Sunday, November 11, 2018

2018 Veteran's Day, Service of the Few

My first sea-going command was the
USS Chandler, DDG-996
By Douglas V. Gibbs
AuthorSpeakerInstructorRadio Host

Welcome Home.  Never Forget.  Thank you for your service.

The average person does not understand the commitment our service members make when they take the oath to protect and defend the United States Constitution, and the United States of America.  I don't know about today's generation, but my generation took it very seriously.  While in the service I worked harder than I ever have since, and got the least amount of sleep per night than I have ever experienced.  I was young.  I went into the U.S. Navy at eighteen, and worked my way up to Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) before being discharged just a few months before my EAOS (End of Active Obligated Service) with service-connected injuries.  I earned two Battle Efficiency (Battle E) ribbons.  Most people who know me only know about 5 months of my service, because I don't really talk about the rest.  Most of my military discussions are around my visit to intensive care less than a year into my service.  I was hospitalized for months.  Then, I worked my way back.

I will say this, it's amazing how many things we do as service members.  The military pushes an individual to limits he never thought he could achieve.  It was very hard, to say the least.  But, as a member of your unit, you don't even hesitate when it comes to accomplishing those tasks.  I just did it, because it was the right thing to do, and because that's a part of what you signed up for.

My second sea-going command,
USS Peoria, LST-1183
In my case, after I was injured, I was told I would never go back to full duty, much less walk normally again, or be able to mentally comprehend the rigors of my duties.  After I was released from the hospital, I was placed on limited duty.  I then spent about four months determined to prove everyone wrong.  I worked doubly hard during my physical rehabilitation undertaking, eventually not only getting close to the height of my physical prowess I was prior to my injuries, but exceeding all of the doctors' expectations.  I was doing more than they asked, adding the same kinds of exercises I did before I experienced by injuries.  I was pumping out push-ups every morning, I was beginning to jog (It took a year or so before I began running again), and I was performing at a level none of the doctors ever thought I would be able to achieve again in my life.  After six months of hospitalization, and physical therapy, I reported to my next duty station, the USS Peoria, LST-1183, fully recovered and ready to roll (or at least that is what I thought).  After a year or so, one of my injuries began to haunt me again, and then I was placed on limited duty status, again, but this time as a path to an administrative medical discharge.

My wife asked me the other day, "What is the definition of a veteran."

A veteran, I explained, is anyone who took the oath to serve, and spent any amount of time on active duty.  There are different kinds of veterans.  We have Veterans of Foreign Wars, we have peacetime veterans, and veterans who fill all kinds of slots in between.  While, in my case, we had a few entanglements with the Soviet Union, and in the Persian Gulf, because there was no official military operation going on, I am officially a peacetime veteran.  I served during the mid-eighties, falling short of my four years by just a few months.  I also explained to my wife that the percentage of those who serve is very low.  According to the Veteran's Affairs Office, only 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.  That's approximately one in every thirteen people.

Today is Veteran's Day. . . an opportunity for us to thank those few who were willing to take that oath.

The birth of Veteran's Day goes back to the end of World War I in 1918. The Allied powers signed a cease-fire agreement with Germany at Rethondes, France on Nov. 11, 1918, bringing World War I to a close.

Between the two world wars, Nov. 11 was commemorated as Armistice Day in the United States, Great Britain, and France. After World War II ended, the holiday was recognized as a day of tribute to the veterans of both world wars.

Beginning in 1954, the United States designated Nov. 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars.

Veterans have a special understanding of sacrifice, challenges, and gaining opportunity out of situations that seem otherwise to be a dire circumstance.

During my term of military service, and after, I have seen my share of hardships, and difficulties. While I was in the military my injuries should have made me dead, but thanks to some very hard working medical personnel, I was given the opportunity to live again.  As I stated, I worked my way back to full duty, and served on a second sea-going command.  I, then, worked even harder to reestablish myself, to restore my dignity, and prove to everyone that I was fine.  My evaluations rose to 4.0.  On the USS Peoria I won the May 1987 Sailor of the Month Award, and later was runner-up for the Command Advancement Program.  I not only worked in my rate, but also on the fire team, the security team, flight operations, amphibious operations, and I moved from Damage Control to The Bridge during General Quarters.

Now, so many years later, no matter how much I try to make it look like those injuries from when I was in the service do not affect me, they do.  I try not to grumble. I try to remember that these are simply the storms of life.  Each of my scars have a story.  I earned them.  But I am also a believer that it's not right to beat one's chest.  People who accomplish should not spend their lives pointing at themselves for what they've done.  Without God, none of it would have been possible.  I believe most veterans are the same as I in the way they think about their time in military service.  In my eyes they are heroes, but they will shrug and simply say, "I was just doing my job."

Our service taught us that life is full of storms, and through them we learn, we strengthen, and sometimes opportunity arises out of these difficult storms. In all things there is potential for opportunity.

As a patient in the Veteran's Administration system, the VA has been little influence in my life.  After Reagan, they dealt with me as little as they had to.  What has been amazing to me is that suddenly, since the beginning of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, dealing with VA has, well, become a pleasure.  It used to be that I had to go through three administrators to get to a doctor.  It used to be that unless what was ailing me had a direct connection to my injuries, they were not interested in seeing me.  Now, the VA, under the current President of the United States, has become more in tune with the needs of our veterans, and they are even bending over backwards to make sure we receive the care we need.

I have always tried not to grumble too much, but it's nice to be heard when I must.

In fact, one doctor lately truly understood me in ways I could not even describe.  He recognized the signs, and had a bedside manner that eased me into not only discussing what I experienced when I was in the military, but how those things influence me in these later years of my life.

I am not sure if the VA has gotten better because we have a President who truly loves the military, or if because he's shown the willingness to start firing people if they aren't treating our veterans with the utmost respect.  It's interesting to experience, to say the least.  They thank me for my service, and treat me with dignity.  Under the the prior president, I was just a number, and an apparent irritation to them.

Just a few months ago, in one conversation I was having with VA personnel on the phone the woman says, "and for identification purposes, what was your branch of service?"  I responded, "U.S. Navy," and she piped in "Best Navy in the World!"  I immediately exclaimed, "You betcha!"

With their willingness to be reasonable with me, I no longer feel like I have to suffer in silence.

Veterans Day has become something very special, since our new president has taken office.  I feel like the whole country has gotten to the point where they are happy to salute those of us who have served.  As I stated earlier, I am not one to beat my chest, or demand a thank you, but it's nice when that thank you is received.

Among my military brethren we have a brotherhood the civilians don't understand.  We all took the same oath.  We were, and are, committed to this country, and the service we were voluntarily willing to partake in.  We have unwavering loyalty to our country that was founded on the firm foundation of divine Providence.  While in the military, thanks to that service, as a young man I learned to understand the true meaning of honor, and what it was like to have an entire command of brothers.  The training was fierce, and the hours would never have been acceptable in the world outside the military.  It was grueling.  It took everything I had to accomplish what I did.

It was more than I expected when I originally took that oath, and I was more than happy to partake in the rigorous duties.

As members of the American military we fought for every American's freedom, and in the latest years, I have been very happy to see the emergence of groups like the Tea Party, and Trump Supporters, who have become a very loud voice for America. A voice for liberty. A voice for freedom.  In short, it's nice to be thanked, and know that the folks thanking me truly mean it.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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