ROTC: A family tradition



By Tara Bilby

The desire to soar to great heights in life has led generations of the De Jaco family to enter the Air Force. From fighting in World War II and in Desert Storm, the next generation of De Jacos are following in their family’s footsteps, and are doing so at UK.

Families often share stories of the difficulties of living in times of war. For finance senior Curt De Jaco and his sister Brittney, a chemistry freshman, those stories made an impact and shaped their lives in a significant way.

Curt and Brittney grew up hearing stories about how their father was protecting their freedom and keeping the country safe.

The two De Jaco siblings are in UK’s Air Force ROTC; their parents were in the program at the University of Cincinnati from 1979 through 1983.

Curt said his father played a major role in his decision to join the ROTC program at UK.

“I wanted to fly in the Air Force because my grandpa and dad did it,” he said. “It means a lot to have this tradition in my family and follow in their footsteps. We are a proud military family with national pride.”

Curt always wanted to fly in the Air Force. Growing up in a military family showed him that the ROTC was a good way to start a military career, he said.

Brittney said she gained interest in the program once her brother entered and she saw how rewarding it was.

“I hadn’t thought of joining ROTC until my junior or senior year of high school when I kept hearing my brother talk about it,” she said. “I have a deep respect for the Air Force because my family is so closely tied to it.”

Brittney and Curt’s father, Martin De Jaco, flew a KC-135 in Desert Storm and spent eight years of his life in the Air Force.

One thing he learned from the ROTC program was how to work as a team, not only in his professional life, but in his personal life as well.

“As a family of six, we work as a team and back each other up,” he said.

Curt lived on military bases growing up and his father hasn’t remembered a time when Curt didn’t want to join the Air Force.

“I guess when you wake up and see air lines flying over your head every single day, it’s the thing to do,” Martin said.

While Martin is proud of his children’s decisions to join ROTC, he said he didn’t push the idea on his kids.

“I told Curt to really think about what he was doing, what it is going to be like in the military,” he said. “I told the kids it was a decision they would have to make … it’s an entirely different way of life that requires a lot of self-control and commitment.”

Martin’s wife, Donae De Jaco, graduated from Cincinatti and the ROTC program there in 1983, and while she didn’t join the Air Force, she said it is still a large part of her life.

“When you marry someone in the Air Force, you’re in the Air Force,” Donae said.

Brittney would like to be a nurse in the Air Force and is considering being a pilot, but is keeping all of her options open.

Curt is graduating this semester, and on May 18 will enter active duty in the Air Force and will be training for more than a year to become a pilot.

Martin De Jaco said visits to UK’s campus bring him memories and a surge of pride when he sees what his children are accomplishing.

“When I go to campus and I’m around all of the ROTC kids, I couldn’t be more proud,” Martin said. “They have a real goal and purpose in life … I told my son this will be the proudest thing you do in life. In your 40s and 50s, you look back and you see what you’re most proud of it, and for me the military is definitely it.”