Tuesday, November 10, 2020

From a more innocent time: plus ça change...Veterans Day 2020

Note: This is Michael Sedano's 2014 Veterans Day La Bloga-Tuesday column. He was recovering from abdominal surgery at the time. This year, Sedano is again recuperating from abdominal surgery. What goes around, comes around, except in 2014, no one was thinking plague, nor breathing sighs of relief at Joe Biden.

Veteranspeak, or 5 Questions To Ask a Veteran 
 Michael Sedano
MiG Alley below, Homing All the Way Killers above 

I’ve been a Veteran since August 1970, fifty years since I walked away from Ft. Lewis Washington, discharge in hand and still in my Class A uniform. In a curious parallel, that was early in the predawn darkness, just like that January day in 1969, when my busload of inductees stood in the predawn fog of Ft. Ord waiting to be received.

"Thank you for your service." A lot of Veterans cringe when they hear that. A polite "thank you" may ensue but that Veteran may wish you hadn't said that. That's the way it is, así es.

Ever wonder what to say when you learn someone was once boots on the ground? "Welcome home," works.

Veterans of my era will spin you some memories to one or more of these conversation ice-breakers. I was Army, other services have similar answers. Kids from Bush and Obama’s Iraq and Afghan wars are likely to understand the questions--the answers are the cement that links a majority of Veterans with one another. 

What was your MOS? 
Military jobs have code numbers, the Military Occupational Specialty, M.O.S. The best known is eleven-bravo, 11B, Infantry. Me, I was trained as an oh five bravo intermediate speed morse code radio operator, a defunct trade in military communications, even then. Assigned to a rugged anti-aircraft missile site guarding MiG Alley at the Korean DMZ, I worked an oh five charlie field wireman's job. Mid-tour I lucked out and took a job in the Colonel’s office, writing military propaganda as an acting 71Quebec Information Specialist. 

 Short and Shorter. Sedano 3d from right, with shades. 

When did you DEROS?

Short, short-timer. We counted the days until we would “get back to the world.” Upon arrival overseas, clerks calculate your Date Estimated Return from Overseas. If all goes as planned, you’ll be heading for the airport on your "dee-rhos" date. Not every Veteran served overseas. A stateside post meant serving the full two year hitch. Draftees doing one of the hardship tours—Vietnam and Korea—often put in a thirteenth month in order to earn discharge upon DEROS. I put in thirteen months, two weeks, three days, seventeen hours seven minutes and thirteen seconds in Korea, but who’s counting, que no? 

RA or US? 
Did you sign up, or were you Drafted? Draftees were assigned US serial numbers, volunteer tipos were Regular Army. On the sidelines were ER and NG, Enlisted Reserve and National Guard. The latter pair did Basic Training then went home. Everyone in today’s military are RA, or in barracks vernacular, Lifers. For a long time I knew my serial number by reflex. It was stamped on the dog tags to identify our bodies. I've forgotten the number now, and that's a good thing. 

Would you want to see your grandchildren in uniform? 
Not involuntarily. 

Would you do it again? 
Gente I know, to a man and woman say, Yes. I told an Army recruiter friend that I would go if I could take the place of one of the kids he was signing up. No way in Hell would I volunteer for the Draft, but if they called me again, I'd go. 

Veterans and active duty wearing a uniform get free chow at a number of chain restaurants today. A DD214 gets you fed, too. So there's that. Veterans get to understand important yet amorphous concepts like Duty and Honor. I remember telling a friend about my cannon fodder post had the north invaded. The friend asked why I would hold my ground instead of running before it was too late? I told him it was my Duty. His eyes told me I was a fool. Así es.
This fellow has that look: Not short.

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