I read the other day that only 10% of Americans have served in the armed forces. If that is true, I thought I’d share a few thoughts to give you the flavor based on my own time in theater.
I was a loggie – a logistics type, not anything like what you see in the movies or video games. I did one tour – less than a year – not four or five like many service members do. My people unloaded and reloaded the materiel from ships in Kuwait; they inspected what was going back stateside to make sure no bad bugs would hitch hike with the equipment. They manned the border crossing between Iraq & Kuwait. Some were trainers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
However, since my people were spread all over, although “home” was in Kuwait I spent nearly half my time in Iraq & Afghanistan. We were proud of the fact that we had no deaths or serious injuries with over one thousand sailors “boots on the ground.” Other units stationed with us were not so lucky.
Here are some trivia items:
- While I grew up seeing the guns, medals, and other artifacts that my father’s generation brought home from World War II, there were no “trophies” allowed.
- General Order 1 prohibited alcohol and sexual contact while deployed. By the letter of the law this included married couples – not unheard of, especially in National Guard Units. Many Guard units are family affairs with parents and children serving, basically to be there in case of a disaster. Magazines such as “Playboy” were banned, and a provocative photo from a spouse or significant other could land a service member in a lot of trouble.
- I tried to order a guitar while deployed, but the Army and Air Force Exchange system wouldn’t deliver to APO or FPO addresses – the way deployed personnel receive mail. This was even though providing for deployed service members was the very reason the exchange system was set up.
- In order to save shipping costs, the small exchanges they set up in theater used “pogs” instead of coins to make change. These were cardboard discs the same size of the coin they represented. Coins are heavy and costly to ship – pogs are cheap. An added benefit is that many pogs never got redeemed; teachers back home found that kids loved to receive as a reward.
- The menu was the same at all the base “DEFACs” (Dining Facilities). When you first got there you thought the food was pretty good. After going through the same menu 3 or 4 times (about 3 or 4 weeks later) your opinion changed.
- With temperatures well above 100 degree Fahrenheit (we hit 140+ regularly), you were constantly drinking. T-shirts were marked by the salt that leeches out of the body. Gatorade was in high demand. Bottles of Gatorade stopped showing up, and a lot of folks wanted to know what was going on. A general pointed out that sending bottles of Gatorade increased the size of supply convoys and people were getting killed driving truckloads of Gatorade. Nobody brought it up again.
- One of the kids (I can say that because he was just over a third of my age) that was lost had a remarkable tribute at his memorial service. A buddy composed a rap that was as touching and poignant as any poem I’ve ever read or heard.
- Memorial services were held in the chapel, which was also a “theatre” for training or other large meeting events. On the floor under the seats service members would set their M-16 rifles – intermixed with the boxes of Kleenex that were set out by the chapel staff.
- Adults always worry about how the next generations will do in carrying this country forward. After serving with those young men and women, I can assure you that the country will be in very good hands.
Be grateful for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard.