Whether it’s his country or his community, Federal Way resident and veteran Dan Altmayer has been ready to serve throughout his life.
Altmayer, who grew up in Illinois, said he gained an interest in the military at a young age because his father had served in the Air Force. His uncle was also a bomber pilot in the Air Force in World War II and another served in the Army.
“So I’ve always knew as a little kid I was going to join some branch of the military,” he said.
He has never regretted his decision.
After participating in the Civil Air Patrol as a youth, he enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 and a half. Because he wasn’t yet of age, his mother had to sign the contract for him. Altmayer said he initially enlisted as a helicopter repairman and later had the opportunity to be a door-gunner on a helicopter.
“And as a 17- or 18-year-old kid, I couldn’t think of anything cooler than being a door-gunner on a helicopter,” he said.
After he completed basic training, he went to college while serving in the Army Reserve and qualified to receive a commission through ROTC.
He completed officer basic course training for cavalry, where he placed first in his class, graduated with honors and received the Tactics and Leadership Award.
Altmayer then went to Germany, and when his superiors learned he was fluent in German, he was transferred from armored cavalry into military intelligence.
At one point when he was stationed in Germany, military equipment was sent to Tunisia, and he was the senior officer leading a mobile equipment training team in charge of training the Tunisian army to use tanks. Altmayer returned stateside in spring of 1989, and later that year the Berlin Wall came down.
“So, I like to say I’m partially responsible for helping President Reagan take down the Berlin Wall,” Altmayer said.
Instead of going overseas for Desert storm, he became a senior joint task force intelligence officer for counter-narcotics. He, along with the other 200 people involved in the mission from different branches of the military, were assigned to intercept and break up drug operations — marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, in the Gila National Wilderness in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.
“It was a very interesting time,” Altmayer said.
Altmayer retired from the Army as a major after 24 years, after also serving in the Army Reserve for Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as the Washington Army National Guard.
One of the greatest things about serving in the military was the camaraderie, he said. To this day, he could visit people with whom he served, and he would be invited into their homes and could stay as long as he needed.
“So the camaraderie is certainly one of those very big things that you take away from the military,” Altmayer said.
Since then he became heavily involved with Highline College, where he currently is on the board of trustees, and has worked hard to improve veterans services there.
“I saw that veterans really didn’t have a voice or advocate on the board of trustees, so I really kind of stepped into that role,” he said.
Even with all his dedication and work in the military and after, Altmayer said Veterans Day is still a special day for him because he said it is important to take a day and reflect and recognize veterans and those still serving in the military.
“It’s very satisfying to get recognized for the work that you did on behalf of the nation, and the sacrifices you made,” he said.