A Yale Captain Leading People in Baghdad
By Steve Conn, Yale Assistant A.D./Sports Publicity Director
David Sheronas, the captain of the 1992 Yale football team, has been in the Army for nearly four years and is the only former Bulldog player currently serving the country in a war zone. He is now an Intelligence Officer assigned to a Military Police unit based out of Hanau, Germany, and, thanks to connections created by Donald Scharf '55, recently emailed me to update his status.
Last year, he spent almost seven months in Kosovo and worked a lot with the Italian Caribinieri and French Gendarmerie as well as some Federal Agencies and traditional military forces from a host of nations.
"The Army was a pretty serious career change. I had gone from business (advertising in Chicago) to acting (in L.A.) before that, but I vowed I would never look back on my life and say, 'If only I had.' You only get one shot at it."
His unit has been moving from Kuwait to An Nasyriah and to Tikrit and Baghdad, where he will be until February. As a matter of fact, he arrived late to this project because he had to have his shoulder worked on from an injury his senior year at Princeton.
"You wouldn't believe how many people ask me, 'So, you went to Yale and now you're in the military?' However, everyone certainly understands a desire to serve and give back; that transcends race, religion, gender... and that's why most of us are wearing the uniform."
In Baghdad, Sheronas is responsible for combat support to Coaliton Forces and all policing functions, along with the Iraqi Police, for about half the city (over 5 million). His soldiers work side-by-side with Iraqi law enforcement people everyday. They live in the former VP Palace in downtown Baghdad near the giant crossed swords where they always showed Saddam reviewing his troops and firing that shotgun in the air.
"Strangely, we haven't seen him [Saddam] around the plaza for a while," said the former actor, who was a 1999 WELI radio halftime guest at the San Diego game. At that time, he was auditioning for a part on Everyone Loves Raymond.
Sheronas was a very physical fullback for head coach Carm Cozza, but never realized what true danger was until he served his country.
"As you see on the news, Baghdad is not the safest place in the world, but our soldiers continue to amaze me with their dedication to our mission and to one another. We lost a soldier less than a week ago [late October] and had several injured in a number of incidents last week. They know what we're doing is important and that we truly are making a difference here... don't let the news fool you."
The most difficult thing for Sheronas, who married (Nicole) in 2001, is being away from his family and friends. He looks forward to being among them at the Bowl in the near future.
Of course, being a part of Yale football means having friends in many and strange places.
"When I was at the Army Medical Center at Landstuhl in Germany to get my shoulder looked at last year, I went into the room to get an injection before an MRI. In walks this guy who looks darn familiar. He stares at me; I stare at him... and he says, 'Dave Sheronas?' It was Dr. (Major) Chuck Wennogle. He stuck me with a needle full of dye as we caught up on old friends and our football days. Not quite the training room, but it brought back memories of heating pads and ice baths."
The Pennsylvania native keeps in touch with classmates and teammates Dave Kelley, Jeff Kenney, Milt Hubbard, Kevin Hill, Erik Lee, Fred Howard and Andy Walker, all of whom keep him informed on the current Bulldogs. He also hears from Fran Greco, Chris Kouri and Adam Lenain from the previous class.
"Being here makes the whole 'For God, For Country and For Yale' thing hit home! Somehow we need to work 'For Family' in there too... it would screw up the rhythm, but it belongs."
"Dave was a very unselfish leader who was spirited," said Cozza. "You could tell he was patriotic, so I am not surprised he is doing this now. He was always giving of himself."