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Colfax man considers himself veteran, among other things

Published: Friday, July 26, 2013 12:03 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 26, 2013 12:29 p.m. CDT

Dave Mast of Colfax is a veteran. He’s also a community man who has served as a teacher, a city councilor, city administrator and mayor.

He’s a family man with a wife and three children. He’s a photographer with his own business, specializing in senior and family portraiture, as well as wedding photography.

He was president of the Colfax Economic Development Corporation, and then helped launch its successor, Colfax Main Street, where he is now president of the board.

Mast has worn a number of hats over the years, accomplished a great deal and still sees more ahead of him to be done. He doesn’t like to think of any one of those “hats” as being his identity, though.

Instead, to himself, he is simply Dave Mast the person rather than Dave Mast the veteran or teacher or mayor.

So, when he was two years into his career as a math and physics teacher at Treynor in 1968 and his draft card got pulled, he wasn’t about to become a “soldier,” the archetype of what Boot Camp is meant to churn out: highly efficient, command-obeying personnel.

Instead, Mast said his education and experience allowed him to remain exactly the same person he had been when he went to boot camp as an E1 rank in the United States Army in Fort Polk, La.

After boot camp, Mast received training at a clerk typist school before being sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, where he worked in personnel. While there, he said he felt pressure down the chain-of-command to stay on longer than his two years so he could enlist in Officer Training School.

He was head-hunted for the opportunity due to his high General Technical score of 156 out of 160.

“‘That’s higher than most of the officers get,’ they kept telling me,” Mast said. He explained the opportunity would have required at least one more year of served time, keeping him from pursing his career as a teacher.

So, rather than pack off to officer training, Mast met with the base’s Protestant chaplain, a corporal who was impressed with him and provided him with the opportunity to work as his assistant rather than continuing in personnel.

Mast excelled in the position, rising from an E1 to E5 ranking over the course of his 18 months of service. He continued on as the chaplain’s assistant until the conclusion of his service in May of 1970.

Despite several sets of orders calling him up to Vietnam, happenstance served to keep him on the base in Indianapolis.

When Mast was discharged, he enrolled in summer classes. He was married to his wife, Lois, Aug. 8, 1970, and started teaching at Colfax High School later that month.

Since then, Mast has served a number of roles in the community beyond his 30-year career as a teacher. He became mayor on Jan. 1 of 2008, presiding over a period marked with two historic, major floods.

He also helped water conservation efforts in the town, using his column in the Jasper County Tribune to discuss conservation, which drove the town’s water usage down from 12 to 14 million gallons a month to between 8 and 9 million gallons per month. Later, he helped lead the charge to install water meters in town, which ultimately brought usage down to around 5 million gallons a month.

Now that he’s out of city government, Mast stays busy with his involvement in the Colfax Main Street organization.

So, while Mast has worn a lot of hats over the years, and doesn’t think of himself as “Dave Mast the veteran,” he is still a lifetime member of the AMVets organization and said he wouldn’t change anything about his life.

“I have no regrets,” Mast said. “Service to your country is important.”

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