Thursday June 28, 2018
“The only easy day was yesterday.” That’s a saying of the U.S. Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land Teams (SEALs). South Burlington resident Dan Barkhuff, a former SEAL, takes the saying seriously.
While growing up in New England, Barkhuff, 39, set a difficult goal for himself. “Attending the U.S. Naval Academy was always my dream as soon as I learned what the military was,” he says, “I always wanted to be a soldier or a Marine, and I used to read books about war as a grade-schooler.”
Barkhuff made his childhood dream come true. Although fewer than ten percent of Naval Academy applicants are accepted, Barkhuff prevailed. He graduated from the Academy in May 2001.
Barkhuff’s next aspiration was to become a SEAL, even though only about six percent of applicants meet the Navy’s arduous SEAL requirements. Again, he was successful. In his words, “I loved the SEAL teams. I served for eight years on SEAL teams as a platoon commander, and I completed tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. I’m a proud veteran of the Battle of Fallujah.”
Leaving the Navy in 2009, Barkhuff took on still another tough challenge: to become a physician. Was he deterred by the fact that he hadn’t taken certain courses required for medical school? Not Barkhuff. He enhanced his academic credentials by attending the University of Vermont’s (UVM) post-baccalaureate medical school preparation program. While at UVM, he met his future wife, Whittney.
Rather than taking an easier route, Barkhuff then applied to Harvard Medical School where the acceptance rate is less than four percent. He got in, graduated in 2013, and then completed an emergency medicine residency-training program at the University of New Mexico. UVM wanted to establish a similar program, and they looked to Barkhuff for help. “I was one of several core faculty members hired for exactly that purpose,” he proudly asserts. “It’s fun to be in on the ground floor of a residency.”
Barkhuff’s wife Whittney is also a physician, and she practices as a neonatologist at the UVM Medical Center. The Barkhuffs have three girls under the age of seven.
Dan Barkhuff has now embarked on another challenging quest. He is the founder and president of Veterans for Responsible Leadership (VFRL.org). “We started as a Facebook group for veterans of all services and all party affiliations frustrated by the election of Donald Trump and the implications for our democracy,” he explains, “Our goal in 2018 is to support two to four candidates who are veterans and have demonstrated integrity and civility.”
VFRL has incorporated as a super PAC and hired a web development team. Barkhuff is hopeful that the organization will triumph. “We believe there is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what is right with America,” he emphasizes, “and we aim to do it.”
Has Barkhuff taken on a Sisyphean task? Easy days may not be in his future, but that has never dissuaded him in the past.
SOURCE: William Wargo, Contributor