Indiana State University Newsroom



ISU alum helps Afghan families

November 23, 2021

Over the last few weeks, Milovan Dakic, a 2020 graduate of Indiana State University and a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, has been volunteering at a special mission to help Afghan refugees entering the country following the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Dakic works as a cultural advisor at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey which is one of the military bases temporarily housing Afghan refugees - allies who fought alongside the U.S. military and are in imminent danger from Afghanistan's new Taliban regime. He uses his knowledge, cultural experiences, and linguistic talents to ensure successful communication with them.

"I navigate a fine line between cultural accommodation and cultural acclimation," he said. "This creates many challenges and ultimately, as an advisor I'm here to help the Afghans understand cultural differences, norms, and expectations as well as help our service members understand crucial cultural sensitivities, requirements, and backgrounds that have to be taken into consideration in this unique environment."

He describes his interactions as "extremely rewarding, fulfilling, and very eye-opening."

"It's been an incredibly difficult path for most of these people to traverse to make it to where they are now. ...talking to Afghans of all ages and hearing the one unifying message of motivation, drive, and desire to start a new chapter in their lives here in the U.S. has made me feel such genuine excitement and pride in what this country can offer. While life in the U.S. is no easy task and is not always ideal, the concept of the coveted American Dream is very real and very attainable for them."

"...Seeing the strength of this environment of hope, optimism and drive has made me feel immensely proud to call myself an American and makes me want to do anything I possibly can to enable them to experience all of the opportunities that exist here and to find success in their future endeavors as Americans. These people will never forget where they came from and what they experienced, but they are ready to become our neighbors and become just as American as any one of us."

Dakic, a Terre Haute native, earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in geographic information science from ISU. While at ISU, he was a cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) program. As part of AFROTC, he received a scholarship called Project Global Officer (GO) which enabled him to attain a longtime personal goal of learning the Persian language (Farsi).

Project GO and other federal scholarships covered the costs of Dakic's intensive Persian language study and a semester in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. "While abroad, I was able to volunteer with an NGO and help teach displaced Afghans in Tajikistan English," he said. "This was my first exposure to working with Afghans and it left an amazing impression. I am infinitely grateful to ISU for having made this one-off, atypical study abroad a possibility and for supporting my desire to do something, not on the standard beaten path."

Growing up, Dakic was interested in international relations, history, politics, and diplomacy, and he says the supportive faculty at ISU enabled him to discover these topics further. "This environment that genuinely promoted learning beyond just classroom activities inspired me to read more about the history of countries and regions I was interested in (specifically Afghanistan), and has paid dividends in the long run," he said. "I attribute my experience at ISU as a key factor in the successes and opportunities I have enjoyed thus far."

After graduation, Dakic was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force and is now currently stationed out of Moody Air Force Base working at the 81st Fighter Squadron. Serving the U.S. is important to him, inspired by the example of his grandfather, a veteran, and his father who came to the U.S. from Yugoslavia.

"...I think giving back to the country that has enabled my family and me to do so many amazing things is an immense privilege and a duty," he said. "When I look back at my family's past, I realize how important it is to acknowledge all that was sacrificed to enable the life I currently enjoy. I think continuing this legacy of service is the best way I can repay this country for everything it has given me."