War Stories From My Grandpa

As a young man, my Grandpa Richard joined the Navy and served in World War II. Later, he joined the Air Force and served in both Korea and Viet Nam. He is one of the few men I had ever met in person that pulled the trifecta of service in all three of those wars.

I was four years old when the Viet Nam War ended. The country seemed to be in a state of turmoil for a while after that. And while I’m sure I didn’t stop what I was doing everyday to watch the 6 o’ clock news it was impossible for anyone, even a child, not to hear what was going on in the world or be in earshot of opinions about such an explosive, hot-blooded topic.

At some point, probably when I was about six years old, maybe seven, I had too many questions in my little head from all the debates and discussion still going on about what happened in Viet Nam and I asked my grandpa why we lost the war. That was not pretty. He was upset that I asked and chastised me right there in public. He told me never to ask him that again. I went a long time wondering about his military service, what he had done, where he had been, and what kind of stories he had. But for the longest time, I just never asked.

When I was in my late teens making a trip from Louisiana to Florida, I stopped at my grandparent’s house to spend the night on the way. Grandpa and I were up watching late night reruns of Baa Baa Black Sheep, a TV show based on a USMC aviator fighter squadron from WWII. During our discussion of the show I decided to ask about his time in the military. He told me some stories. He shared some things with me. I asked questions about each of the wars he served in and he answered them. It was one of the few bonding moments I can remember having with him.

Somewhere in a box or drawer I still have a shell casing from the 21 gun salute that was done at his funeral by an honor guard from Keesler Air Force Base. I remember the ceremony. I remember the flag being folded. I remember my grandma crying. I don’t have a clear memory of the stories he shared with me that night twenty something years ago, but I will never forget how it felt that he shared with me his experiences of war. Perhaps it meant so much to me because for so many years I thought the subject was taboo. Maybe it was because when he shared with me, I felt he looked at me as a man instead of child. For whatever the reason, it was a special moment for me that I still cherish today.

Going to war when he did is very different from going to war today. And it even changed significantly from his service in WWII to his time in Viet Nam. I don’t have great war stories from my time in Iraq, and I’m alright with that. And I hope my next deployment is just as uneventful. But here’s one thing that I see as the same from both his generation and mine concerning going to war: Coming home from war is the hard part.

Veterans from my grandfather’s era are fading fast. If you know one or have the honor of meeting one, thank them. And if they’ll share their stories, take the time to listen. They are in fact dubbed The Greatest Generation for a reason.

Good day and God bless.

Dave

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Don’t Panic. It Might Only Be a Drill.

Sometimes things happen and we get flustered. Your heart starts to race, you become unsure of what you need to do next, and sometimes your motor skills fail you. But try not to panic. That never helps.

When I deployed to Iraq, we first stopped in Kuwait. The process was to go to Kuwait for about ten days, get acclimated to the heat, finish up any last-minute training and admin stuff, and get transportation to where we would be doing our jobs. This time was also used for units to practice drills. The siren would blare followed by a voice stating that it was a drill. The voice would indicate which unit was to respond and everyone else would go about their business. Keep in mind we did not receive live rounds until it was time to move north. Only the security forces had live rounds at the transition base. One day at lunch the siren blared followed by a voice: “THIS IS NOT A DRILL. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” It was like kicking an ant pile watching some of the people leaving the dining facility. As I looked around, picked up my lunch tray, started to stand, a young soldier at my table got wide-eyed. I could hear it in her voice when she asked, “Oh my God, what do we do?” I simply answered, “I’m going to hide in the bunker, they didn’t give me any bullets yet.” I stayed calm and it had a calming effect on others.

Sometime after moving into Iraq and settling in at our base, I was pulling a shift at the Community House, a place for Service Members and civilians at the base to hang out, watch movies, read, or do whatever they wanted to do to relax. We had a camcorder set up for people to make videos to send home, most would read a book to their kids and send the DVD to them. At this base, every week, at the same time, they would test the sirens and alarms. If you were new to the base and not paying attention to the voice that followed the alarm, you might find yourself in a state of panic. On this day, there was a guy new to the base sitting in the back room making a video for his kids when the test sirens sounded. I was sitting at the desk out front paying no attention to the test and had even forgotten the guy was back there. He comes flying out of the room, falling all over himself coming around the corner, flailing his weapon, freaking out. “What do we do, where do we go? I gotta go get my helmet and vest!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud a little. I assured him it was a normal test of the system. I wish I could have seen that video he was making, what his face looked like when the alarm sounded.

It’s easy to panic when something happens that you have no control over. It’s normal to be scared in situations that you think are potentially life threatening; either your life or others. But stay calm. Don’t panic. Be the person that helps someone else get out of the panic. Your attitude and responses to stress can be what makes a difference for the better or makes a situation worse. This lesson goes for most things in life, not just going to war.

Good day and God bless.

Dave

What Motivates You?

What motivates you? I’m sure we could list hundreds of things that motivate us, and over time, depending on an exact moment in our lives, the answer could be anything. Does the motivation come from an outside source or from an inner drive? Certainly it can be either or both. Sometimes an outside source helps us find our inner drive. And this is what happened to my oldest daughter.

I have always been realistic. I don’t give my kids delusions of grandeur after they reach a certain age of maturity. When my daughter was a freshman in high school we talked about college. She’s a very smart young lady and very passionate about things that motivate her. She’s a black belt in Tae Kwan Do; I’ve seen her on the soccer field run over opponents much bigger than her; she was a leader for preschool children at church. But her study skills and effort in her classes were lacking.

One day she asked me about college. I told her that if her study habits didn’t improve she’d be lucky to go to the local community college. I told her she needed to figure something out if she was going to seriously consider college.

Her passion is cooking. By her junior year in high school she was in her third year of culinary arts at the high school. During her junior year she informed me that she wanted to go to Johnson & Wales University, “one of the preeminent culinary universities in the world” according to edinfomatics.com. Further, she informed me she wanted to apply to an early entry program that would allow her to skip her senior year of high school and start college. After researching it I learned that this early entry program only takes about 20 students a year.

I encouraged her to apply. I knew she was capable, but I also knew the odds she was up against. I cautioned her not to get her hopes up too much since it was such a long shot. She applied, went to the interviews at the campus, did some kitchen work there, and nailed it. Every bit of it. She got accepted to the program. Soon after, she asked me if I remembered our conversation concerning college. She asked, “Do you remember saying I’d be lucky to go to community college?” I did. Then she asked with a smile, “What do you think now?” I knew she could do it.

She used my perception of her, which was founded in reality, to motivate herself. She proved me wrong and I could not possibly be happier to have been wrong. I am so proud of her.

So, I ask again, “What motivates you?” Take a look at yourself and find your motivation.

Good day and God bless.

Dave

My First Blog

Inspired by a couple friends, encouraged by my wife, and being walked though a couple things by my teenage son, I have decided to start a blog. I have long thought about writing a book, but lacking time, attention span, and, well, time, I think it would it would be fun to do this for now. The blog is called “Story of My Life” but it’s not going to be about me per se. It’s going to be about the things I’ve experienced in my life that have made my story and life what it is.

I love to write. I love to tell stories. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading my stories as I will get from sharing them. More to come. But for now, since this is my first ever blog post and I want to hit the publish button and see what it looks like, I will finish here.

Good day and God bless! Dave