5 Questions to Ask a Veteran on Veterans Day
You know our military veterans have some interesting stories to tell and those hidden gems won't come to light unless we ask. I fired five quick questions at my dad about his service and was surprised by what I found out.
There are many things I love about my dad, Terry, and one of the biggies is how consistent he is about doing admirable things. He's honest, kind, helpful, and funny, and even when no one is looking he has a knack for doing the right thing.
When I was growing up in Nebraska, I remember the US flag flying at our house on every holiday that called for it, and we lived out in the middle of nowhere so it was rare that any other humans outside of our family ever caught a glimpse of it. Raccoons and coyotes may have been the only other living things that ever saw the flag, but that didn't matter to my dad. He always made sure a proper spotlight was shining on the flag at night and it was always folded properly when the time came to take it down. That's American pride in it's truest form.
Since it's Veterans Day, I decided to ask my dad five questions about his service in the US Navy, and his answers both confirmed what I already knew, and surprised me a little too. Serving in the armed forces is quite possibly the most personally challenging thing anyone can do, and it can also provide some of the greatest rewards.
My dad served in the U.S. Navy from April 1966 to January 1970.
5 Questions With a Veteran on Veterans Day
What was your most memorable experience in the service?
"Before going to Guam, because of the possibility of serving in Viet Nam I underwent Survival Training in California boondocks. I spent 5 days learning survival, evasion, and escape and was ultimately captured, confined etc. On the last morning, they told us it was over and raised the American flag to replace the Communist flag, and played Star-Spangled Banner. Gave me goosebumps and brought a tear. Since then I have had the utmost respect for our flag and country."
Is there something that happened during your time in the military that you never told anyone?
"I turned in a fellow sailor for admitting he had sabotaged an aircraft by cutting wires that were part of an important navigation system. He was court-martialed."
Where were you stationed?
"San Diego, Whidbey Island Washington, Guam, and two 45-day deployments to Chu Lai, Vietnam."
Why is it important for young men and women to serve now?
"To learn respect and discipline. And to keep the U.S. safe and free."
What advice would you give to those entering the military now?
"Enjoy the moment. You will make life-long friends."
My dad does keep in touch with several Navy buddies -- some that live hundreds of miles away now -- and I've witnessed that the bond runs deep. It's like they're family, with memories that are so vivid and powerful they're really the only ones that can realize the depths. They don't talk about that stuff all the time, but the understanding is there.
I'd love to know more about what's behind the "etc." in the sentence "ultimately captured, confined etc." Even knowing it's a training exercise, the "etc." seems to hold a story of its own that doesn't sound like a cakewalk. Our military members are just as brave in the preparation as they are in the battle.
I hope you'll take some time to hug and high-five a veteran today, and appreciate good souls like my dad. Honestly. I don't know that I would have the guts or determination to risk everything as he did, and that's all the more reason to thank those who do put it on the line.
Dad also does an uncanny impression of Porky Pig, and he can play a super cool version of "Taps" by pursing his lips and making them sound exactly like a trumpet. He even nails that high note (sometimes). Veterans have so many talents! We just have to ask them to share.
I love you Pop. Happy Veterans Day.