Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Time To Admit Who I Am

Okay I'll finally admit it. I am a veteran. There, I said it. It's not that I have been trying to hide the information or am ashamed of my service or anything like that. Quite the contrary, I am proud to have served almost eight full years in the United States Army including the Gulf War. I just don't see a need to advertise it. I've heard people call all service members, especially those who have gone to a war, heroes and I don't agree with that view at all. I was just a guy doing a job. That's as simple as it gets. I never saw combat and never was tested to see if my training would kick in or not. My specialty was personnel records which I ended up knowing quite well.

There was no altruistic thought behind joining nor no patriotic state of mind. Indeed, I simply joined the Army for a job. Tired of living a life that seemed to be going nowhere and not desiring to return to college where I was racking up debt after two and a half years (all without knowing what I wanted to major in) I instead chose to join up and perhaps see a bit of the world if I was lucky. My service first led me to a two year tour of Germany, then on to Ft Hood, Tx and the 1st Cavalry Division which in turn then sent me to Saudi Arabia. After we came back I re-upped for another hitch and went to Washington D.C. to be stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Along the way I had some experiences and met a lot of people, most of whom I've forgotten their names. That's what pictures are for I guess.

I learned a great deal about myself and started my baby steps of getting over my lifelong insecurities which seems to have rapidly accelerated in the last year. Still, there were some hard times mixed in there as well but if I'm being honest even though they sucked they've helped to make me who I am today. When I left the military I never tried to get any benefits nor draw upon what I had done to get anything extra for myself. As a matter of fact it wasn't until this last year before I even went to a local restaurant to get a reduced meal on veteran's day even though by all rights I deserve it. Once in seventeen years. Part of the problem with me was that I always lessened what I had done and been through.

Sure I had served over six months in the Gulf War but not in combat. I wasn't on the front lines but in the rear-division. The only Iraqi's I saw were two prisoners of war at a hospital where I was getting an xray for injuring my ankle in a basketball game. This was after the war was over. I never had to shoot anybody military or civilian, never threw a grenade into a building and never ever saw a scud missile. I was forced to march over to a medical tent and take shots of unknown origin which are not mentioned in my medical records. I did undergo a lot of uncertainty and fear about what could happen if one little thing went wrong on our front lines. There were difficult times spent in crowded tents under bad weather and adverse conditions. Then again, nobody forced me to sign my name on the contract. I just did my job and ended up with a chest full of medals for it.

So while I don't have any combat horror stories I do have stories to tell. You really learn about people (and yourself) when you are forced to live with them in cramped quarters and difficult conditions. Perhaps it's now time to start putting those lessons to good use. As I have stated even though I didn't see combat, even though I wasn't supposed to have my weapon loaded in guard duty (but I did) and even though I didn't shoot to kill (or at all) I can proudly say that I am a veteran. I served my country to the best of my ability and I suffered for some of it.  I just don't see the point going around trying to let everyone know what I've been through and done. After all, I know and I'm the one it matters to the most.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good for you. You earned it.