Veterans recognized on the ice

Mindermann and LaRue bring service experience to hockey team


Richard Clark IV

Senior forward Zac Mindermann steps onto the ice against Montana Tech on Nov. 9. Mindermann served two tours with the U.S. Marine Corps.

By Drew Lawson, Reporter

On Veteran’s Day schools and workplaces around the country take pause to recognize those who have served in the military and armed forces, among those being service members are a number of EWU students, staff and alumni.

Two players on the EWU hockey team, Zac Mindermann and Bobby LaRue, are a part of this group, with LaRue enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard, and Mindermann having served two tours in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Mindermann served for four years. He was stationed in the U.S. in the U.S. just east of Palm Springs, California, then went to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His two tours lasted from June through November 2014. Mindermann’s responsibilities varied between his station in the U.S. and Afghanistan.

“I did some security in [Afghanistan],” Mindermann said. “My normal job in [the U.S.] was working on generators and power distribution, and also drove seven-ton trucks and helped transport cargo.”

LaRue has been enlisted for almost six years. Currently, he is an infantryman in the Washington National Guard. He has yet to be deployed, but trains one weekend a month and for a few weeks every summer at the Yakima Training Center. He said the environment at the base has helped prepare him for the possibility of being deployed.

Richard Clark IV
Sophomore forward Bobby LaRue handles the puck against Montana Tech on Nov. 9. LaRue had an assist in the Eagles’ 6-0 win.

“It provides a good training ground,” LaRue said. “It’s similar to what you would find over in the Middle East. I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn how to rappel from helicopters. It’s been a lot of training.”

Mindermann was inspired to serve by family connections and by the fact that he was unsure of future plans.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school,” Mindermann said. “My dad was in the Navy for eight years, so I kind of looked to him as a role model. I figured out that the military worked out well for him, so I thought I’d give it a shot too.”

LaRue also decided on enlisting while weighing future options in his senior year of high school. He wanted that future to include hockey and school, but was also weighing the military as a possible path.

“At the time I was thinking the military might be a good option,” LaRue said. “At first I was thinking of going active duty in the Navy, but that didn’t pan out. I still wanted to play hockey and be able to pursue my education. The U.S. Army National Guard was the best situation for me.”

Mindermann learned to appreciate “the little things in life” while serving. He said that life can always be a lot worse than one would think.

“You learn to grow up quickly,” Mindermann said. “You try to grow up to be a good man or woman.”

LaRue said that serving gave him a level of discipline that many young people his age are lacking.

“Going out of high school, a lot of kids won’t have that structure,” LaRue said. “The military really drills that into your life.”

Richard Clark IV
Senior forward Zac Mindermann wins a face off against a Montana Tech player on Nov. 9. Mindermann has one goal and seven assists this year.

Coming back to school after being in the military has given Mindermann a unique perspective on his environment. He said that in the classroom setting, he prefers to listen to other classmate’s opinions.

“In class, I learned to kind of sit back and observe,” Mindermann said. “I take in everyone’s opinions and take it for what it’s worth. Having had a little bit more life experience doing other stuff outside of the civilian world, I do have different views from a lot of people […] military veterans have a different outlook on life. It’s not really something you can explain, but it’s nice to see support from people that haven’t [served].”

LaRue echoed Mindermann’s sentiments, saying that being in the military brings a level of understanding that those who haven’t served don’t necessarily possess.

“I think it matures you a little bit more,” LaRue said. “Obviously, you’re going to have those kids that come to college, they’re young, they want to get that college experience and figure out their self-worth and who they are. Those of us who were in the military, we’ve gotten that life experience and now we’re carrying it through to college.”

Both players say that being in the military is an act of service, and they don’t seek recognition for their efforts. Mindermann tends to not inform people he meets that he was in the Marines.

“I typically don’t broadcast it,” Mindermann said. “It’s a service, and something that I chose to do. I don’t expect people to treat me differently […] I don’t want the attention.”

LaRue also said that being in the military is an act of service, not a way to receive praise or attention.

“It’s an unwritten rule of being in the military,” LaRue said. “You don’t want to be the guy that projects being selfish.”

Both players are contributing to the EWU hockey team, which is 13-1 after winning three games in three days last weekend in Cheney. Head coach Pat Hanlon said both players keep their service quiet around the team, but use their experience to lead.

“That’s what’s cool about them, they’re very quiet leaders,” Hanlon said. “Zac is the captain of the team, but when he steps up and says something the guys respect him. Their maturity level is fantastic, their experience level is fantastic, and I think they’ve got a great sense of realism.”

Mindermann and LaRue were recognized at the EWU hockey team’s Military Appreciation Night on Nov. 9. Hanlon made them both starters, which is not always the case. In that game, LaRue helped the team to a 6-0 victory over Montana Tech by assisting on a Matt Lucero goal.