Marine Lieutenant J.J. Konstant '03 was third in command of an August 2005 campaign that neutralized a terrorist cell intent on disrupting parliamentary elections in Afghanistan the following month.
He earned a Bronze Star and received a Purple Heart for his participation in a three-day battle pitting 60 Marines against an untold number of Taliban insurgents.
Gravely wounded in that battle was Ahmad Shah, the insurgent leader who had been targeted a month earlier in a mission that led to the deaths of 19 US Special Forces members. The story of the earlier battle was recounted in the best-selling book Lone Survivor and is detailed ina forthcoming film by the same name that is likely to win some Oscar buzz.
Konstant, meanwhile, is featured in a different book about the two related battles in eastern Afghanistan, Victory Point: Operations Red Wings and Whalers - the Marine Corps' Battle for Freedom in Afghanistan.
He will return to his alma mater for SAU's second annual Military Appreciation Day on Feb. 1, 2014, and will participate in a program at a men's and women's basketball doubleheader that day. He will speak the night before with a message shaped toward athletes and the 115 post-9/11 veterans now enrolled at SAU.
The weekend is being organized to honor all veterans by Office of Veterans Recruitment and Services Coordinator Andrew Gates '11.
Now an investment banker in suburban Chicago, Konstant had considered a military career before he enrolled at SAU to pursue a bachelor's degree in finance and to play basketball for the Fighting Bees. "Then 9/11 took place my junior year," he said.
Konstant promised his parents in the aftermath of that tragic day that he would graduate. He did, and said his education served him well overseas, as he led men and planned missions.
"At St. Ambrose, I learned about looking for the best way to figure things out," he said. "That became important in the military because the best answer was always what we were looking for."