Military veteran, father of three wins Ivy Tech’s Distinguished Graduate award
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.— Ivy Tech South Bend-Elkhart has named Don Gunter, a retired military sergeant and father of three, as their 2019 Distinguished Graduate.
The LaPorte County native will graduate on Friday with an associate’s degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
48-year-old Gunter medically retired from the military in 2014 after 25 years, achieving the title of sergeant first class. He always knew he wanted to join the military, as his family had done before him.
“I had four knee surgeries, the last one, I had a trailer fall on me in Iraq, several head injuries over there that I was hospitalized for,” Gunter said.
Though disabled, Gunter did not let it define him.
“I don’t quit,” Gunter said.
The attitude followed him through to higher education, as he volunteered his free time to fill needs within the technical school.
“It’s a habit of mine from the military, you help everyone so it’s like natural to help all of the students, to take over the classes when they needed it, helping all the way around, helping all the way around from student center to resource center,” Gunter said.
Gunter’s oldest son of three, Paris, named after Gunter’s first duty station, is graduating on the same day as his father with a technical certificate but at the Indianapolis Ivy Tech campus.
A special face in the audience
“My buddy died over there in Iraq. He died over there in direct fire and here locally, he’s a South Bend resident, him and his wife,” Gunter said. “I was the last one holding him and treating him.”
While his family will be out of town for a wedding, a very special person in his life will be in the audience; his fallen friend’s Gold Star wife.
“That’s the first person I called when they said I could have a guest there. I said I know who exactly to call,” Gunter said.
Plans to give back to the community he grew up in
Gunter has been working on opening his own heating and air conditioning business in LaPorte County, with the hopes that his sons will join him in the trade.
“That’s where we came up with the name, Generations of Heating,” Gunter said.
There’s a special part of Gunter’s business plan that strays from normal billing practices, though.
“I let them quote about much it costs for the labor, I say ‘hey, whatever you feel,’ I’ve never said hey it’s going to be $300. I did one furnace and they said ‘hey I’ll give you 60 bucks and they said if you need more I’ll get you more and I said no’ I let them dictate how much it will cost for the job,” Gunter said. “It’s not about the money it’s to help people.”