Veterans Day. It’s become another one of those days where all the social medias light up with easy to post messages and reshares. It’s sort of like the birthday wishes people send you on that thing. They didn’t know it was your birthday, but the website told them it is so they post a quick “happy birthday” on your page and forget about it. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every one and every post; but it does for the majority. It’s why I actually call people on their birthday, or send them a more direct, personal, message, and why I don’t join in the “hey it’s X day!” crowd.
But someone I play video games with decided to write why he is not fond of today, and what it really means to him. I think it shows why people should really think about their actions on days like today (or even every other day). So I got his permission to repost it here.
I am leaving his name off of this quote. If he wants to identifiy himself, he can do so in the comments before they close (30 days from posting).
Quote (no alterations made):
How I ended up in and what I thought of Desert Storm
I joined the military like many even now… not out of some misguided sense of patriotism, but because I was extremely poor. If I was going to get money for college I needed help.
So I went to the recruiters and researched everything about the branches that had college money. I settled on the Army. Mainly because the Army was well not the Navy. Pissing my father off to no end as he was a Navy Seal when they were still called frogmen. Laos, Cambodia, etc.
I took the ASVAB Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Like a SAT, ACT, or MCATs but slightly simpler. a 6 hour test that tested your ability to do math, spacial reasoning, understand words and phrases, and a coding section. I am a member of MENSA, on some scales I have a 155 others a 165 I.Q. So this test was almost a laugh. I spent 3 of the 6 hours doodling in the margins of my paper. When caught the drill sargent took my papers and graded them finding only one wrong answer in the whole test. And I even proved the question was wrong not my answer. He pulled me out of the testing area and sent me back to the recruiter for assignment in a MOS Military Occupational Specialty.
There were only three mos’s that received the combined military and Army college funding if you enlisted. Infantry, Artillery, and Armor. I had already decided that I wanted the most metal between myself and what ever enemy I could think of. So I chose Armor. 19K Armor Crew member of a M1A1 Abrams tank.
But before my recruiter would let me sign the contract designating my wish, he had a surprise. A man named Lynch in a suit wanted to talk to me. Apparently noone had ever aced the ASVAB.
Here in the US it used to be that the NSA, CIA, and FBI had to answer a direct question of who they were working for IF phrased properly. When Mr. Lynch wouldn’t or couldn’t answer my query I declined his insistant invitation to work for his organization.
So having signed my paperwork signing a contract to do my duty. I shipped off to Fort Knox, KY. Home of the gold depository. Home to the Armor Training school. Instead of doing Basic training, then being trained as a “tanker”. They put me through One Station Unit Training (OSUT) I learned to be a soldier and a tanker at the same time.
Just 3 days before graduation from my training, my orders already made out for a stint in Germany. Everything changed… Saddam Hussain, yet another man my own government had lead into power. Decided to invade Kuwait, having failed to invade Iran for over a decade. Anyone remember the Iran/Contra Scandle?
My parents and Grandparents came to the graduation, because of the nature of what was about to happen. I had stepped into a moral quagmire of serealism. I had my graduation ceremony, visited with my family for a hour then boarded a C-130 Cargo plane to fly to Ft. Stewart, GA.
But you say that’s not Iraq…
Ft. Stewart is home to the Rapid Deployment force. Four brigades of heavy mobile infantry and armor. Each brigade has 6 battalions, each battalion has 8 companies. I arrived and processed in and drew my gear in one fell swoop. I saw Georgia for 2 hours before flying direct to Saudi Arabia. We ran off the plane with our weapons loaded not knowing if our plane would be attacked. Less than 24 hours from graduation I was at war.
The build up had began and the only troops that were there before me were the Seals and one battalion of Marines. Aug. 1990.. I turned 21 that mid Sept.
A high estimate shows the Iraqi Army capable of fielding one million men and 850,000 reservists, 5,500 tanks, 3,000 artillery pieces, 700 combat aircraft and helicopters; and held 53 divisions, 20 special-forces brigades, and several regional militias, and had a strong air defense. They were veterans, having waged war with Iran for the last decade or more. This was not a insurgent war. This was real men trained hard. But with a weak heart. Ours is a volunteer force. Theirs was predominately transcripts, All men in Iraq at the time were expected to serve a term in the military. So doctors, lawyers, and other ordinary men who didn’t want to be there but out of fear of a homicidal tyrant were forced to serve or die or have their families suffer, or both.
on Feb. 14th I was sitting on the front of my tank leaned against the turret eating and listening to a BBC news report when I saw glimmers of reflected light from high in the sky.
There above me were b-52’s escort by f-16’s, f-14’s, f-15’s, f-18’s you friggin name it it was in the air. I was in the diamond shaped neutral zone some 500 miles inland, technically already in Iraq. 2 mins later I heard a hours worth of thunder. Not sporadic like boom boom boom. I mean one steady hour long explosion. We had already started ditching our civilian gear. If it wasn’t (G.I.)General Issue it was gone. I was doing the start-up for the thermal viewer and checking my bore sights. But I didn’t need it for another month. The air war had started, but not the ground war.
Mar. 1990 Just after the air war started my Sargent the gunner for the tank came down with appendicitis. And because it was the brigade XO’s (Executive Officer: 2nd in command, Lt. Colonel)
They held an all out, every man, gunnery to see who would be his new gunner. You guessed it, me.
First thing you will learn about me and one of the reasons I have suffered from moral issues about this time in my life… When I give my word, I give you my honor. I may have battled in my head the reasons we were there. But, while I was there, I was the best at it I could be.
We spent the next month doing the same drills we had been doing for the last 8+. Only now I was in the gunner’s seat.
We were so prepared, you could shave with how sharp we were. Just as the sun was starting to think about rizing we crossed in mass. The dim light hiding the dust clouds of our fast approach.
An M1A1ip (improved: 10 more tons of depleted uranium and chobum armor, a beefed up 1500hp jet turbine engine.) Will do 55 mph across rough terrain and still be able to hit anything between it and the horizon. Thermal sights set to a 1 degree of tempature difference means a enemy tank glows like a star. You can even read the painted numbers on a enemy tank. T-72m’s their turrets fly through the air like a frying pan when a 120mm Sabot round APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot)
A depleted Uranium dart about the diameter of a quarter flying at 5 miles a sec.
This is what a shot sounds like.
TC Tank Commander: “Gunner sabot tank 2 o’clock”
Me, Gunner: “Loader Sabot three round repeat”
Loader “Sabot Three rounds”
Gunner: “Tank acquired 2 o’clock”
Loader: “Clear” meaning the 1st round was loaded and he was clear of the breach.
Squeeze the trigger and the front three road wheels come off the ground and a heart stopping thunderous boom resounds.
Hit the point where the turret meets the body of the tank… And flip flip thud 4 men dead, next tank…
55 tanks in 5 days, I don’t remember how many APC’s, or trucks. I don’t even want to do the math anymore.
I killed men who didn’t want to fight. I killed for oil. And I was good at it. I still hate myself for this. Don’t get me wrong I understand your thanks, it just feels wrong to me in more ways than I can express with words. I feel a dichotomy I am proud of my service, I am proud of those who do serve. I am sickened that anyone has to serve at all. No one comes out the same. If they do they weren’t there.
I am not dominated by my veteran status. I will always have PTSD, but I have dealt with my moral issues and may regret the lessons learned. But I would never give up the person I am now to take them back. I just wish more could be enlightened without the experience.
After I returned to the states, I had plenty of time to think about what I did and saw.
The thing about Garrison is you don’t do the same thing as you do in combat at least not all the time. I had my MOS changed twice after D.S. First I changed to a PLL clerk (Parts and Load List) Thats’s the order and return clerk for a company level motorpool. The guy responsible for making sure things get tracked, ordered, returned For the entire company’s vehicles. We had early 286 PC’s with 5 1/4 in floppy drives, and for the time a whooping 10 gig harddrive. The internet was available but mostly as a email service between computers. I was convinced there was a better way to integrate the forms I filled out ad finium could be put onto the computer and sent to everyone that needed it and would only have to be filled out once. I submitted my idea to the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) That’s how I got involved in Database languages. You might think I requested this move. But I hadn’t I made a decision while under fire back in Desert Storm that kinda ended my military career before it really began. My Tank Commander on the first day of fighting went catatonic he was one minute giving orders and doing his job the next just open mouthed and unresponsive. So I 100mph taped (duct tape) him so he couldn’t touch anything when he woke up I didn’t want him to start shooting us or other tanks should he be delusional.
Well I was a Private First Class (PFC) he was a Lt. Colonel, We got through the day he was removed from the tank sent back to Saudi and was “decided to resign his commission” A heroic act to some and a dangerous thought to all my future commanders. No matter what I did after that there was always blockades in my way because they thought I was a rebel. Which I was I was a free thinking evolved human. With a sense of honor and duty that didn’t completely conform.
(if your looking for my unit on the map we were the green leaf on a red background)
Next time you want to say to someone “thank you for your service,” or whatever else, take a moment to consider how that person might feel about what you say. Yes, you mean well, but they could very well have had to do some tragic things during that “service” that do not sit well with them. And your kind words may not have the effect you wanted them to. So maybe talk to that person first. Get an idea of how they feel before you just blurt out the in vogue patriotism of the day. If you determine they’d be receptive to it, go for it. Otherwise, just offer your understanding (or lack thereof as the case may be).