When Brig. Gen. Thomas Draude discovered that Cpl. Frederick Miller had been killed and his body had been left outside in a Vietnamese hamlet, he took action and carried Miller’s body back on his shoulder.
Draude was about to be relieved of his duty so he made a decision that took “moral courage.” He told his battalion commander he would do the same thing if he found himself in that situation again.
“My career was about to be over. So, all of my boyhood dreams of being a Marine officer, they’re all vanished. They’re all crumbled,” Draude said. “He was very unhappy with me. I thought to myself, ‘If I remain silent, I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life.’”
But instead of being relieved, Draude received his first silver star. The experience taught his company an important lesson, according to Draude. It showed them they were a team and no one was going to be left behind, “alive or dead.”
Draude served in the U.S. Marine Corps for over 30 years before coming to USF as an adjunct professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies.
At 3-years-old during World War II, Draude made the decision to be a Marine. A local recruiter and friend of his father’s from the Marines had visited his home after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Draude said he remembers his father telling him he was “the best of the best,” and that he was a Marine. From that point on, that was what he wanted to be.
Being a Marine was more than a career for Draude — it was a vocation and a calling. It was like the impossible dream from “Don Quixote,” Draude said. And for him, the dream was leading the Marines in combat.
“It was that desire to serve my God, to serve my country and also to serve those that I’d be privileged to lead,” Draude said. “I wanted to lead Marines in combat, and I had an opportunity to do that on more than one occasion. That to me was just the greatest privilege anybody could have.”
One of the most important things he did while on active duty was serving on the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, according to Draude. Ordered by former President George H.W. Bush, the commission assessed the laws and policies that restricted women’s abilities to serve, according to the Federal Register.
During the commission, Draude’s daughter, Loree, was in flight school. Having seen the “grisly aspects of combat,” Draude was originally concerned for her. However, she began to do things Draude said he never knew she was capable of, such as flying aircrafts.
Draude went against the grain in the commission. Unlike most of the members, he went in with an open mind and believed the preconceived notions of women’s abilities were dangerous, Draude said.
“It was kind of fun to watch the shock on the part of someone who expected something totally different because of the uniform that I wore,” Draude said.
The commission opened people’s eyes as to the capabilities that had been overlooked and ignored, according to Draude. He said it was the “first step” in allowing women to serve in ways that had been cut off to them prior.
“The way someone was born, whether it’s race, creed, color or gender, to say just based upon that you can or cannot do certain things. That to me is not American,” Draude said.
Teaching is an extension of the work Draude had done in the Marine Corps, he said. Draude said he hopes he is exposing students to things they may have never considered before.
His course “Why We Fight and How We Fight U.S. Wars” was a concept that started with a blank sheet of paper. Draude had asked Cmdr. John Sarao, director of the Joint Military Leadership Center, if there was a chance of him teaching a class at USF. Draude brought his credentials and an outline of the course to the meeting.
“My goal is to present facts and data for them to come to their conclusions after discussion, debate, and so forth,” Draude said. “I think that’s what universities are for … to have this universality of ideas that are considered and analyzed and then we make up our minds and then change our minds if necessary.”
Draude’s teaching style is what makes him stand out from other professors, according to Alexa Goldblum, senior psychology and political science major.
Instead of doing lectures every class, Draude often invites guest speakers to share their own personal experiences which helps students receive a well-rounded and enriching education, Goldblum said. His classes focus on critical thinking and encourage people to share their own perspectives.
“He doesn’t want you to just regurgitate what he says, he wants you to form those thoughts yourself,” Goldblum said. “He doesn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable speaking, he just wants everyone to be very safe and comfortable.”
Draude’s real life experiences also set him apart, according to Ben Crabb, junior economics and political science major. He said Draude earned his position more than any other person. Draude has fought for every lesson he has ever received and that gives him a unique position to educate people, according to Crabb.
“Any minute, any hour, any day, you get to spend in the company of someone like that is just a treasure in its own right,” Crabb said. “The ability to go in and learn from someone with his extensive background and experience is always a pleasure.”
A teacher is someone who cares about their students, and who is willing to share their mistakes so that other people can do better, according to Draude. He said teaching was like a holiday for him.
It is important to set aside a day to recognize people who served and sacrificed, according to Draude. Selflessness is not a term heard too often, he said.
“Those who wear the cloth of our country, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Space Force, all of them are taking on that burden,” Draude said. “That responsibility to serve, sacrifice and to unnecessarily put their lives on the line. That tells me a lot about an individual.”