Veteran Story: Dael Sumner

Four US Marines in combat fatigues stand in front of a wall of sand bags in a desert-like location.
Dael and fellow U.S. Marines deployed in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983.

Image Courtesy of Dael Sumner

About Dael:
Dael Sumner is a seasonal Park Ranger at Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, NY. Dael served in the U.S. Marine Corps throughout the 1980s. She is a combat veteran and was honorably discharged after being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Expeditionary Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and the Sea Service Deployment ribbon.

Dael discovered the park later in life after her son began to urge her to visit with him. Initially, she decided to become a volunteer; but after nearly a decade, had an opportunity to become a seasonal employee. If you visit Fort Stanwix throughout the summer months, there’s a good chance that it will be Dael greeting you. Of the many public programs about the hardships of war given during the season, Dael describes them in a way that only someone who has experienced it can understand. The authenticity of her storytelling is something that is appreciated by park visitors and staff alike.

“I feel as if my service instilled me with an immense pride in our culture and heritage and its diversity.” Dael Sumner

a park ranger stands in front of a colorful crowd at a visitor center, and points at a map.
Dael Sumner leads park visitors through the history of Fort Stanwix.

National Park Service Photo

In Her Own Words:
“I was deployed to Beirut, Lebanon as part of the 24th MAU, Multinational Peacekeeping Force with Charlie Battery 1st Battalion, Tenth Marines. I was there from May until November of 1983, when the Marine barracks was bombed. While my father was a member of the U.S Air Force and I was born In England, I consider Rome, NY my adopted hometown. But it took quite a while for me to become aware of National Park Service jobs when I was discharged in the 1980s. I worked at many factory jobs until in my late forties before I came to Fort Stanwix National Monument. I found my park by being a volunteer here. My son would "drag" me here when he was very young to visit because he was simply enthralled by it.

I have learned to appreciate many aspects of the fort’s story through the lens of both my military and park experiences. I believe my military experience gives me a unique insight into the lives of the men we portray here and at our other sites. It is easy to identify with them and their stories, because I lived it and know the sacrifices and hardships involved. I feel as if my service instilled me with an immense pride in our culture and heritage and its diversity. How important it truly is to make sure our past is not merely remembered, but that those who gave it to us and the places it happened are revered and respected as they should be.

My favorite part about Fort Stanwix is the people. I think the rangers and staff we have here are beyond compare when it comes to knowledge and dedication. They are truly a great bunch of people. If I had to make folks aware of one thing about the park, it that it is far more important to American history than many would ever imagine. Its contribution to America being what it is, is beyond compare.”
2 people in Continental Soldier uniforms stand with muskets ready under green trees.
Dael began volunteering at Fort Stanwix National Monument at her son, Symon's urging.

National Park Service Photo