Four little letters.....Four little words.....a world of difference for many
Last night I was able to attend an award banquet given by the Diablo Valley Vietnam Veterans. They were honoring Sgt. Masterson for the year and presenting him with an NCO sword for being NCO of the Year. This was a large group of guys. I figured it would be like the Marine Corps League. But it was very different. These guys seemed a lot closer, and a lot funnier. This was a mix of all branches of the military, and I will say that made for some fun talk. If you are familiar with military life....then you know and understand that it doesn't matter where you are, what rank you are, or what branch you are in......your job is to tease the other guy in the other branch. lol We had dinner at a very posh country club. I was really worried about going since I have 2 dresses that I can wear since I am 9 months pregnant, and they are more summer dresses than a nice dinner dress. But it is all I have and all I could find. I hadn't slept in over 24 hours and was running on Empty.....but I put on my brave face and went because I needed to support my husband at this dinner, and I wanted to support Masterson as he is probably one of the best Marines I have ever met.
I was able to switch out my chair at the table for a more comfortable one. I wouldn't have made it through the night if I had to sit in the chair they had provided. It was a great chair, but the way the baby is sitting...I can't sit up perfectly straight without his bottom and feet jamming into my ribs. It actually is a little painful. So one of the employees at the country club brought a different chair over for me. It turned out to be a kingly type of chair and I felt funny.....but it sure helped out a lot on my back.
So the evening kicked off with lot's of teasing from all the old guys, and they said we could have any drinks we wanted from the bar for free....so Chuck went for a Cherry Coke, and me a Root Beer for the night. Dinner was served buffet style, and it was really good. I was so hungry I gobbled it up. A really nice salad with different greens, and then amazing potatoes, and veggies...with some Chicken that tasted great.
After Dinner the ceremony started with introductions. This is where some of the entertainment began. With each intro some of the guys would hoot and holler Go Marines, or Go Army....even if the guy wasn't a part of that branch. It was fun and silly. The guys all introduced themselves and said a little about when they served, where, and with whom. I noticed that most of the vets only had one tour and got out within a 2 or 3 year mark. Then it came time for all the active guys to do their introductions. And the older guys were amazed that all of the active guys had been in the Corps longer than any of the Vets. Then the man with the microphone asked the active Marines to raise their hands for how many deployments they had been on. And all the vets were just amazed as the guys kept their hands up for 4, 5, even 8 deployments. I felt that the deployment lifestyle the vets lived then, was so much harder to endure through a deployment with hardly any support system from home than what it is now.
Masterson was introduced, and presented with the NCO sword and the guy who presented him with it, also presented him with another honor. Apparently 40 something years ago when this Marine was in the corps......he was voted in as the Corps Sexiest Marine. So he passed on the honor to Masterson last night.....and it was soooo funny. There was a lot of hooting and hollering about it. ha ha ha And I am certain that the guys at the shop will now do something to tease the tar out of Masterson about that. Maybe we should have a cake delivered to the shop that states that he is now voted in as the Sexiest Marine! lol ha ha ha Masterson is not the typical Marine who would just eat up that type of thing and brag it up, or run with it. He is a quiet hard working individual. So this is going to be funny to see how the guys tease him over this.
After the award, the guest speaker was introduced and she is a student at California State Sacramento getting her masters in Social Work. She is doing her thesis on PTSD and the affects that is has taken on families. Now her research is covering each war. So she is asking for participants from the past to the present. From spouses to children who have been affected by this, or experienced it in some way. The topic is a serious one, and it turned the crowd a little while she was speaking. There were a few jokes, but not many, and a few had questions. There was one older gentleman who stood to ask a question. After taking a few minutes to compose himself he asked how do you transition yourself back into normal life with your family after coming back from war, even when it has been 40 or 50 years. My heart went right to him. I just wanted to go up to him and hug him. It was clear that he still struggles with the affects war took on him even though his is in his 70's. I hope his question was answered for him in a way he felt comfortable. But I really see where a lot of these men and wives are coming from. Being a Spouse of a combat veteran, and being surrounded by others as well who have been to war.....you see what War does to our guys. Some come home completely changed, some just a little. But I really do believe that all who go to war come back a little different.
The vets were amazed by all the deployments and how long the active duty guys were in. They were praising them for how much harder that must be....but I kind of feel different. I don't think you can really compare WWII, or Vietnam to anything my husband has experienced. They are like night and day they are so different. I mean when the vets left for war, they rarely knew where they were going, or knew anything about the place. Now our guys have a very thorough brief on the area and lifestyle they are about to enter. The Vets would deploy for a year or so at a time, with little to no contact with home. They might receive letters and were lucky if they could get one mailed out. And when a wife actually got a letter.....it was usually months old by the time she got it. When the guys would return home it was to an empty airport. They found a ride home and surprised their family. Often the family didn't even know if he was still alive or not. Can you imagine someone walking in the door after more than a year whom you thought to be dead?!! That would be so distressing, and exciting. I mean the emotions would be overwhelming. And then you are just supposed to hug and kiss and go back to normal life? ha
Our guys now have a good mail system that usually gets a letter to you in about a week or so. They have phones to call home once a week or when time allows. They have the Internet to send e-mails, cards, and share pictures. Also Skype is available so you can see your spouse and talk with them live. And....on some tours a wife is able to meet her spouse at a port for a few days while the ship is docked. When my husband is to come home....I get notice of it. I am given a rough estimate of the month, then the week, and then within a day or two. Then I get a phone call when he is out of the war zone, and back in country. I am able to prepare myself for the homecoming. I am able to prepare the home to welcome him back. I can't imagine being surprised like wives used to be after months or a year or more of no contact on a deployment.
Also when our vets used to come home...they weren't greeted as heroes like they are now. it was often a silent and depressing flight home. Some had no families to return to. And what we now know as PTSD was referred to as Shell Shock and no one really knew how to treat it. So often the men tried to erase the memories and such by drinking it away. No one knew what else to do. I really think that these guys had it a lot rougher than our guys now do. Granted it is a different war and now they have much higher sophistication, and you have to watch out for so many more things.....but they really are different wars.
I just wanted to share all of this with you. And if you would like to help this woman out on her thesis.....she would greatly appreciate it. Here is her contact info she gave out. It is mostly a survey and will be anonymous.
Jeri Wilson, MSW II
Love you all