A Letter From A Veteran

 

Dear Dr. Beal – 

 

I want to thank you for writing your book: “War Stories From The Forgotten Soldiers”.  My friend dropped off his copy for me to read a couple of months ago while I was recovering from a CAR-T Transplant that I underwent at the Nashville VA Hospital, I am a USAF Veteran, I served from 1971 – 1975. (I have been battling Lymphoma at the Minneapolis VA for 4 years now, it is presumed to be from Agent Orange). 

 

I wanted to let you that I think your book is spot on and some sections really resonate with me and helps me better understand some of my long hidden feelings, and also give me even better perspective into the current generation of Veterans.

 

A little history of my service:

  • I enlisted in the USAF in 1971 after I turned 18, and served through August 1975 when I left to attend the U of MN on the GI Bill

  • I was a Weapons Control Systems Mechanic on F-4 Fighter Bombers, most of my first year was Basic & Advanced training on the aircraft Radar and Weapons Control (targeting) systems.

    • I volunteered for Vietnam because I was convinced I was going there regardless, but was surprised I was one of two Airmen in my class sent to Europe (the rest, who did not volunteer were sent to Vietnam)

    • I was assigned to the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, Torrejon Spain. We were focused on the Soviets as a key part of US Cold War forces, and with our 3 Fighter Squadrons we took turns rotating to Incerlik Turkey to stand Nuclear Alert, I did 5 deployments there during my 2 years at Torrejon. The rest of the time we trained to fight conventional war if the Soviets ever attacked across the Iron Curtain to protect US & NATO ground forces. We had many “Alerts” where we showed up with our combat gear not knowing if it was a drill or we were going to war. It was stressful for us and for our wives. (I married my HS sweetheart, we were both 19, we are about to celebrate our 50thAnniversary this November!)

    • I returned to the States in August 1974 and for my last year of duty I was assigned to Seymour-Johnson AFB in North Carolina with the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, where I served as the “Weekend Duty Sergeant” for my Squadron. 

  • All who served during that time were called “Baby Killers” and some of us were spit at, so when I was discharged, I, like most, took off my uniform and rarely every talked to anyone about my experiences.

 

I have been a volunteer & fundraiser for “Wounded Warrior Project” since 2008, my son was going to the U of MN on an Army ROTC scholarship, and I knew he would end up in either Iraq of Afghanistan. He did lead a platoon on Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains 2010/2011 with the 101st Airborne – he came home after finishing his 4 years active duty, then was in the Reserves a couple of years, leaving when his first child was born. (Here is my WWP Fundraiser page which has a little background on what I have been doing: 
https://communityfundraising.woundedwarriorproject.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=1509
 )

 

I have worked with many Veterans that served Post 9/11, and I feel I understand many of the issues they face, but I never really talked/talk about issues many Veterans of my generation faced. Your book helps bring some of those to the front of my mind and to understand them better.  I told my friend who gave me your book that I think many of the reflections you share are important to most Veterans, especially those of us who served in Combat Units that didn’t see combat, or any Veteran in one of the many dangerous jobs that we serve in during peace or war .There is a lot of pressure and danger present regardless of where one might be stationed.

 

I have maintained my military discipline and the order it brought to my life, and your book resonated when there was discussion about the longer one serves in the military the harder it is to connect to the much less disciplined civilian world. This does impact the ability of a Veteran returning from a danger zone to integrate back into the civilian world, and we find many things that the people who send us very annoying & disgusting. (Small example: I get annoyed by people too lazy to use a turn signal let alone care about very important things in society!) 

 

Anyway, I am doing a Zoom meeting with the C-Level Leadership of WWP on 8/15, and I have mentioned your book so I can ensure they are aware of it and perhaps get some discussion going about who it might help. As a large percentage of WWP employees are Veterans or family members working with our wounded – it may help them in their work, or it may help some that are not close to Veterans to understand us a little better. Many of us carry the moral guilt of what we did, or what we might have been called on to do should we have had to act towards our enemies. I wonder how I might have been more impacted should we ever had been ordered to use our nuclear weapons.

 

Sincerely –

Tom