Written by D.F. Karppi Monday, 18 May 2009 17:16Donald J. Zoeller of Oyster Bay was one of the veterans who greeted Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell as she joined the Nassau County Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Eisenhower Park’s Veterans Memorial Plaza on May 9, for the unveiling of a new memorial monument dedicated to the men and women of Nassau County who have served our country overseas.
The monument recognizes the sacrifices made by these men and women who have protected and defended our liberties. Special thanks go to the Nassau County Council Monument Committee members: Commander Pat Iuliucci, Sr. Vice Commander Peter Vitulli, Jr. Vice Commander John Hanley, Past State Commander Harry Wurth and Past County Commander Joseph Pascarella.
Mr. Zoeller, an Oyster Bay-East Norwich school board member, was at the event. He is a member of the Korean War veterans and is their first vice commander.
He said, “I’ve been lucky in life. When I started college it was so soon after WWII - we thought it was a war to end wars - and I figured why not join the ROTC. It was so peaceful in the world. Then when I was in summer camp in Fort Meade in Maryland I learned that we were at war. All of a sudden, a month out of college, I was called in as a second lieutenant and was sent to South Korea for 13 months. It was supposed to be an aircraft service group but turned out to be infantry support. I didn’t get hurt or killed, but I can remember lying in a foxhole and hearing shrapnel pinging around me.
“When you are that young you know intellectually that you can die but emotionally you don’t think you will die.
“And the real plus side in case you think it was a real sacrifice, I got the GI Bill and it sent me through law school and here I am.”
Mr. Zoeller is currently an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School. “I started studying law at night while I had a full time job during the day but after I retired I began doing it in the daytime. I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
When asked what had kept up his enthusiasm for the law all this time, he explained how he got into law. “I didn’t go to law school to be a lawyer. I was working for an advertising agency. I was president of the Republican Club recruiting people. But, I had the GI Bill and I was interested in politics. It was easy to get into law school those days [he said self depreciatingly]. Once I was in a couple of months I thought – ‘I like this. It really catches me.’ By then I was working in a U.S. District Court for a judge: working in the day and going to law school at night. When I graduated the judge asked me to be his law clerk. [Being a law clerk for a judge is quite an honored position in the law.] So I stayed and worked for a year for him. It was nice on my resume and then I went with a very nice law firm and became a partner.
“I did complex litigation and went to all kinds of places and traveled and had a ball. I worked hard and I had a ball,” he emphasized.
He added, “The service career was a great benefit to me. Fortunately, when I got out of college, I was fed up about school and ‘at sea’ about a career, and getting into the Army wasn’t the worst thing of all. And to have seen what I saw – once in your lifetime – I appreciate having that opportunity.”