Many workplaces throughout the United States, and abroad, employ Veterans. If you’re a Veteran, then this is the day that we recognize, and thank you for your service. The Loadout Room is lucky in that it is completely made up of Veterans and a few Active Duty Patriots. We cover all branches of service, and represent a variety of different military occupations. Often on Veterans Day, Veterans are asked what their service meant to them. This Veterans day we decided to share what Military service meant (and still means) for some of us. To all the Veterans out there, we raise our glasses and offer our sincere thanks to you, and your family for your sacrifices and your service. Happy Veterans Day.
Beginning with bootcamp at Parris Island and through all subsequent training you develop a strong bond, a brotherhood with those that you train, and serve with. In some cases, it’s a stronger bond than that of your own family. When you bleed along side one another and trust each other with your life, you develop an unbreakable bond. When something happens that takes the life of one of your brothers it will shake your foundation as it did with me, but it will also make that bond you have with the others much stronger. To those that have served and sacrificed you know exactly what I’m talking about.
During my years of active duty in the Marine Corps I learned some valuable lessons. One of those lessons was just how frail human life is. During the early morning hours (0200) of 10 May 1996, we were conducting a training mission (Operation Purple Star) prior to our deployment to the Mediterranean for 6 months. This was to simulate an amphibious assault which included Cobra Attack Helicopters, and three CH-46 troop carriers. We lifted off the USS Saipan around 0200 headed for the coast. As we approached the coast the Cobra Attack Helicopter cleared the LZ prior to the CH-46 helos landing. As the Cobra finished its gun run and headed back out to the sea it collided with the first CH-46 helo approaching the LZ. Our helo made an abrupt steep left bank to avoid the mid-air collision. As it did, I noticed outside the small window the fireball in the sky – we just lost a helo full of our brothers.
The following day myself and several others from my unit were tasked with recovering the remaining bodies and gear from the crash site. I still remember trying to organize the gear as we found it, trying to identify who it belonged to. Up until that point, like many others, I took a lot of things in life for granted. After witnessing that horrific accident I realized just how valuable life is, and how quick life can be taken from us. I gained a different perspective on life from that point forward. While in the military, and now as a Veteran when I call someone ‘brother’ it means a hell of a lot more than just a name. It means I’ve got your back. It means I’m here for anything even if it’s a phone call at 2am. I will continue to honor that brotherhood until the day I die.
I joined the Army in 1993 after attending Colorado State University with the sole purpose of doing something exciting. My initial enlistment was for 4 years was with 3rd plt. Aco. 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, but extended for a couple additional years to explore the possibility of attending the Warrant Officer Flight Course. Looking back, my time at 2nd Ranger Battalion was spent with some of the best men I’ll ever have the honor of associating with. Now that I’ve been living in the civilian world, I realize that more than ever.
What I miss the most is the “brotherhood”. When I refer to them as my brothers, that word holds a meaning only we can understand. My brothers will always be there for me, they will always have my back on, and off the battlefield, and will never ask “why?” Once you’ve trained as hard and as long as Rangers do, an unbreakable bond is formed called the brotherhood. Once you’ve endured the emotional highs and lows that an elite fighting force will experience, your brothers are always there for you. My time in the service has long since passed, but when I run into my brothers at a Ranger function, or chat with them on the phone, we pick up right were we left off. Like time stood still. Rangers Lead the Way.
For me, Veterans day is the day to reflect on my time serving our country and what that service has meant. Serving in the Ranger regiment gave me the opportunity to fight alongside some of the very best warriors our country has produced. It gave me the opportunity to blast past a thousand notions of the limits of human endurance and the ability to drive on. I was afforded the opportunity to attend jump school with my brother (despite him being in a different branch) as well as Ranger school. I was able to be a part of history, deploying 5 times to combat zones and was on the Jessica Lynch rescue mission. Veterans day is a time for me to reflect on how profoundly that 4 years changed the course of the rest of my life, my identity and my path.
I am forever grateful to my brothers in arms. Though so few of us keep in touch with regularity, any of us would step up to bat for one another at a moments notice. There is NO camaraderie like that between men who have fought together. As time goes on I have come to realize there is more of a bond between the Veterans of all generations than I had thought. Having interacted with “big army” types so little while I was serving, for a long time I failed to identify as being part of the bigger Armed Forces picture. I enjoy spending time with the veterans of previous conflicts whenever possible. To be able to hang out with vets from WW2 and ‘Nam is a treasure. Some day, we’ll be as salty as they are and we can only hope for the ability to look at the war-fighters in future generations with the same pride in our eyes as the older vets have when looking at us.
We have two holidays in the States for Veterans, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I celebrate both in completely separate ways. Memorial day is for quiet reflection, Veteran’s day is for celebration. On Veterans day I celebrate being alive and celebrate where I’ve been and and what I’ve done, and the Marines I did it with. Veteran’s to me is a day to be loud, a day to shoot guns, fireworks, it’s a day to climb mountains, kick life in the nuts, and enjoy some good ole fashioned adult beverages.
In a way it’s like a second birthday, but one I largely celebrate by myself. Not out of self-imposed exile, but because I don’t feel non veterans celebrate the same way. Heck, most veterans probably don’t celebrate the same way, but I feel other vets would understand it. This year I plan on watching Range 15 first thing in the morning, as I load magazines and drink Black Rifle coffee. Then hit the range and get some trigger time in. Followed by hunting in the evening, and cold Guinness and maybe Blackhawk Down, or Patton since both are on Netflix. Veteran’s day is a celebration of life, liberty, and the fact I got to walk among giants for a short time.
Veterans day for me, personally, is a day of celebration. A celebration that America had and still has citizens willing to sign up to suffer in the name of the republic. A celebration that I got to live out my childhood dreams of jumping out of planes, blowing shit up, and shooting machine guns. Celebration for all those who earned citizenship along with veteran status. A celebration that I found “my tribe”. But also it’s a day of quiet reflection. Reflection on what it means to be a veteran because it is people who make titles worthwhile not the other way around. And reflection on what it means to have a republic, a “tribe” you’re willing to fight to the death in the mud for. I guess, after all, is said, it’s just a day for me to be grateful that such men and women lived. Thanks for showing up to the rodeo, ya’ll.
Veterans Day to many is a trip to as many fast food restaurants boasting about free meals for vets. I was never tempted by Chili’s dangling Jack Daniels ribs in front of my face. I never changed my Facebook profile picture looking for words of acknowledgment from my friends. I celebrated at home, with my wife and fellow veterans. I loved the time spent together cooking on the grill, playing corn-hole and drinking fine spirits with those I fought alongside. Save the accolades for those young and dumb basic training graduates. Give them the encouragement they need to be the best soldier’s this country has to offer. I stand proud of my service and the commitment I made, but I don’t need to be told how thankful people are. I’ll stand in the shadows and tip my hat to the boys still doing the dirty work.
Veterans Day is here once again. The trove of changed profile pictures and long lines at restaurants are almost assured to remind you, but Veterans Day has a unique meaning to each and every one of us. For me, it is a day to remember the heroic men I served with and spend some time in the outdoors, in a state of peace. As veterans, the American people generally hold us in high regard, as we were/are the gatekeepers of this great country. Every generation has had their share of veterans, but I believe this current generation is particularly special in the sense that they volunteered in a time of war. In an era of instant gratification and self service, many young men and women raised their right hands and enlisted into the military during a time of war. That is an amazing thing, and Veterans Day is a time to remember that. Despite what any veterans reason was for joining the military, the byproduct was serving the nation. Serving is a privilege not known by many, and is something that I am grateful to have been a part of. And as veterans, it is our job to continue to do so.
I spent a little over eight years in the Marine Corps Infantry before I left to spend more time with my family and pursue a career in law enforcement. When I think of Veteran’s day, it’s still hard for me to picture myself in that category, as a Veteran. To most people outside of the armed forces, it is a day to honor those who served but to me, and probably a lot of Veterans, it is a day to honor those who came before me. Those who fought in places like Vietnam and Korea. Those who set the standard and that I look up to as what we call the “old breed”. The people I think of on Veteran’s day are people like my neighbor. A retired Marine Colonel that served in Vietnam and has a Purple Heart, like so many from his generation. This year on Veteran’s day I’m going to set some time aside after work and have a nice whiskey with Mr. Holdaway.