Skip to main content

Who Are My People?

When I was in Iraq, I started writing under the general title “Who Fights Our Wars?” when I wrote about the soldiers I served with.

At the end of June last year, I retired as a civilian.  In May of this year or next year I will leave the Army.  When I leave the Army, there will no longer be anyone in my life I am paid to hang around with.  Everyone in my life will be a friend, a family member, or someone I chose to associate with.

Which has led me to think about “Who are my people?”  So in the same way I have been writing about soldiers I served with, I will write about people with whom I share some activity, which means we share time and space together.  Some of these people are or were soldiers.  Some are not. 

I decided to write about these people because one of the reasons I had for going back in the Army at 54 years old was how much I missed the deep connection I had with some of the people I served with on active duty in the 1970s.

It turned out this ability to connect with people had to do with the circumstances we were in.  The regular Army puts people close together for weeks and months on end.  The National Guard brings people together for just one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.  When we trained for and deployed to Iraq and really were jammed together, it should be no surprise to anyone that a 55-year-old guy does not quite blend into a group of 20 year olds.  Socially, I blended in like a Vegan at a Bull Roast.

So I have been thinking a lot lately about who my people are, what they do, what we do together. 

In his book “The Four Loves” C.S. Lewis writes about Friendship.  The key moment in finding a friend he says can be the moment of “You too?’  That moment in which we find someone else interested in something we thought no one else loved the way we do. 

So in addition to writing about the people who fight our current wars, or were ready to fight the Soviet Union, I am also going to write about people with whom I share one particular interest, even if the rest of our lives are very different.

Popular posts from this blog

Different Water for Sinks and Toilets--Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, and Amtrak

On the train to Philadelphia recently, the toilets had water, but the sinks did not in the last two cars. I walked three cars away from my seat to wash my hands. On the way back, I let the conductor know about the lack of water.  He said there are different water systems for the sinks and the toilets.  Then smiled and said the water is blue in the toilets.  
I told the conductor about a morning at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, in April 2009. We were there for training before we went to Camp Adder, Iraq.  During our two-week stay, we slept in 77-man tents.  Outside the tent were several sinks and mirrors just standing in the open on the sand. I wish I had a picture.  
About twenty yards away were Porta-Johns or Shit Ovens, which everyone called the plastic enclosures when the temperature approached 120 degrees.  One morning just after down I went out to the sinks, brushed my teeth, then walked toward the Porta-Johns.  One of the soldiers just stepped out of one and was walking toward me.  

Ten Years Ago Today: Cold War Soldier Starts Re-enlistment Process

The Night Before Basic, Killing Brain and Lung Cells
On January 31, 1972, I flew to Texas to begin basic training. On April 2, 2007, ten years ago today, I called Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Askew, recruiting sergeant for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, and began the process of re-enlisting after 23+ years as a civilian.  I was 53 years old at the time, about to turn 54.

In the Spring of 2007, The Surge in Iraq was in full swing and recruitment for the Army was down a lot. The economy was good, Congress would not even consider re-starting the Draft, so in late 2006 Congress raised the maximum first-enlistment age for the Army from 35 to 42 years old.

The program was a failure and was rescinded three years later. But that failed program allowed me to re-enlist.  The maximum enlistment age for soldiers with prior service is the enlistment age plus the years of prior service plus a one-year waiver.  I needed all of that.

I called three recruiters before I called Kevin. He was the first one…

My Last Tanker Nickname: Oddball

Donald Sutherland as Oddball, a tank commander in the movie "Kelly's Heroes"
I got my last tanker nickname more than a decade after I earned the nickname Sgt. Bambi Killer.I got that nickname on a business trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2000.The company I worked for just bought a company in Brazil and I was part of a team that went to Brazil to introduce ourselves to the people who ran the business.
Sao Paulo has traffic that makes Los Angeles look like Omaha, so the local managers sent a limo for the four of us. This meant we could be more comfortable on the three-hour 20-mile trip from the airport to downtown. 
At the time I had a beard and still had a lot of brown hair.  Among the local staff people who were waiting to meet us was my now long-time friend Ivan Porccino. Ivan speaks five languages and was assigned as our interpreter.  When we got in the car, Ivan introduced us to the driver and said we would be in Sao Paulo for a few days. The driver said, “I love Americ…