Army Sergeant Randy Sandifer deployed to Iraq with the 412th Theater Engineer Command. While he was there, Sandifer volunteered to work with a soil lab and environmental team that was cleaning up any pollutants left by U.S. forces. The team was testing the hydrocarbon levels in the soil at Abu Ghraib prison, very near to the local water supply.
When Sandifer returned home and resumed his education at the University of Mississippi, he used his experiences in Iraq for a class project that required public speaking. A former classmate of Sandifer’s, Jonathan Hutchins, is now a professor and assistant director of the Social Justice Initiative at Philander Smith College in Arkansas. Hutchins remembered the presentation that Sandifer had given six years previously, and submitted a nomination to the Nobel Committee.
“The environmental effects would have been horrific if it were not for the non-violent scientific dedication exhibited by Mr. Sandifer,” Hutchins wrote in his nomination letter.
The Nobel committee offers awards in six categories, nearly every year. The categories are: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace, and Economic Sciences. The Nobel prize is considered among the world’s highest honor that any individual can receive.
The committee received 278 nominations for the 2014 Peace Prize, which was awarded to Kailash Satyarthi from India, and Malala Yousafzay from Pakistan.
Kailash Satyarthi gave up engineering studies to become a teacher. He left teaching to become a globally recognized advocate for education.
At age 17, Malala Yousafzay is the youngest Nobel Laureate. When she was 11 years old, Yousafzay began writing a blog for the BBC that detailed her life under Taliban control. Despite being a young adolescent female, through her blog and outreach, Yousafzay became an advocate for women’s education. Yousafzay was made globally famous after an October 9, 2012 assassination attempt. A gunman asked for the then-15 year old by name, and then shot her in the head. Two years and one day later, Yousafzay and her cause received one of the world’s most prestigious honors.
Due to complexities in the nomination process, it remains unclear exactly when Sandifer will be in the running. Sandifer told local news sources that he didn’t think that he had much of a chance of winning. But it was nice to be mentioned in the same circles as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.
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Military Connection: Peace Prize For Army Sgt? By Debbie Gregory