War, my father and me

I have the world’s greatest dad. Yesterday, he brought me a drill press, miter saw, two routers, and a table saw. Then he refused to charge me for his gifts. My shop now has several tools in it that I need to learn how to use effectively. There is no reason that I should not have a beautiful library that is crafted by my own two hands. Thank you, Jesus, for my pops.

My dad fought in Vietnam. Before I list his accolades let me explain one thing about soldiers and war. First, you can go to a war zone and not fight in the war. Just because you don the uniform of the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard does not mean that you are a warrior. I apologize that this may seem rude, but so many people that I have met in the past think that because you made the trip to a third world dump, that means that you fought tooth and nail to come home. That’s not true.

Another popular misconception is that all you do is fight. From the moment that you hit ground you must have been in the suck from jump street. Again, not true. Life in war is many things. However, there is down time. You may fight in a hellacious battle today and then not see that kind of action for two or three days. The longer a war goes on, the smarter the enemy becomes for your next encounter. They may attack with small arms fire and rockets today. Tomorrow or three days later they may ambush you with IEDS, crew serve weaponry and mortars. It is constantly evolving.

All soldiers make it seem worse than it really is in many cases (including me!) and that is because we don’t want you to think that it was easy to go over there. Everyone that deploys deserves your respect. It is no simple task to leave your family, to go into an uncertain future and face the overwhelming truth that you may never return to your spouse and children. Thus, it is painful to put this on paper. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has proven to be deadly for POGs and infantry alike. POGS or people other than grunts are supply clerks, fuelers, mechanics, and others. Their main job is support, not infantry taskings. Given the duality of their jobs, they are expected to learn the infantry’s task just not to the extent that they forget their own mission. My best friend from my days of military service was blown apart on a counter-mortar mission. He was a cook. You are not safe when you enter hell. A National Guard unit there on the same FOB (base) as me lost 19 people in a month due to mortar attacks. They never left the wire. Every one of them died in the building that they resided in. I have seen people lose their minds in the middle of a firefight, and I have seen the people I thought were the weakest overcome the greatest challenges and become the strongest we had in the unit. War brings darkness. It stirs up the primal emotions in the darkest parts of your heart. When a soldier is being honest, to them there is no greater feeling than being in combat. Your adrenaline spikes, things slow down (it is happening very fast) and it boils down to you or them. Hence, the reason for the astronomical suicide rate among veterans. You can’t replicate this feeling.

My dad served in 2/7 Calvary, 1st Calvary Division, and I served in 1/7 Cav. He fought at Hamburger Hill, and I went to Iraq. My dad does not reference the war. He was Air Assault meaning he flew into battle and rappelled in. Many times, he jumped because the LZ was too hot to land in. My father is the recipient of two Air medals and two Silver Stars. He completed 28 air assaults into hostile territory in 29 days. The op-tempo must have been nuts.

I completed over 2,000 missions in 11 months. Four of those had a zero probability of me returning from. We were told to call our families and tell them that we loved them. God brought my father and I home. It is with a grateful heart that I walk this earth intact and in sound mind. I am beyond grateful that my dad came home as well. God bless you all. Take care!

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