D. H. “Van” Vanek, SAFBVA Ohio Squadron Commander - Biography

Van was Born in September 1935 and was raised in Saginaw, Michigan. He moved to Ohio in 1949 and graduated from Berea High School in 1953.

Van attended Case Institute of Technology for one year, which included AFROTC. He qualified for Navigator Training in the USAF Aviation Cadet Program and took a two year enlistment to await a Navigator class date. He was in Flight 3901 H-Area from October–December 1954. A/1C Joyce was his TI. After basic Van was ordered to attend General Instructor School (GIS) on base. While waiting for his GIS start date he was assigned to OJT in AFSC 75230 , “TI”. Just before starting GIS he married Marlene R. Meier, an Ohio farm girl from Apple Creek. Shortly thereafter his class date for Aviation Cadet, Navigator came through, only to find out that they did not take married men in the Aviation Cadet Program. So, Van extended his enlistment to a full four years and graduated GIS in May 1955. He served as a TI Assistant, a Small Arms instructor and as an Academic Instructor until the base was closing. He then went to Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS. In April of 1956.

At Keelser Van was cross-trained in Personnel in a Squadron orderly room and then training group Hq in Officer Records. In mid 1959 he re-entered the military training career since basic training had been split into two phases, one at Lackland and the second phase at various tech school locations, one being Keesler. From then until mid-1963 Van was a Military Training Instructor. Van was able to complete his college work through Operation Bootstrap and earned a BS degree in Mathematics in June of 1961 from what is now the University of Southern Mississippi.

Van left the Air Force as a T/Sgt in 1963 and joined IBM Corporation in New Orleans in sales and marketing. After 23 plus years and many moves (IBM=I’ve Been Moved), Van retired in 1987 and joined Digital Equipment Corporation (now Hewlett-Packard) for a short five years and took an early retirement from them in 1992. He retired from Digital as Director of Management Consulting Services-U.S.

Marlene and Van moved back to Ohio in 1993. By that time they had a daughter and two grandsons living in Massillon. Van joined the Apple Creek American Legion Post 147 soon after the move and is now a Life Member, Past Commander, Finance Officer, and Sgt-At-Arms. He is also a member of the 555th Honors Detachment doing honors for veteran’s funerals at the Western Reserve National Cemetery and for other veteran’s funerals in Wayne County. He is a member of the NRA and enjoys hunting and shooting. Other interests include computer gaming, wood working, and continued education (physics, cosmology.