Submitted by Patricia M. Allen

February 18, 2008
Contact: Caroline Jenkins Hanna
Director of Media Relations


audioPhotos and audio of this event

AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College will host a panel discussion titled “From Campus to Country: Why We Chose to Serve in the Military after Amherst” with alumni and members of the armed forces Matt Flavin, Todd Nichols, Michael Proctor and Paul Rieckhoff on Friday, Feb. 29, in Cole Assembly Room of Amherst’s Converse Hall at 4:30 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of Amherst’s ongoing effort to promote meaningful discussion of the complex issues associated with the nation’s military, as well as honor those who serve.

Flavin ’02 joined the armed forces in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and underwent extensive training before being deployed to Bosnia as a human intelligence officer and an operations officer for the Allied Military Intelligence Battalion. Upon his return to the United States, Flavin joined the Naval Special Warfare community and completed combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He last served as the director of targeting and intelligence for SEAL Team ONE. He now attends law school at Georgetown University Law Center.

Nichols ’99 is a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has been to Iraq on three combat tours for a total of two years from February 2003 to October 2006. On his first deployment, he was based out of Kuwait prior to the U.S. invasion of the country, and conducted operations in areas all over Iraq. During his second tour, he spent a significant amount of time in Najaf and Al Anbar Province and then returned to the latter—as well as Balad and Baghdad—on his third deployment. During his time in the military, he has flown AH-1W attack helicopters.

Proctor ’02 graduated from Amherst cum laude with a bachelor’s in philosophy. He took a position with his local congressman for four months until October 2002 and then attended Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va. Following his stint there, he spent several years in training learning to fly various aircraft. He was first deployed to Iraq in February 2007 where he flew countless combat sorties involving air-to-air refueling, logistical transport, battlefield illumination, detainee transport, VIP transport and “Angel” runs, where he carried the coffins of the fallen out of the country to be taken home from Kuwait. He has been awarded a Navy Achievement Medal and five Air Medals for combat flight. He is currently a captain and an aircraft commander in the Marines.

Paul Rieckhoff ’98 is executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a non partisan non profit founded in 2004 with tens of thousands of members in all 50 U.S. states. Rieckhoff himself was a first lieutenant and infantry rifle platoon leader in the Iraq war from 2003 to 2004. He is now a nationally recognized authority on the war in Iraq and issues affecting troops, military families and veterans and has been featured in numerous media outlets, including The Charlie Rose Show, 60 Minutes, ABC World News Tonight, All Things Considered, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Army Times and The Wall Street Journal, among others. His first book, a critically acclaimed account of his experiences in Iraq and activism afterwards titled Chasing Ghosts, was published by Penguin in May 2006. Rieckhoff currently serves as an infantry officer in the New York Army National Guard and lives in Manhattan.

The discussion will be dedicated to the memory of Navy lieutenant Joshua Walter “Max” Gross ’98, one of three crew members who died Jan. 16 in a helicopter crash in Corpus Christi, Texas. The event is sponsored by the college’s President’s Office.