Cpl. Dan Slapak is a United States Marine Corps veteran. He spent most of his four years in the Pacific Command and was with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines when he left the military in 2015. He is conscience of the example he sets in everyday life and he wants it to be worthy of the Marine Corps.
“I feel like I’m a constant representation of the Marine Corps and I try to live by that,” Slapak said. “I try to do good. I’ve been out of the Marine Corps for six years now, but I will carry that with me forever.”
Slapak has been with Miracle-Ear Midwest as a Hearing Healthcare Provider (HCP) for one year. Each week, he sees four to five veterans at his retail location. He says he can almost always recognize other military veterans. It can be the way they will hold themselves, talk, body tone, tattoos, haircuts, clothing, but even without those things – “you just know.”
“It’s a weird gene that develops in veterans,” Slapak said. “It’s like a veteran’s ‘Spidey-Sense’ or something.”
Slapak said one of the most important things in his job is earning a client’s trust and he goes above and beyond to help all his patients. Veterans, however, naturally will have a sense of trust with other veterans. It does not matter what branch of the military they served in or what job a veteran did during their time of service. And it does not matter if a veteran served during wartime or not. There is simply in instant rapport and connection between veterans.
A recent patient came into Slapak’s store one evening seeking hearing aids. The gentleman was a 28-year United States Air Force veteran and had served in Vietnam. It was the last appointment of the day and the two sat talking for a long while. The Air Force veteran revealed war stories he needed to talk about and said he was sorry to have taken up so much time. Slapak told him there was absolutely nothing to be sorry for and he would be glad to stay and talk as long as he wanted.
The older gentleman told Slapak he had no one to talk with about his time in the Air Force. The Vietnam veteran does not belong to any veteran groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to form connections with others who had served.
“It was just really great to connect with him like that,” Slapak said. “I was happy to have been an ear for him when he needed it and to be able to hear those stories.”
Talking about the importance of Veteran’s Day, Slapak said the day is to thank the veterans of America. However, some people separate out different military veterans with Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day.
“Veteran’s Day, in the most literal sense, is a day to remember all veterans, but also the active-duty military personnel, and those who didn’t come home,” Slapak said. “But I think that should be remembered every day.”
If Slapak could give a Veteran’s Day message to other veterans he said it would be this - simply do the best you can. He said he has never really had an exact plan, but he just tries to work hard. Most veterans have the keys to success because they have been taught time-management, leadership abilities and discipline to work hard and accomplish goals. Don’t lose sight of those things. He wants to remind veterans of who they are and what they’ve done.
“Nothing is too hard to do. But when things do get hard don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Slapak said. “It’s a really hard thing when you hear about more veterans dying from suicide than in combat. And that’s been the truth for a long time. It’s OK to not be OK. If you need help, get help. There is nothing wrong with it.”
If you are a veteran or know a veteran that may need support or just someone to talk with, please call the VA Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 or visit veteranscrisisline.net for additional resources, including text and online chat options.
Slapak says he sees many veterans who have received hearing aids through the Veterans Administration (VA), and he takes care of their follow-up service.
Veterans are at risk of acoustic trauma because almost every veteran worked around different types of loud noise during their service. Military personnel can work with elements, such as a variety of mechanic work, carrier ship engine rooms, firearms and artillery, explosives and aviation. Those types of examples can have an adverse effect on hearing.
Past era veterans, like Vietnam and Korean War veterans, worked without adequate hearing protection. Today, advanced knowledge has produced better hearing protection for military service members, but hearing loss is still a result of working in repetitive loud environments.
“Almost every veteran was around some type of elevated noise. If you are a combat veteran, you were around firearms, rockets, bombs and grenades – things that go boom and bang and are very loud,” Slapak said. “That constant wear and tear will affect you.”
If you are a veteran or know a veteran experiencing hearing issues and may not qualify for VA hearing health benefits or need hearing aid aftercare services, Miracle-Ear can help. Miracle-Ear offers free examinations and hearing tests.
To schedule a consultation, please call 1-888-201-1607 or visit miracleearusa.com