Veterans Day

I grew up in a fairly small town, maybe 20,000 people in the town and the surrounding area. The two industries were the Navy and some farming. Being a Navy town, there were, in addition to all the active duty sailors, a goodly number of retirees and veterans who liked the area and stayed.

My class in high school had 301 graduates. Of that number, at least a dozen of us joined the Army, and I seem to recall quite a few more. Heck, even one of our cheerleaders joined the Army. That doesn’t even count the numbers of people who joined the other services, nor those who pursued a commission via ROTC.

It didn’t hurt that graduating in 1985 put us squarely in the heart of the Reagan era buildup of defense. Both money and prestige were available in amounts that just a few years earlier weren’t possible. Joining the service was very much seen as an honorable thing to do. And frankly, looking around at my small town, I couldn’t think of any other job I would want to do. I loved my small town, and still do, but also wanted to see more of the world, experience new places, people, cultures, especially exotic ones like Georgia (ours, not Europe’s).

While my job was often physically demanding, for the most part, it wasn’t particularly dangerous. And in those days, while we’d be in the field quite often for training, we very rarely deployed anywhere for more than a single month. The only year long deployment was an assignment to Korea for most folks.

I met good people and bad in the Army. The good outnumbered the bad by a considerable margin.

I am proud of my service, humble as it was. I thought it was important work, and I hope that some of what I taught younger soldiers helped them later in their careers. I hope I didn’t fail any of them too badly. I know I  failed them to some degree or another, as no leader is perfect.

I had a brief discussion yesterday with a fellow vet about “Thank you for your service.” I have to say, I always feel awkward when someone tells me that. I did what I did for my own reasons, some noble, some selfish. I got paid to do my job, and for the most part I enjoyed my job. And to some extent, it seems a pro forma thing for a lot of people to say it. But Friday while I was at Point Loma, I saw a couple of Navy Chiefs talking with a vet. A former sailor, who wanted to explain to his wife what he did, and the ship he had served on. When the Chiefs said “TYFYS” to him, I sensed a genuineness to it that I rarely see.

I almost never say it to a fellow vet. Not because I don’t appreciate the service and sacrifice they made. I do. But rather than simply tossing out that phrase, I usually want to hear things like what was your MOS or rating. When did you serve, where? What units? Did you make any interesting deployments, or unusual assignments. Got any funny sea stories? Over at the Lexicans, Bill Brandt tells the story of his tour in Germany through an extensive number of photo essays sprinkled throughout the timeline of the blog. TYFYS is nice, but sharing the pics is better.

Finally, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to serve my country. Service is not a right.  It is both a duty, and a privilege.

14 thoughts on “Veterans Day”

  1. 1986 produced as many, if not more, vets. Funny thing for me is that, despite doing this essentially since 86, and making operational deployments to Kuwait twice, Kosovo, Macedonia and three to Iraq, I don’t think of myself as “a vet.” While there is certainly some tangential feeling of noble service and self sacrifice, I do this job, pure and simple, because I love it. I love training. I love training others. I love making my unit the best one at every echelon. I love pulling the trigger on any weapon and watching things go boom. Massing fires. Maneuvering. Teaching subordinates or getting taught myself. Returning from deployment. Deploying. The bond and camaraderie of my fellow members of the varied services. I do it because I love it. If I didn’t, the more than seven years I have been away from my wife would have put me out long ago. Because of this, I feel awkward when others thank me. I have to admit, thorough, that when we walk through ATL on the way back downrange and the USO escort announces us and people clapped and cheered it feels pretty darn cool.

  2. Art, well said. Esli, you too Funny how the three of us feel the same. We all cut up and went to the same parties growing up. Years pass and we were and are now worlds away from each other yet drawn together in mutual respect of those that serve. I too consider myself one of the luckiest men in the world to have been able to make a living in the Army doing what I loved, A chance to work side by side with good people with hearts of gold like yourselves. Do me a favor, tip a cup of coffee back some day and know I miss you guys.

  3. I hear you Brad. Similar growing up experiences, although mine was one AFBs rather than NASs. My father was a bit disappointed I chose the Navy out of Hi Skool, then Army for Flight School.

    I get the same feeling when someone thanks me for my service. Lex thanked me and my son (Iraq). I knew Lex was sincere, but it still made me feel funny. When I visited the 8th Air Force museum I thanked the guys I talked with there (one served as a Navigator, the other a Gunner) and I meant it. Those guys lit up and I did as well when I saw them light up.

  4. XBrad, Esli,
    You both echo the same sentiments I have had for the last 10 years, I graduated HS in 1984, so I enlisted near the same time as you.
    I reported to Whidbey NAS in Aug 85, so I was in the same locale at some point. I moved around a bit, I went into the reserves and was able to find job back in OH and finished out my 20 there.
    I go through the Torpedo gate and sometimes the sailor on duty says the TYFYS, I appreciate it, but I did it because I loved my job, it was the coolest job I have ever had. I got to see places and do things that were exciting.
    This is a beautiful place to live….as an old retiree, as a young person….it’s probably boring.
    I would gladly buy either of you a drink, next time you are in town.


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