In Iraq or at home, local veteran plays protective, supportive role

Heiland swept for bombs in war, helps veterans with careers via new WSU group



Anthony Heiland joined the U.S. Army Reserve and specialized in combat engineering in the midst of the Iraq War and was deployed twice to the country.

One of his jobs was to ride in an armored vehicle to locate improvised explosive devices along roadsides. He recalled riding at 5-10 miles per hour, looking for anything that might be an explosive as civilian vehicles refused to pass in fear of what might be ahead.

“What’s really interesting is the road can be deserted, and the road’s deserted because the locals know that something’s on that road that shouldn’t be there,” said Heiland, of Miamisburg. “You can find yourselves in a convoy going down a three-lane highway and there’s a whole line of cars behind you not trying to get around you.

“And it’s not that they’re not in a rush, it’s that they know that as long as they are behind you, they won’t blow up,” he said. “They won’t accidentally trip the thing you’re intended to trip.”

Along with searching for explosives, Heiland also provided personal security for command staff, battalion operations, base defense and base fortification during his two deployments.

“The biggest takeaway that I have from my time there, all the people that I was surrounded by and all the people who I served with, every day we had one goal and that was to do the right thing and help those around us,” Heiland said.

Heiland, who graduated from Northridge High School, just recently retired and was connected to the Dayton Daily News by Montgomery County Veteran Services to be featured on Veterans Day. The veteran service commission is a county agency that works to support veterans in the area.

Serving in Iraq and training stateside to respond to disasters is only part of his military story, Heiland said. In 2011, he enrolled at Wright State and found more could be done to improve veteran services there. He got involved with student government and helped change bylaws to better support veteran and military-connected students.

He also helped push the university to create the Wright State Veteran and Military Center (VMC). The center offers numerous services including processing GI Bill benefits and academic support, but is also a place where students with military experience can go to decompress and be around others who have also served. The center has done a lot of good work, he said, including documenting veteran stories where they are archived at the Library of Congress.

And in 2019, Heiland helped found the Wright State University Veteran & Military Alumni Society, a group that works to serve and support veterans and help them be successful in their careers and lives. The group helps students prepare for careers by connecting them with internships and jobs.

The society is also working on developing a career advancement program to help mid-career people achieve their goals. The Society offers different levels of membership, including one for people who are not connected with the university or the military but want to be involved.

“That’s the idea behind the alumni society — we’re trying to fill the gap where the VMC stops and just continue helping those around us,” he said.

About the Author