On this veteran’s day, I needed to say a few things.
I served. I served in the US Army Reserves, joining at 17 and going to boot camp and AIT one summer – I then spent about 18 months in the USAR as a Military Police Officer (95B10) before the Navy and Marine Corps came along with critical needs offer reservists a chance to go active.
I took that offer, and then spent 4 years in the US Navy, most of it onboard the USS Hoel, DDG-13 as a boiler technician. I qualified Boiler Technician of the Watch within a year, Engineering Officer of the Watch within two; I passed my Surface Warfare Qualifications. I qualified as #2 nozzleman in the fire party and have fought six major, and countless minor fires aboard ship. Engineers risk their lives every. single. day. We think nothing of it, but a 1200 psi, superheated D-type Babcock and Wilcox boiler is basically a bomb waiting to go off – as the Snipe’s Lament says, “1200 pounds superheated steam will kill you mighty dead.” We saw that explicitly when the boilers on the cruiser tied up down the pier from us blew up, instantly killing the watch team.
On October 17, 1987, we received orders from the President to join with three other destroyers, transit the Straits of Hormuz in Operation Nimble Archer and destroy the Ras Shadat Oil Platforms that the Iranians had been using a command and control facilities. We did this with aplomb, transiting under the Silkworm Envelope (Literally under the Iranian cannons). The Aircraft Carrier, Ranger, and the Battleship Missouri was our backup. On the morning of October 19, the Hoel, the Leftwich, the Kidd, and the Robinson opened fire after giving a 20-minute warning and evac time to the Republican Guard soldiers on the platforms. The rigs were destroyed by naval gunfire and then demolished by a Navy SEAL team.
Further, I’ve participated in anti-smuggling and anti-drug operations both in the North Arabian and off the U.S. Coast, we did anti-mine duty in the Persian Gulf (which in my mind was more hair-raising than combat), we rescued Malaysian fishermen whose boat had broken down and drifted out to sea.
In short, we kept you safe, or as safe as we could.
Were we angels? Hells no. In port we drank, we partied, we fought, and we fucked. And before you judge, I will tell you this, I loved every single woman I was with – that love may have lasted only until the lines were off the pier, and I may have never seen her again – in fact, with one notable exception, this was true – and I hope that Lynn is doing well – and I love you even to this day – but it was love none-the-less. We were sailors, we were mostly young, we were cocky, we were bundles of raging hormones driven by adrenaline and alcohol – and we were proud of what we did.
After leaving the Navy, I joined the Merchant Fleet – which was mostly much, much less exciting – and was there for about four years before a heat stroke and seizures sidelined my career permanently.
So I served. I may not have been the best sailor (in fact, I know I wasn’t), but I did my best at the time. Today, I’d be both better and worse – much better and much worse.
THAT SAID, I’m bored with holidays glorifying the military and military service. I served my country for a lot of reasons, chief amongst those were – I couldn’t figure what else to do with myself, the military had always been glorified in my family (even with a Vietnam Vet dad, the pictures hung in all the houses), and I was convinced that we’d be at war with the USSR shortly anyway. Today I know that my family has been involved in every war this country has been in excepting the Korean Conflict (the Uncle who would have gone to that one was…well… mentally challenged).
What I didn’t join for was a free meal at the local family restaurant. I didn’t join for 10% off at Home Depot (though with the rebuild still ongoing from the Harvey floods, everything helps). I didn’t join for recognition, – though I will admit to being proud of my service, I’m wearing my USS Hoel t-shirt as I write this, and there’s a US Navy sticker on the car – but that’s for ME, not you. I joined because it was the right thing to do. The right thing for me to do at the time, and the right thing to do in general. Nothing changes a person like military service, and as a young punk in need of direction, I needed the change.
But it’s the thanks that bug me most. I don’t need to be thanked for my service, I did it voluntarily, and while I was naive, I did so with my eyes open. But so often the thanks ring hollow to my ears.
This may be the historian in me, but LEARN about your country and how it really works. Quit believing the fluff you’re taught in school and dive deep into the history of the U.S.A. and how it really is. This country is not the paragon of virtue that certain people will tell you it is, but it’s not the pit of evil that others will tell you it is. It is a flawed, fabulous, nasty, fun, country full of flawed, fabulous, nasty, fun, people – and a few assholes that should have been drowned at birth.
Quit whining about peaceful protests about real issues. You know what happens when peaceful protest is no longer possible? Do you ? John F. Kennedy, one of your greatest and most flawed presidents said; “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” That is what you’re doing. Is that your plan? Because if it is, then you are an enemy to the Constitution and therefore my enemy and your thanks mean nothing.
You want to thank me? Stop electing politicians who get us into stupid wars. Stop supporting ignorant policies that get us into stupid wars. Address the suicide rate among veterans, first and foremost by doing the first two things listed here. ENSURE OUR VETERANS WHO ARE HURT GET THE HELP THEY NEED AND DO NOT HAVE TO JUMP HOOPS TO GET IT!!! But first and foremost, do the first two things to make it so that we don’t have veterans who need that help. Support the Constitution, 110% of the time. Quit being a nationalist and become a patriot. Quit being a child of the country, looking for guidance from on high, and become a parent of the country, demanding that it be a good citizen. And start voting for and putting in office people who treat this country (NOT ITS CITIZENS!) as their child, something to nurtured, and allowed to grow. Not something to be beaten down. Demand positive change. Demand maturity. Demand honesty. Demand virtue. If you can’t do that, then we are all doomed.
I have to go now, there is much to do today. Please think on this, and the next time you thank a vet, remember that it’s your actions, not your words, that make your thanks worthwhile.