In 1956, Ted Dankert was in the middle of his college career. He was a member of the ROTC at Wichita State University, but was thinking about leaving college to join the Army.
After talking to his dad, who encouraged Dankert to finish college, he decided to stay in school.
“In 1959 I went on active duty,” Dankert told members of the El Dorado Rotary Club. “I was an armor officer and I went to Germany.”
Dankert, who was named the Celebration of Freedom’s Veteran of the Year on Sunday, was the featured speaker at Wednesday’s Rotary meeting at Butler Community College.
In Germany, he was part of the group patrolling the border between East and West Germany.
“Our mission was to keep track of people coming into West Germany,” he said. “It was a two-year assignment.”
After 22 months had passed, the crisis in Cuba developed, and Dankert’s tour was extended for a year.
During his time in Germany, Dankert befriended George Patton, the son and namesake of the WWII general.
“He was a very down to earth guy,” said Dankert. “He was very involved.”
Patton, who retired from the Army in 1980 as a major general, encouraged Dankert to apply to become a regular officer instead of a reserve officer.
Dankert took his advice, was accepted and assigned to Ft. Knox, Kentucky.
He was subsequently sent to Vietnam with an airborne brigade.
“We replaced the first American unit that went to Vietnam,” said Dankert, who spent 1966-1967 in Vietnam.
After spending 28 years in the Army and Army Reserve, Dankert retired as a colonel.
He credits his military experience with helping him succeed in the business world.
When he was 36 years old, Dankert started Dustrol, Inc., an asphalt recycling company.
The company has done well, Dankert says, because of the people who work for Dustrol.
Last year, Dankert finished selling 100 percent of the company’s stock to the employees, making it an employee owned company.
After speaking about his time in the Army and the business he started, Dankert took questions from his audience and thanked them for letting him speak.