Veteran's Day

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There is a bond, a oneness, that exists between those in certain endeavors or with certain shared experiences. This is true, with an exponent, of veterans.

I have been shot at twice in my life. Neither time was I in serious jeopardy. My father and my uncle were shot at a lot and were damned lucky to have survived. Dad served in the Pacific (New Guinea and the Philippines). Uncle Bob landed in Normandy on D-Day and was one of the 10% who survived through the end of the war. My burdens were trivial compared to theirs. Yet we share a common bond.

To all the brothers and sisters who served and are yet serving, know that you are loved and valued beyond the power of words to tell.

I offer these closing lines from John Ciardi's poem, Ulysses:

"I returned to the sea, and at the last mountain
I stood to remember, and the memory
could not live in the fact. I had grown old
in the wrong world. Penelope wove for nothing
her fabric and delay. I could not return.
I was woven to my dead men. In the dust
of the dead shore by the dead sea I lay down
and named their names who had matched lives with me,
and won. And they were all that I loved."
 
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Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery where my Uncle Bob is buried.

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Butlerkid

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A fitting way to honor your dad and uncle....and all those who served....including you. You were willing.....many were/are not!
 
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Well done, Doug, and thanks for your service and especially that of your Dad and Uncle. I had several first cousins who served during WW II, including one who flew 99 missions in Italy.

I served in the Navy during the Viet Nam war, but had a rather cushy post as an instructor at the Navy Nuclear Power School for five years.
 
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I served in the Army during the Viet Nam war, but had a rathe cushy post as a Russian translator/interrogator in Munich.

My father served in the Navy for a while during WWI but never got out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Good thing, too, because he never learned to swim.
 
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I was never officially in any sort of combat duty. Out of basic training I went to language school (Mandarin Chinese at The Presidio of Monterrey). Half way through 27 weeks of language school I spent two weeks in the hospital at Ft. Ord with bronchitis. Almost died. After that I was reassigned to Lackland AFB to be a construction equipment mechanic. (The military works in mysterious ways.) Worked there for about a year and was assigned to Osan AFB in Korea. That was the first place I was shot at.

In Korea, I was gifted the "additional duty" of being a "Security Police Augmentee". This meant I got a helmet liner, a web belt and canteen, a shelter half and an assigned M-16 that was kept in the squadron weapons room. I also got a week of heavy weapons training with the ROK Marines. That was fun, shooting real automatic weapons and blowing stuff up. But, I digress. In the case of a security alert I had to grab the (largely useless) stuff and head to the weapons room to get my assigned weapon. Usually they gave us an empty magazine (guys kept losing ammo) but one time we got two magazines with actual bullets. Out on the base perimeter we took our assigned spots and after a few minutes there was incoming fire. Along the perimeter there were a number of non-functional WW2-vintage halftracks that were used as fixed gun emplacements (with .50 cal. machine guns). Manned by ROK Marines, these opened up and fired for quite a while. It got quiet and we were sent back to our day jobs. The North Koreans would occasionally send folks south to stir things up. This was such a case. A dozen or so North Korean infiltrators died that day.

A little later during my tour in Korea, I was sent on a 6 week TDY to Tan Son Nhut AFB in South Vietnam. I was pretty good with hydraulics, there was a big build up prior to an anticipated attack over the Tet holiday and they needed to keep the loaders that were used to load and unload the cargo aircraft working. All I saw of that troubled country was the AFB (and the tent where I slept). The second week there all hell broke loose and there was a lot of loud noises and shooting. All of us in that tent beat feet for a shelter. When the ruckus was over we discovered we would be needing a new tent.

Like I said before, shot at a couple of times but never really at risk.

A guy I met in basic became a friend that I kept in touch with. He went into personnel. In a letter from South Vietnam, he bemoaned the fact that he chose a typewriter over a gun to avoid wading in the mud with people shooting at him. In Vietnam, Republic Of, he became, like me, a Security Police Augmentee. He died in that role. He was the reason I visited Washington DC the year I got out. That wall is powerful.
 
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Out of basic training I went to language school (Mandarin Chinese at The Presidio of Monterrey).
Thanks for sharing your story, Doug. I went through the 47-week Russian language program at the Presidio of Monterey in 1969. Never shot at, and to this day still more or less alive.

Through the years I kept up with three friends from the language school. Two are now dead; one had Alzheimer's and haven't been able to learn his fate. I still have three close friends from my Army days. Another friend, my roommate in Munich, is dead.

I enlisted after college to avoid being drafted, and managed to get into the Russian language program. I had been a Classics major in college, and Russian is structurally similar to Latin and Greek in many ways, and equally fascinating, so I was right in my element. I actually had a good three years while I was in the Army. I'm glad I had the experience, most of all for the opportunity -- especially after a youth sheltered in what I would have to describe as "elite" educational institutions -- to get to know so many young men from all walks of life (but only men in that era), and to get to see their skills, their potential, their innate intelligence regardless of educational attainments, and their fundamental good nature. (But I also got to see, if not the very worst of humanity, the less attractive segments, too.)

Many of us were draftees who happened to be plucked by capricious fate from what all too many were forced to endure. I feel even more strongly today than at the time that the Viet Nam war was a sad and wholly unnecessary waste of human life and human potential.
 
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Thanks for sharing your story, Doug. I went through the 47-week Russian language program at the Presidio of Monterey in 1969. Never shot at, and to this day still more or less alive.

Through the years I kept up with three friends from the language school. Two are now dead; one had Alzheimer's and haven't been able to learn his fate. I still have three close friends from my Army days. Another friend, my roommate in Munich, is dead.

I enlisted after college to avoid being drafted, and managed to get into the Russian language program. I had been a Classics major in college, and Russian is structurally similar to Latin and Greek in many ways, and equally fascinating, so I was right in my element. I actually had a good three years while I was in the Army. I'm glad I had the experience, most of all for the opportunity -- especially after a youth sheltered in what I would have to describe as "elite" educational institutions -- to get to know so many young men from all walks of life (but only men in that era), and to get to see their skills, their potential, their innate intelligence regardless of educational attainments, and their fundamental good nature. (But I also got to see, if not the very worst of humanity, the less attractive segments, too.)

Many of us were draftees who happened to be plucked by capricious fate from what all too many were forced to endure. I feel even more strongly today than at the time that the Viet Nam war was a sad and wholly unnecessary waste of human life and human potential.
We were at the Presidio at the same time. I finished basic mid September of 1969 and stayed at Lackland AFB in what the AF called "casual control" waiting for the next class to start. By early October I was in Monterrey.

Another similarity is our motivation for signing up. I was on the cusp of my third year at U of H when my dad had a massive heart attack. I dropped out and went to work to help support the family but with a low-double-digit draft lottery number my days of civilian life were, well, "numbered" so I enlisted in the AF. It was a nick-of-time decision. I got my draft notice while I was in basic training.

I share your experience and observations about the virtues (and downsides) of service in a draftee military. I grew up in a whitebread world in South Houston, Texas. My high school had no black faces and only a small number of brown faces and they never spoke Spanish at school preferring (or perhaps needing) to fly under the radar. There was precisely one Jewish kid (Nathan Isgur, a year ahead of me and scary smart. Full ride to an elite college. Advanced degree in physics. He fled to Canada to avoid the draft.) The military yanked me out of that world to my great benefit.

I also agree with your emotions concerning that war. I recommend Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow as the best, most comprehensive history of both Vietnam and of our later involvement. I also recommend Dereliction Of Duty by H.R. McMaster (retired Army general and former National Security Advisor to the current administration). Karnow was/is a journalist who lived through what he writes about but is also a gifted historian, laying out a millennium of history of the Vietnamese people. General McMaster lays great blame at the feet of the military leadership of that time, arguing that they failed in their duty to speak truth to power. The political calculations that killed so many young Americans are laid bare in both books.
 
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