Army medic and philosopher Danny Medoff, ’18, talks about growth and engagement at UNC

After joining the army in 2005, I received orders in July 2006 that I was being attached to the 28th Combat Support Hospital, located in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We were being deployed to the hospital in Baghdad for a year.

I was placed in the Intermediate Care Unit. My first moment that I really felt like, “this is real, this ain’t no game, no joke. Things are happening,” was when I was helping an Iraqi policeman get out of bed for the first time since he’d been shot through his right hand. His bandage had just been removed, and he had a hole in his hand, and I remember vividly his facial expression as he looked at his hand for the first time since removing the bandage. I’ll never forget that, nor do I want to.

I served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, then was stationed in Germany from 2008 to 2011 before returning stateside to Fort Lewis, Washington.

After I was honorably discharged in 2013, I attended Seattle Central College. I knew I wanted to get my degree but doing so in Seattle would be too problematic for me. I wasn’t strong enough, then, to feel as though I could be a successful student with such distractions.

While I was there, I enrolled in the philosophy program because it offered me the flexibility to take the courses I would need to get into physician’s assistant school. But, as I went on in the philosophy program, I was hooked and wanted to see where I went with it.

I transferred to UNC, and it provided a stable place for me to cultivate my ability to think more productively, which has helped me be more friendly, courageous, open-minded and resilient. Philosophy helped me understand that there are multiple productive perspectives from which to think and work through each moment, which has helped me overcome feeling stuck and drastically decreased the amount of time I feel anxious and/or depressed about the experiences I have had and continue to have.

Working at UNC Veterans Services allowed me to meet and learn so much from all sorts of different types of people (I even got to eat hot wings with President Feinstein). Engaging with so many people each day while I was at work really forced me out of my comfort zone of super introverted-ness. I would love to teach someday, or at least work closely with individuals in a way that allows me to help them cultivate their ability to think more productively.

I worked with students to start the Philosophy Club at UNC in 2017 and served in Student Senate. I started UNC’s Philosophical Kevlar club for military veterans after learning about the topic among veterans of “moral injury,” which refers to the internal suffering resulting from acting against moral codes. The club allows veterans to talk about whatever in a nonjudgmental and loose and free way.

–By Danny Medoff as told to Jason Keller