and finding his mother crying at the kitchen table. She told him she had just found out she had terminal cancer and had only three years to live. Her dying wish was for him to attend college. “Little did I know that my life would change after that.”

He got a part-time job, studied hard to bring up his D average and ended up graduating with a 3.7 GPA. He got accepted at the University of Washington only to find out his family could not afford it. The Bill and Melinda Gates educational foundation had just started and he was the recipient of a scholarship.

Nguyen entered Phi Kappa Theta his sophomore year, only attending an event there because of the appeal of free pizza. He discovered some “amazing members” who inspired him to be focused and driven.

“Just as I was getting my life together, my worst fear occurred. During my sophomore year, my mom’s fight was coming to an end.” He pleaded with her to hang on until he graduated, hoping to make her dream come true. “As she passed away right in front of my eyes, I felt alone, abandoned and empty inside.”

He dropped out of college for a time, only returning after the support and love shown by his fraternity brothers. When they got up at the funeral and helped carry the casket to her burial site, he knew these people would remain a part of his life forever.

“We may come from different backgrounds and families, but this amazing brotherhood of Phi Kappa Theta unites us all together as brothers in life.”

“A few weeks later I decided to continue the journey to finish college in honor of my mom,” says Nguyen. “Don’t run away from the pain of your past, for pain will help you build character and lead you to a new beginning.”

He admits to being pretty smug when he got his first job and began acquiring a large house, a fancy car and was quickly anticipating a six figure salary. “I thought to myself ‘this is easy. I’ve figured out the key to success. I was an idiot to think that success could come so easy.”

He prayed to God for help, admitting he had lost his way. He didn’t go bankrupt, but learned some important lessons. “Believe me, I’m still making honest mistakes every day and learning from them,” he added.

He runs his real estate company and looks forward to time with his wife and daughter. The toy drive continues each Christmas in honor of his mother and all the children who cannot be home for the holidays. While serving thousands of children, his vision is to have a semi-truck filled with toys for the kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“Today I’m grateful to be living the life my mom always believed I was capable of achieving.”

Main Image: 2018 Outstanding Young Alumnus, Colin Nguyen (University of Washington, ‘05) (right), with Fraternity President Adrian Gonzalez (University of Texas at Austin, ‘78) (left).

Watch Brother Nguyen’s speech from IMPACT18 in Orlando, FL:

ONR-RC CoS Selection - CAPT (and Brother) Michael Van Poots

News-VanPoots18A.jpg

Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity Trustee, Michael Van Poots (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ‘95) has been elected to be the next Chief of Staff for Office of Naval Research (ONR) Reserve Component & the next Commanding Officer of the ONR Headquarters Reserve Unit in Washington D.C.

Van Poots has nearly 25 years of Navy experience including 7 board selected command tours, a tour as the ONR-RC Assistant Chief of Staff, Communication & Policy and has served in numerous ONR-RC project/mission leadership roles. He brings to his new position a strong passion for innovation and an un-ending level of positive energy. He has a BS in Engineering Physics, a Masters in Business Administration and a PhD in Applied Management and Decision Sciences.

The CoS serves as an advisor to ONR-RC Leadership on the workforce, runs the ONR-RC staff, and is the steward of our workforce's innovation culture.

Please join us in congratulating CAPT Van Poots in his new leadership role!


About Brother Van Poots:

Captain Michael R. Van Poots hails from Sparta, New Jersey and is a 1995 graduate of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Course earning a BS degree in Engineering Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy NY. Following nuclear power and basic submarine training, he reported to USS BALTIMORE (SSN 704) while preparing for deactivation at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Prior to completion of final operations, Captain Van Poots made several missions from Norfolk VA, serving as Electrical Assistant. He qualified as Diving Officer and Engineering Officer of the Watch, earning the Joint Meritorious Unit Award.In October 1997 Captain Van Poots reported to USS MONTPELIER (SSN 765) in Norfolk VA serving as Reactor Controls Assistant, Chemical and Radiological Controls Assistant, Diving Officer,Quality Assurance Officer, and Damage Control Assistant. He qualified in Submarine Warfare and as a Prospective Nuclear Engineer Officer, earning the Battle “E” Award, Navy Expeditionary Medal, Navy Sea Service Medal, and Navy Arctic Service Medal.In August 2000, Captain Van Poots transferred to the Navy Reserve. He served three years in various department head roles with NR COMSUBRON SIX Detachment 504 in Reading, PA. In October 2003, he reported to NR COMSUBGRU TEN FORCE PROTECTION Detachment 2, serving as the Administrative and Training department head and Officer In Charge of force protection details in Port Canaveral FL. In October 2004 he assumed command of NR RECRUITSUPUNIT Detachment 428 in Amityville, New York. In December 2006 he assumed command of NR NSF NSA NAPLES Detachment C in Capodichino Italy, earning the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation. In December 2008 he assumed command of NR NSF SUGAR GROVE in Sugar Grove, WV. In 2009 he was recalled to active duty as Inspector General JTF-GTMO in Guantanamo Bay Cuba earning the Joint Meritorious Unit Award (2). In December 2010, he served as Operations Department head NR USFF MOC GRBO in Greensboro NC. In December 2012, he assumed command of NR USW OPERATIONS Detachment N in Charlotte, NC. In December 2014, he assumed command of NR NRL S&T 104 in Washington DC. In December 2016, he assumed command of NR NRL S&T 105 in Norfolk,VA. In December 2018, he assumed command of NR HQ NRL S&T 100 in Washington DC and is the Chief of Staff for the Office of Naval Research Reserve Component.His personal awards include Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal (3), Navy Achievement Medal (5), National Defense Medal (2),Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal,Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (3), Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Navy Recruiting Service Award (4), Expert Rifle Marksmanship Medal, Expert Pistol Marksmanship Medal, Commander Submarine Group Two and Commander Navy Region North East Letters of Commendation. He received instruction at the U.S. Navy Anti terrorism Warfare Development Center, is a graduate of the Joint Professional Military Education program at the Naval War College, U.S.Army Inspector General School, and is designated a US Naval Academy Blue and Gold Officer.In his civilian career Captain Van Poots is the Technical Services Manager for Miller Coors at the Shenandoah VA Brewery. He earned a Masters of Business Administration degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy NY. He earned a PhD in Applied Management and Decision Sciences from Walden University. Captain Van Poots is married to Holly Anne (Hurt) Van Poots of Roanoke, Virginia.They have two sons and reside in Harrisonburg, Virginia.