US Veterans Day 2017 - Couple Thoughts

Bill Mattocks

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As Veterans Day (November 11th) approaches in the USA, I always tend to start thinking about my time in the military. I served in the US Marine Corps from 1979 to 1985, mostly as a Military Policeman. I was stationed mostly at Camp Pendleton, California, but I also served in Camp Lejeune, NC, Twentynine Palms, CA, Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan, and even a brief stint at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia and Subic Bay, The Philippines.

There are a million reasons why I served. Mostly were personal, even selfish. My grades in high school were bad; it's not that I wasn't smart, it's that I didn't care about school, it was boring to me. So I could not get any scholarships to college, and I doubted I could have afforded paying for it myself even if I could have gotten admission anywhere. I wanted to get out on my own. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to see if I measured up to my old man, who had been a Marine in the 1950s. I wanted excitement, I wanted adventure. I even wanted to give something back to my country, a trace of loyalty to the US. So I enlisted and shipped off to boot camp in July of 1979.

I was lucky, really. I served in most of the places I wanted to serve, I did what I enjoyed doing. I served in great units, and I made great friends. Most of my memories are good ones. Even the ones that are not so good, have become fodder for embellished and retold stories, the kind of stories that only veterans can tell, and many times, only veterans can appreciate.

I gave six years of my life to the military, to my country. That's about 10 percent at this point in my life. Many gave more. 20 years, 30 years, even more. Some never came home, leaving all or parts of their bodies, their minds, or their spirits in places we don't like to talk about.

Most of us, including myself, are not looking for thanks. We did what we did, and we're generally proud of our service. We did what less than 10 percent of the population has done:

"As of 2014, the VA estimates there were 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population. If you add their figures on veterans to the active personnel numbers mentioned above, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives."

What most who have not served do not understand is that we veterans see the world as veterans and non-veterans. We even identify with veterans of the armed forces of other nations more than we identify with non-veterans of our own countries. No matter what generation we served, whether in peacetime or war, we only care about our shared sacrifices, our time spent doing the awful, and silly, and repetitive, and unjust and unfair and boring and exciting and terrifying things we were called upon to do. We, men and women, all were called, and we all stepped up. Our honorable discharges are all the proof anyone needs that we are faithful to a cause, we can be counted upon, we are trustworthy, steadfast, and determined. We can see something through from beginning to end.

We know that non-veterans don't get it. We don't look down on them for that, we're not elitist about it. Our service didn't make us great, it made us part of something. It changed us in a fundamental way, down in the DNA, deeper than any experience most of us have ever felt. Whether it changed us for the better or the worse is another question, but change us it did.

As the years go by, I find that more and more, I don't just hold my memories of my time in the military dear, I am in a very real way still there. I am 56 years old. I am also 23 years old, tear-assing up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in my beat-to-crap 69 Dodge Charger, getting into and out of bar fights, raising hell up and down the coast, running from trouble and running into it. Getting haircuts, pressing uniforms, getting wounds stitched up. Getting drunk, having hangovers. Policing up cigarette butts. Marching in Close Order Drill. Waking up in odd places with odd people. Showing up late for formation and trying to come up with a good excuse. Running in formation, singing Jodies. Standing to attention when the colors go up and go down. Taps at night and for the dead.

I am still there.

I am still there.

I am still there.

And I always will be.

If you don't get anything else about veterans, get this. It wasn't something we left behind, no matter how long ago. We're still there. Nothing has changed for us, time erased nothing.

You don't have to thank me. Just try to understand that I am still there, in 1982, with my friends, the people I trusted and trust with my life. I think this is true of most veterans.

How to Talk to a Veteran


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Buka

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I tried to enlist many times, kept flunking the physical. But I've worked with and taught a lot of Vets. Two nights ago at work, some of my guys had to roust a young man who set up a hammock some place he wasn't supposed to be. He was drunk and belligerent. They moved him along. He comes back an hour later, see the cops, takes off running across the street and gets hit by a Toyota - he goes ash over tea kettle, lands on his feet and keeps running - he was fast, too. The Toyota takes off as well. [what a nightmare that was]

So, anyway, I see him the next night and I know he's a Vet, I can tell. I introduce myself and give him a bag of food. He was hungry and I knew it. He was flying back home to Colorado and was broke. I gave him some cash and some more food and hung out with him until his flight. I told the other guys to stay away from us, they did. It all worked out.
Serving in combat messed him up. I gave him a couple phone numbers of guys he could call and talk to, guys who could hook him up for some help in Colorado. I hope he calls them. Gave him my number, too.

My dad taught me about Vets. He fought in World War 1. Everything he told me still holds up today. Happy Veterans day to all of you who served. Happy Veterans Day, Bill. And thanks, dad.
 
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Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

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Thanks buddy. A lot of us are screwed up and some of us don't even know it.
 

Xue Sheng

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I am not a veteran nor would I ever claim to be but I spent the first 12 years of my life in the military, even born on a military base. My father was a 22 years Navy (retired LCDR, know as a mustang, in the Navy that means he worked his way up from enlisted man). He was a veteran of 2 wars and on 3 Aircraft Carriers. He meant my mother when she was in the Navy for 6 years, both in Medical core. Actually, she always liked to let people know that when they meant, she outranked him :). Lost my dad to Parkinson's in 2012 and he is always in my thoughts and more so, if that is possible, on Veterans day.

I learned a lot about military, respect and veterans from my parents.

The last ship he was on was the Bon Homme Richard CV-31

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Thanks Mom and Dad and happy Veterans day Bill, and Happy Veterans day to all Veterans
 
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Steve

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I appreciated reading a lot of that, Bill. Like you, I didn't get very good grades in high school, and enlisted a few months after graduation.

I served in the USAF from 89 - 93 as an AMMO troop (461-IYAAYAS). My first assignment was 2 years at Hahn AB, Germany, and then to Kelly AFB in Texas. Was deployed to Saudi Arabia for 6 months from there. I was in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell and during the bulk of Desert Storm, and then got to see the tail end of it from the bomb dump in Dhahran.

I wasn't aware that the number of vets as a percentage of the population is so low. In my family, it's virtually obligatory. My dad retired from the USAF. My mom was a SSgt in the USAF when she separated (at that time, women were required to separate when they got pregnant). My three older brothers were all Navy. One of them was also Army for four years, served in Panama during Operation Just Cause, and was with the 101st during Desert Storm. Got out and then reenlisted in the Navy where he served on the Kitty Hawk. Between just the 6 of us, we have about 58 years of service. I'm still in touch with many of the guys I was stationed with.

Goes back further in my family, too. My mom's brothers were all in the military, as well. My grandfathers weren't, during WWII, because they were both medically unable to enlist, so they both worked in the shipyards on the Liberty ships. My Great Uncle Vernon, however, served in the Army and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor in WWI. I've got pictures of family members who were in the civil war, and my daughters (if they chose to) could join the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Happy Veterans Day, Bill.
 

Danny T

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Thank you for your post Bill.
I too am still there in so many ways. Wouldn't change a thing if I could (Well other than the nightmares that visit every night) and I'd do it all again.
Thank you and every other veteran for being there and all the best for the rest of your life.
 

Steve

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Bill, are you taking pics at the parade again? Would love to see those, if you choose to post them.
 

oftheherd1

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...
Most of us, including myself, are not looking for thanks. We did what we did, and we're generally proud of our service. We did what less than 10 percent of the population has done:

"As of 2014, the VA estimates there were 22 million military veterans in the U.S. population. If you add their figures on veterans to the active personnel numbers mentioned above, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives."
...

I agree that I went and did what I wanted to do. I know it worried my mother half to death when I was assigned to Okinawa, even though I didn't go there until 1962. But she remembered the fighting in the Pacific, and the high number of casualties. The same when I went to Vietnam and every time I extended. So don't forget that the family of veterans suffered too, and many still do for the loss through death, or the loss of the happy, vibrant son or daughter who isn't so any more.

So like you Bill, I don't demand thanks. In fact I have mixed feelings. It is a little embarrassing since I pretty much wanted to be all the places I was, combat zones or not, but considering the abuse suffered by many returning servicemen from the anti-war protesters, better late than never. At least for the ones still around. For myself, old fogy that I am, I would go again in a heartbeat except for my wife; she isn't as strong as my mother was. Well, physically I am not either, but I wouldn't give a second thought to finding some way to serve.

Interesting about the percentage of people who have served in the military. Especially considering how many women have served in the military. When I was young, we still had the draft. Wherever men met, bars, picnics, churches, or whatever, they all had in common the fact that they had served tin the military. So they all had something in common with other men, strangers or not. They knew they had to serve in the military before getting on with their life, so many enlisted before being drafted. And those who took their chances with the draft, provided some maturity for the younger enlistees. That also gave them a sense of ownership in their country. It also gave them a sense of connection with those who had served before them. The times and the military ensured there weren't many 'entitlement' people around as well.

Any who disagree can just write it off to the ramblings of an old fogy. The rest should understand.

Thanks for the thread Bill. Nice photos too.
 
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