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Home of the brave
Dan Fuhrman graduates from Colorado State University this month, yet his educational journey includes just as many life lessons as classroom ones — including seven months serving his country in Afghanistan.
Fuhrman and his Colorado Army National Guard unit were called to active duty in June 2002, less than a year after he had gone back to school to pursue a career in golf course management.
From army green to golf green
However, when he first entered college at Northern Illinois University, Fuhrman decided to follow a career path that could exercise his love of languages, not the outdoors, and studied Slavic languages.
“I joined ROTC,” Fuhrman says of how college then lead him to the military. “They recommended we join a Guard unit, so I did. I loved infantry training so much that I wanted to go on active duty. But as a compromise to my parents, I joined military intelligence instead of the infantry.”
Through five years of active duty plus time in the reserves and two years as a government contractor, Fuhrman used his linguistic skills translating Serbo-Croatian, Russian and Spanish. One day while working in a German office building, he knew he was ready to return to the states and that he wanted to work outdoors.
At one point he had been stationed in Fort Carson, Colo., and wanted to return to the Rocky Mountains, which he loves. That, combined with his memories of working on the golf course, lead him in August 2001 to Fort Collins, Colo., and CSU’s turf program.
He retained some ties to the military with the National Guard. The school year started great and he was excited about “getting back into college life” — then came Sept. 11.
“As soon as it happened, it hit me really hard, just like everyone else,” he says, “but then every day I just kept wondering when I would be called up for active duty.”
Journey to Afghanistan
“It was the most intense terrain I have ever seen. At the time I was reading the ‘Lord of the Rings’ books, and it made me think of (how the books described the land of) Mordor,” he says.
Fuhrman recalls vehicles sinking in dusty terrains that collapsed like “moon dust” and waking up with thick layers of frost on his sleeping bag.
Through his service, he lived in tents, remnants of a Taliban fortress, and slept outside, whether it was raining, snowing or blowing.
The Afghans themselves were also a bit of culture shock. “The poverty level was something that Americans couldn’t imagine,” Fuhrman says.
In some of the remote areas he visited, the Afghans, who often live their entire lives without leaving their villages, were without electricity or radios to even let them know who the Americans were. Some of the people he encountered, Fuhrman says, thought he and his unit were Russian soldiers. However, Fuhrman says his experience with most of the population was positive.
“The people who worked for us were very kind and helpful,” he says.
Like all soldiers, Fuhrman’s thoughts were often on home, and his duty included spending Christmas 2002 away from loved ones.
“When you are there with other soldiers, you just accept it,” he says. However, Fuhrman and his comrades did get a yuletide treat when television personality David Letterman came to visit on Christmas Eve.
He also received support from home throughout his tour of duty.
“People back home were wonderful. People from all over — even complete strangers — were great. Thanksgiving and Halloween were fattening times for me,” Furman says of the six boxes of candies and other goodies he received that fall.
And those at CSU did not forget him, nor would they let him forget his studies. Professors sent books, and through e-mail he was able to have “a lot of contact” while he was there.
The next chapter
With school almost completed, Fuhrman, winner of GCSAA scholarships in 2003 and 2004, has already lined up a job working for Del Conte Landscaping as an irrigation division manager. Although he doesn’t have any specific long-term career plans, he is looking forward to a future that includes “the smell of fresh-cut grass and being out in the environment.”
He hasn’t left his military experience completely behind and says that the life lessons he learned in the Army will serve him well in the golf course management industry.
“(The Army) taught me tons. Delegate tasks. Don’t micromanage. Set the example. Communication is key.”
Like any other graduate, he is looking forward to starting a new chapter in life and also is ready for the additional perk of finishing school — no homework.