Thanks to the vets I know or have known. A partial list in no particular order:
- Great uncle Charlie – World War One veteran. An aircraft mechanic in the days when he who repaired the plane was the first one to fly it afterward. You made damn sure it worked right when your own life was on the line! That required testing the aircraft to its maximum performance.
He drove his cars the same way (top speed, at the limits of performance) for decades after, until he was completely blind and his 3rd wife finally had them take away his drivers license. (Yes, he outlived 2 wives.)
We kids loved him: he could wriggle his ears. 🙂
- Uncle Alf – World War Two veteran. He landed at D-Day and fought his way across Europe to the Rhine, destroying tanks with his bazooka and acquiring a taste for charcoal (otherwise known as “very-well-done steaks”). Not very tall, but wiry and very strong. He could pin all four of us kids simultaneously in wrestling matches.
- Corbin – Afghanistan War veteran, who survived cancer as a teenager to finally enlist in the US Army. His one term of service ended in a violent encounter with an RPG that left him with career-ending injuries.
- Corbin’s buddy – so severely mangled by the same RPG that he was airlifted to Germany because none of the medical facilities in the Middle East could handle his injuries.
- C.A. – A career master sergeant we knew years ago who had served 3 tours in the Middle East wars, where she faced not only a local culture that gives no place or respect to women, but also male American soldiers serving with her who dished out hostility and threats. She mentioned once that she always kept seven knives on her person at all times (even in civilian situations), and (while in-country) always kept her 9-mm handgun with her because she had had to use it to keep male soldiers from assaulting her.
Once, while visiting a local village with her captain, she came back from her meeting with the village women to hear the village headman trying to buy her from her captain.
I hope she has achieved her post-military dream; she wrote the most blood-curdling, high-body-count horror I’ve ever read.
- Thomas – retired Navy SEAL who had just finished a tour doing various dark things in the Middle East and was returning home on an aircraft carrier when 9/11/2001 happened. The ship immediately turned around and went back, where he was part of the forces that eventually toppled the Taliban and Iraq. He is now becoming an ER doctor.
- Paul – flunked out of SEAL school in the final week because he didn’t have enough killer instinct (according to his instructor). He finished his term in the Navy, then he went into the Air Force, then left that for the Air Force Reserve and being a Federal fire fighter, before finally having to retire from both reserves and firefighting due to health reasons.
His idea of a “day at the beach” was to swim out toward the horizon until he disappeared from sight, only to swim back hours later. I think being a SEAL has never left him.
He is loyal to a fault. (Good fault, not bad fault!)
- Old Bob – One of our two favorite Bobs at church, retired Air Force logistics expert who can still plan rings around any business school graduate. He is also a master joke teller.
- Doug – the one and only, another former Artillery Captain, whose idea of a nice relaxing trip is go ride 100 miles on his bike. And whose favorite airplane was the ugly-and-brutally-efficient A-10 Warthog close-support ground attack craft. “As soon as an A-10 arrived over my unit,” he said, “I’d stop worrying about explosive things falling out of the sky on me.”
- Phillip – an Army Captain who has risked his life in the Middle East.
- Peter – retired Army Warrant Officer who still helps train soldiers for contemporary battle situations, and researches and builds incredibly detailed models of ships, submarines and aircraft of the World War Two era.
- Linda – former Army solder and Russian language expert, who now serves soldiers suffering from PTSD.
- Randy – who followed the ROTC route into Army Intelligence. (Lest you laugh about that, his official tested IQ is 160. See if you can beat that!) And thanks to his bride, too; a month or so after they married, he was posted to a US Army intelligence station just south of the Korean DMZ – a “no family” posting – for a year.
- Rick – who graduated from high school and told his former Army captain dad that he wanted to either enlist in the Army, or buy a motorcycle and bum across the United States. Rick spent two years in Berlin, during the time of the Berlin Wall when the purpose of NATO troops there was to be obliterated as the trigger for World War Three. He drove a 105mm self-propelled howitzer. The only driving there was in wall-encircled Berlin was parades when VIPs visited and their semiannual training exercises in southern Germany. While there, he bought a Harley and motorcycled all over Europe. Disappointed by his boring duties, he left after his term was up, had his motorcycle shipped to New York, then bummed across the United States.
- Les – retired Army engineer, father of Randy and Rick. Among other things, when his children were still very young, he and his family drove (yes, DROVE!) a VW Bus from equatorial Africa up the Atlantic coast and east across North Africa, arriving in Israel a few days after the conclusion of the Six Day War.
- Doctor Val – former Army pediatrician who worked to make sure that deployed soldiers and their spouses didn’t need to worry about their children’s health.
- Chaplain Cory – current Army chaplain. I’ll never forget the day he joined our church band for a surprise Sunday service. We watched his daughters’ jaws drop. They’d never known he played drums, let alone that he’d been a professional drummer!
- Max – German naval officer in World War Two. He served as Executive Officer on Germany’s last new submarine design of the war. Its design laid the groundwork for all modern submarine designs focused on submerged performance and endurance. He has many stories of getting his crewmen back home across the disintegrating landscape that was Germany in the last months of the war.
- Father-in-law Wells – whom I never met since he passed away before I met my wife. He served in the Merchant Marine, fighting in the Pacific during World War Two.
Many people forget that the Merchant Marine (nominally a civilian service) becomes part of the US Navy during war time, and faces enemies without the equipment and warships that the regular Navy gets.
He came out of the war with the alcoholism that eventually helped kill him before his time. But he could also get the two shy genders at middle school dances to dance and talk with each other.
- Don – A conscious objector who served as a medic in the Vietnam War. He severely injured his back jumping from of a helicopter hovering 10′ above a clearing while bearing the 110-pound medics pack. While he didn’t believe in violence or war, he saved many soldiers’ lives.
- The veterans of the 442nd Combat Battalion, who fought both the enemy in Italy and American anti-Japanese prejudice, to win more medals than any other battalion.
- Hale – He survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War Two, when he was barely more than a teenager, and spent much of the days immediately following the attack piloting a small boat around the harbor, pulling the injured, dying and dead from the water.
- Gerald – US Navy submariner and weapons system specialist. True to the silent service, you were silent during the few years we worked together. But you were always true to yourself.
- A man whose name I can’t recall but spoke with daily on the bus commuting to work in town 23 years ago: A Marine who served in the First Gulf War, where he was wounded and invalided out of the service, only to return home to find his wife in bed with her boyfriend. I still remember his pessimistic days of the week: First Monday, Second Monday, Third Monday, Fourth Monday and Fifth Monday.
- Another former Marine whose name I can’t recall – She served as a hand-to-hand combat instructor, in the days when the Marines were just barely starting to accept the idea of women as Marines. I can’t imagine the shit she had to put up with from recruits (and other instructors) until she handed them their asses in a sling.
- Sergeant Joe – Korean War veteran and Marine drill sergeant, my favorite creative writing teacher. He followed up his military service by going to college on his GI Bill benefits to become a teacher. From the moment he left the service, he stopped cutting his hair.
By the time he graduated and went to interviews, he had long, wavy, bright orange-red hair.
The school district that hired him said that he would have to cut his hair before the start of school So he did: he shaved it. (They were almost as upset over that as they were over his long hair!) Every year after that, he started the school year by shaving his head in first period. He also taught us the proper way to kill using a rifle and bayonet. During the summers, he supplemented the still-too-meager teacher pay by writing and selling pornographic poetry!
- Captain Stallings – high school math teacher with an awesome singing voice and professional appearances in musicals. He was an Artillery Captain, so we all learned how to lay guns as part of learning math.
- Chief Jeremy – Navy chief who helped me realize that life at sea in modern navies isn’t a whole lot better than it was back in old British Navy days. While the food and communication is better, the work hours are still hell!
- David – hanai son of a friend of ours, Army soldier so severely traumatized by PTSD from multiple tours in the Middle East that he cannot bear to be in crowds, or have anyone stand behind him for fear that he’ll be attacked.
- Doctor Tom – retired many decades ago as director of US military medical facilities throughout the Pacific Basin. His wife told me that his post-military-career ambition was to “sit home and watch grass grow”.
- Chief Greg – retired Navy, turned high school teacher. Among other things, he could make solder repairs on the INSIDE circuitry of four- and six-layer circuit boards, on board ship, out in the middle of the ocean somewhere, when they needed that board to work and there was no possibility of getting a replacement. I can sort-of solder two wires together, so I’m in awe of his skill.
Ones whom I know but whose service records and details I don’t:
- Stephan (retired)
- David and Jared (both Army Reserve)
It is said in the Old Testament that God called King David “friend”. King David was a warrior, a soldier, a leader of armies. Jesus also said, during his encounter with a Roman centurion, that he had never encountered such faith. Jesus also said that the highest good is to lay down your life for others.
To all veterans of military service, throughout the world:
May God’s blessing rest upon you, may his peace and love heal your hearts, minds and bodies, and may his grace preserve you, even unto the end of the age and the opening of heaven’s gates before you. Amen.