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Mon Nov 11, 2019, 10:14 AM

On Being a Military Veteran

I was in the USAF from 1965 to 1969. I enlisted because I had dropped out of college and was suddenly 1A. It was only a matter of time, in 1965, before my draft board would send me a "Greetings" letter. I realized that, and dropped in at the Air Force recruiting office. There, i took a test and arranged with the recruiter to enlist immediately after getting my draft notice. My score on that test hit the maximum numbers in all areas, so he was happy to make that arrangement.

Not long after that, the draft notice appeared and I went back to the recruiter's office in Santa Barbara, CA. The next day, I was in Los Angeles for a physical and affirmed the oath that all enlisted people take. The following day, I was in San Antonio, TX on my first day of Basic Training.

Four years later, I got a DD Form 214 and went back to California. In between, those two dates, the USAF taught me Russian and had me doing classified work in Turkey and at Ft. George Meade, home of the NSA. So, I am a military veteran.

I don't have a veteran's hat. I don't belong to any veterans' organizations. Most people I know don't know that I was in the USAF, and that's just fine with me. I don't have any photos of myself in uniform. I don't have a bumper sticker or anything else that says I'm a veteran, either.

The USAF was where I was for four years. That's all. Nobody shot at me, nor did I shoot at anyone. I know many people, however, who were shot at and who were involved in combat operations. I honor their service, whether it was in a time of a popular or unpopular war. Their very lives were at risk. My grandfather (WWI), my father (WWII), my brother-in-law (Vietnam era), and many of my friends and acquaintances went in harm's way. I did not.

Instead, I got some additional college-level education, was sent to interesting places, and did some work that may or may not have been important in some way. But, my life was never at risk. In that respect, I am like very, very many who have been in the military but who were never at risk.

So, when veterans are honored, I salute them silently, with an emphasis on those who risked or lost their lives in service to their country. As for myself, I don't expect or want such honors. That's why I don't make much of anything of my time in the USAF. In many ways, it was no different than what others were doing during the same period of time. I went to school and had a job. I have some good memories of that time period, but was never at any risk.

My grandfather was shot at, shelled, and subjected to chemical warfare in WWI. My father was a B-17 pilot, flying missions over Germany in WWII. My brother-in-law was stationed in Germany on the eastern border during the cold war, where there certainly was at risk, had things gone differently. I was not at risk. Ever.

I'm a military veteran, too, but not in the same category. I served, but was never in harm's way. I salute those who were. I have enormous respect for them and their life-risking service. My hat is off to them all.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:12 AM

1. No doubt, whatever you did was useful, so thanks for that. And your approach

is interesting, as I compare one of my more odious right-winger in-laws, a person who was also in military intelligence, but who, despite never having been anywhere near combat (or even outside the US, as far as I know), never stops bragging about having served in the military.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #1)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:23 AM

2. There are many who do that. If it's that important to them,

then, as my grandmother often said, "Well, bless their hearts."

For many people who spent some time in the military, that was the high point of their lives, which have been otherwise disappointing to them. I don't object to their seizing on that time period and getting the kudos they get from people.

It's just that I see my service differently than that. As it turned out, a few years spent that way gave me some time to reflect, check my goals, and start on a new path after I was discharged. In that way, it was very valuable to me, so I appreciate that opportunity.

But, I'm not patting myself on the back about it. It was what I did between ages 20-24. A guy has to do something, and that's what I did. That's all.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #1)

Wed Nov 13, 2019, 07:10 AM

13. Mineral Man Was lucky

In 1967 I got a draft letter and figured I would just go down and enlist in the Air Force or Navy. Both of them said they had a six month waiting list, and that I could not enlist for that reason and would just have to get drafted into the Army or Marines......

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:29 AM

3. I served in Vietnam in a combat role,

but I've never talked about it to my family, friends, etc., I wear nothing that would indicate I'm a combat vet, nor do I have any bumpers stickers, etc. on my vehicles.

It's enough to know that I did serve and I don't need to brag about it.

To all who served, whether in a combat role or not.
To all those who didn't return alive.

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Response to dware (Reply #3)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:33 AM

4. Thank you!

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Response to dware (Reply #3)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:51 AM

6. My uncle, who died a few years ago at the age of 92, was a WWII vet.

He was in the battle of Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. It wasn't until after he died that I learned he had been awarded a Bronze Star and five battle stars for valor; he never, ever talked about the war.

I used to know a Vietnam vet; he died when he was only in his 50s, probably because of exposure to Agent Orange. He didn't talk about the war either, except once he mentioned that, among other things, they were afraid of tigers.

To you, my uncle, my friend, and all who served.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #6)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:56 AM

7. Yeah, the tigers were a concern, but I never saw one while in country.

Thank you.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 11:45 AM

5. In 1969

I got word from a friends mother, who had a friend on the draft board, that the next two months draft would be in the Marines. Believing that only those who really want to be a marine should be a marine, I volunteered for a third year in the Army and got my communications job. Turned out to be an excellent choice, spent a year on the DMZ in Korea, got hostile fire pay too. Spent my third year at Ft. Benning supporting OCS. Hated ever minute, but would not trade the experience for anything.

Salute!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Mon Nov 11, 2019, 03:22 PM

8. thank you MineralMan

I enlisted Feb 72, was going to fight the damn commies but somewhere along the line I got sent to Alaska instead. Spent 3 years USARAL as a morning reports clerk. Go figure.

There are so many others that gave so much more. I too salute them.

Myself, it was 3 years I'll never forget but it's not the high point of my life

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Tue Nov 12, 2019, 09:23 AM

9. We share some history. USAF 1965-1969. You were a linguists I was a medic.....

.... my grandfather was a WW I Army veteran. My Dad was a WW II Navy veteran.

I do have a veteran's hat. I do not belong to any veterans organization.

Two of my brothers-in-law are also veterans. One Navy one USCG.

I enlisted within one week of HS graduation.

Arrived at Lackland AFB San Antonio, TX on October 25, 1969, my first day of Basic Training.




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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Tue Nov 12, 2019, 09:15 PM

10. You were lucky they had an opening.

You were lucky they had an opening. (Sarcasm)

Tom DeLay and Dan Quayle military service

He and Quayle, DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself. Satisfied with the pronouncement, which dumbfounded more than a few of his listeners who had lived the sixties, DeLay marched off to the convention.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/1999/05/what_did_you_do_in_the_war_hammer.html

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Response to keithbvadu2 (Reply #10)

Tue Nov 12, 2019, 09:18 PM

11. Me - bus ride, plane ride, bus ride, boot camp. 5 weeks out of high school

Me - bus ride, plane ride, bus ride, boot camp. 5 weeks out of high school

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Response to keithbvadu2 (Reply #10)

Wed Nov 13, 2019, 10:59 AM

16. Yeah, I remember that story.

It was bullshit then, too.

Actually, though, in 1965 when I enlisted, the USAF wasn't having any trouble recruiting people. It was an option to getting drafted into the Army. I wouldn't have been able to arrange that immediate enlistment when my draft notice arrived had I not had a perfect score on the qualification test.

I remember the recruiter asking me what kind of work I wanted to do at the time. I asked him, "Does it matter?" He laughed, and said, "Not really. The Air Force will put you to work where they need you. I'm supposed to ask people that, though."

The Russian language school was a fluky sort of thing. One day I got told to go take a test by the Drill Sergeant. Cool, I thought, no marching around, etc. Apparently, everyone with 95s on all of the sections of the entry qualification test ended up taking that language aptitude test. Of the 20-30 guys who took the test, three ended up going to language school. At the time, most were sent to Chinese or Vietnamese language school. I got Russian.

One test during Basic changed my entire USAF experience. A fluke. In many ways, it was like that was the end of a typical enlisted person's experience. For the next 9 months, I was living in a compound off campus at Syracuse University in a total immersion language school. Literally 24/7, we were not allowed to speak English, beginning the first day. Then, after some additional training, we got assigned to various bases around the world. I ended up in Turkey for 15 months. After that, I spent the remainder of my enlistment working in the NSA building at Ft. Meade in Maryland. There was a minimum of military stuff from the time I got out of Basic Training until I finished my enlistment. I was very lucky, indeed.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Tue Nov 12, 2019, 09:25 PM

12. I have a relative whose PTSD from Afghanistan is so bad he shuns the military adulation

IEDs blew up a bunch of his convoy, killing and maiming a lot of his buddies. He finds the zealous gratitude to be triggering since he has tremendous survivors guilt.

I hope he finds peace someday

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Response to Arazi (Reply #12)

Wed Nov 13, 2019, 10:47 AM

15. I can understand how that might be for your relative.

War sucks!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Wed Nov 13, 2019, 08:55 AM

14. I enlisted in the Marines in 1974

Right out of high school. There was no draft, but I knew I didn't want to go to college right away and needed to do something with my life away from home. I took the ASVAB tests and the Marines were the only one's who came knocking. Graduated boot camp on 26 November 1974.

My time in the service was some of the best in my life. I, too, was never shot at (although I found out on the rifle range, first hand, that an M16 round can bounce of the target at 500yds - it went down the back of my utility shirt and burned a path down to the top of my boot).

I guess if I have one regret it's that I didn't make a career out of it.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Wed Nov 13, 2019, 11:09 AM

17. It's like that for pretty much everyone in the military after WWII

There's a very small minority of service members who are exposed to risk. Overall being a member of the military carries much less risk than many civilian jobs.

I'm a commercial pilot which is routinely ranked in the top 5 most dangerous jobs. But even so flying a jet in the flight levels doesn't have the same risk as towing a banner or pipeline patrol.

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