23 March 2012

I Am A Veteran

I was in the Army.  It was during the cold war.

I saw a wee bit of action.  It was before desert storm.

I was not special forces.  I was a tank crewman first and kinda-sorta an intel puke later.  I am not sure how to best describe my involvement with the Green Berets officially.

The best way to describe the reality is someone decided that a tanker would be best at evaluating what Soviet tanks could do.  So they sent a fully qualified tanker.  Me.  It was literally, "here's a camera, take lots of pictures, follow those guys, do what they say, see you when you get back."

One of them had to show me how to work the Nikon.

They were less than thrilled to have me along.  I was woefully unprepared for what they were doing.  I won't say we.  We would imply that I was useful to the tasks they had planned.  I tagged along, I took pictures, I came back.  I don't think I caused them to fail in their mission (mostly because they brought me back with them).

What I learned.  I don't care for high altitudes.  I confirmed I don't like being cold.  I learned that being shot at is a remarkable experience that it difficult to remark on.  I learned that I had never really been afraid before.  I learned to hate hiking and camping.  I learned I am not a good photographer.  I learned that I could do a great many things that I thought were impossible; even if I didn't like doing them.  I learned that I am not a hero nor a coward.  I learned that I had changed enough to no longer fit in well in some places where I once had.  I learned that people would judge my experiences without any basis to do so.  I learned that my reality was fantastic and unbelievable.

I learned, "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."


  1. I'm curious to know what chain of thought or current event caused you to bring this up.

  2. It started as a list of me saying I wasn't a green beret, SEAL, ranger, spetznaz etc and kinda ballooned.

    That was inspired by hearing the phrase "mall ninja" in so many posts about the Martin shooting.

    The muse, she is non-linear.

  3. Ah. The closest I ever got to military service was 2 years in ROTC. I really wanted to join, but I was medically discharged.

  4. Hey, I was medically discharged too! I shattered both tibia and fibia in a fall from the tank.

  5. I like that last bit. What is it from?

    I spent 20 years on aircraft carriers and never got shot at once. Well, not counting that one time in Jax Beach, but that wasn't anything to do with being in the Navy other than that is why I was in Jax Beach in the first place.

    On a related note, I see they've closed Champions now and razed the building. This makes me kind of sad.

  6. You should get in touch with this blogger: http://mostlycajun.com/wordpress/

    http://mostlycajun.com/wordpress/?p=13025 Tracking down the Autobahn

    He was a tanker in Germany too.

    Your story makes me wonder if there were Spetnatz wandering around Germany taking pictures of us, with a Soviet tanker tagging along with a camera.


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