DW: “My time in the military, I had to be careful. I learnt how to do it, and how to navigate through things, but it was the best day I’ve had in the military, the first time I got to acknowledge my spouse.”

What is your birth year?

1964. 

How old are you?

54.

What branch of the United States Armed Forces did you serve in?

Army.

Where were you born?

I was born in New York- Long Island. A town called Hempstead. 

Can you tell me any specific memories you have from your childhood?

Mostly of school in the neighborhood. I grew up in what you would consider a lower/middle class area. I enjoyed school while I went, but I had a huge family- six kids in my family. I grew up with in a two family house- my grandmother and also another set of my cousins, so we had like 13 kids in the house. Grandmother had a bunch of grandkids, so on any given day of the week we’d have 23, 25 kids that would gather together, go to school from there. During the summers, we had our own baseball teams; my uncle coached. We had a baseball team, a basketball team, for the summer league. It was a good childhood. 

Tell me about high school.

Hempstead High- great memories from there, because it established my foundation. I knew, going into high school, that it would be difficult for my parents to pay for college. My focus in high school was to try and figure out a way to get college paid for. I didn’t know how, but my parents always said, “We’ll make it work, just don’t worry about that.” It was a big focus of mine. Everything I knew of- it was either sports or academics, and or a combination of both. I had good grades, which was not typical of the athletes at my school, and I ended up playing lacrosse. I did basketball, baseball, ran track, but ultimately just ended up doing lacrosse and track. I ended up being recruited for both lacrosse and track out of high school, so that secured my scholarship for being able to go to college. Where did you go to college? West Point. 

Upon your recruitment, did you know what you were getting into? Did you want to join the military?

I had no idea. My father had three brothers who served in the military, but growing up, in all honesty, I had no aspirations of being military. When Army played Navy football, I didn’t realize there were actually two schools against each other! My sophomore year, I started to learn about West Point, and had some interactions with the coaching staff there, so I went to some of the summer camps for lacrosse. They gave me an opportunity to go, but I still didn’t know that that’s what I wanted to do, so I actually went to a military academy prep school for a year after high school. Typically, most of the kids who go to the prep school for the military academy- it was geared towards active duty military personnel who wanted enlisted, wanted to be officers. Half of the class was probably made up of that, but it was a chance for people to work on their SAT scores for getting in. I went there, ended up finding out I meshed in way, I liked the military- what I also did was deferred admissions at the other schools I was recruited at for that year, so I didn’t loose those opportunities once I figured out what I wanted to do. Prep school- loved it, enjoyed it, and went to the academy. 

On West Point: 

It was a mixture of academics and military. You have a military portion that you do as well as your academics. I had lots of classes. The thing with going to West Point is that you actually take a heavy course load, but everyone takes it, so there’s really no difference. The number of credit hours you get from that, you could almost double-major, just because of the things that are being put on you. The combination of the military marching drill and ceremony things that you end up learning to do- with the academics, most people who go to the academy, in all honesty, would probably make it through. If you’re selected, there’s a very high probability that you’d end up being able to go. You do have to learn to balance, time management- you find out that most of the people who end up flunking out- it’s an inability to time manage, because they put a lot on you, and you have to figure out what to do, or what not to do. Where to spend your time. When you do that, you end up being successful, and getting out. 

IMG_1579How old were you when you graduated from West Point?

When I graduated from West Point, I was 21. 

Did you have high expectations placed on you at West Point?

There were definitely some instructors who had more of an impact on you than others. For the most part, I remember quite a few of the instructors. The great thing that I did find out [about the instructors] was that, going to West Point, was that they are all there for you. They will do whatever they need to in order to help you make it through. If you were having issues with certain classes, getting additional instruction from the teachers, and or also classmates or upperclassmen, to help you get through. It’s the only place I know, so in terms of comparing it to a regular college, I would probably say, just from my experiences, that it was a lot easier to get support when you were having trouble at the academy, because everyone worked together as a team. That was the biggest thing I took from going into the academy, and the military- you all have similar goals, and most of the people who are above you went through the same things you went through, so they understand, and they can relate really well. 

On post-graduation:

After you graduate, there is a requirement to spend 5 years, minimum, in the military, as your payback for going. When everyone talks about going to the academy, they say, “Oh, it’s a free education!” Not really. Not really free. You come out, you have a job- that’s the good thing about it. But, it is, at minimal, 5 years of your life to serving the military. When I graduated, I actually spent my first 8 months actually still at the academy, as a grad assistant lacrosse coach. On each of the varsity teams, they usually keep two of the cadets back to help with the recruiting. You go out and do a lot of the recruiting with the 10th, 11th, 12th grade students, to give them an understanding of what it takes to actually make it through the academy. My first 8 months was actually spent there. My graduate is in engineering, so from there, I went to my engineer office, which was a basic course. [That was] 6, 7 months of training and coursework. I did that at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Once you finish your basic course, you go into the military; you go into your assignment. My first assignment was at Fort Lewis, Washington. Close to here! I spent roughly 2.5, 3 years on Fort Lewis itself. Going into my last 2 years, I was given an opportunity to take an early command. Typically, you do a command either as a senior first lieutenant or as a captain. I was a junior first lieutenant, and was given the opportunity, so I took that at Yakima Training Center. I spent my last 2 years, basically, as a base commander for the training center. I did my 5 years, and I actually got out, but still did reserves from that point. I had no break in service, in terms of my time, so I then went into civilian sector and worked with a company that was doing chemicals to the semi-compacter industry. I spent my time going through that; started out in Pennsylvania, went to California- California ended up really being my base location that I worked out of, but when 9/11 came around, I ended up getting mobilized. I got back out, but I still was an active reservist, and I still worked with a lot of people, or at least training, guys who were going over to Iraq. Did that for a while- roughly in 2008/2009, I ended up having an opportunity to go back in, to be mobilized full time, and work active duty for the military. Ended up working out for me, because I ended up leaving a start-up company that bought me out. Going in- at the time, I had only been planning on doing it for a year, until I figured out what I wanted to do next. One turned to two, into three- I ended up staying in from that point on until December of 2017. I stayed in, stayed active- total time I ended up putting in service was 32 years. I retired as a full bird colonel on December 1st of 2017. 

Where did you go abroad to during your service?

Honduras, several deployments to Africa, Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan. 

What was your job or assignment?

While I was at Fort Lewis, I was with an engineering company, so I started out as a platoon leader for what they call combat-heavy. It was for a construction that [was] building either horizontal or vertical structures. When I immediately came in, I got a 4 month deployment to Honduras, where we were building hospitals and schools, and upgrading the roads within the country. I did that for 4 months, came back, and then kept my platoon. From that, I was given what is called an Executive Officer position, which is one below your commander. I was basically his go-to guy for getting things done. I spent my time as an Ex-O for about a year, and that was when I was given the opportunity to take control of the Yakima Training Center. Yakima Training Center was command position, so I actually did all the coordination for the training on the facility, between the active duty military and reservists. You’d go in and set up various scenarios; they would come in and do live fire training exercises, so I oversaw that for the training center. Was your job in Afghanistan and Iraq different from your jobs in the US? Big difference. My rank, at the time, but also because of what we were doing in support of those countries. Iraq, I served as an advisor to the Iraqi three-star general who oversaw the infrastructure of Iraq. I spent a lot of time out running around with him, in convoys, amongst regular population, going to different construction sites that they or we were doing, in addition to overseeing a lot of the mine clearing operations, both land and water. That was about a year and a half of my time while I was in Iraq. Afghanistan- several different jobs. First job that I had was overseeing the containment facility that we housed all of the people that were caught. There was a sub-installation that we had, so we had, for lack of a better word, the jails. The group I had was a military police unit, but I was an engineer attached to work with building several new facilities, containing people, as well as the upkeep involved for both the facilities as well as the sub-installation that we were on. I was in charge of several construction sites that were going on for both our benefit, as well as for the Afghanistan prisoners that we were keeping. The second job that I was while I was there was overseeing all of the construction projects that were off-installation in Southern Afghanistan. I had roughly about 85 projects that we were working on throughout all of Southern Afghanistan; I was working with the Corps of Engineers, but I was responsible for overseeing all the engineers who were overseeing all of the projects. We went through both safety instructions as well as going through and making sure that the construction was going correctly in while trying to keep a good time schedule. 

What time period were you in the Middle East?

I was in Iraq in 2008-2010/2011 time frame, and Afghanistan from 2012-2014. 

What was the atmosphere of the US presence in those countries at that time? 

The people that I worked with- it’s definitely a stressful environment, just being there. When you first go, you don’t know what you’re going to encounter, and try- that in itself gives you some anxiety. You’re in an active war zone. In terms of being able to watch out for yourself, your co-workers from a safety perspective, and also getting a job done that you were sent there to do. I won’t say it was a Disney environment from a happy, go-lucky place, but everyone tended to try and make the best of the situation, and help each other out in terms of making it through. Did you interact often with the Afghani or Iraqi people? Every day. Military people I interacted with as well because a lot of my projects were off-installation among the populace; in route to going out to those sites, even on those sites, you’d have kids running around, which they were enamored at the military people. The uniforms and stuff. Whenever we went out we’d always try to have extra treats to give the kids. I got to spend a lot of time with both Iraqi people as well as the people in Afghanistan throughout the three deployments I went on. 

IMG_2394Did you see any combat at these locations?

Not what you consider frontline combat, but I did run into a couple of times where we tried to avoid, and were close to, several small explosions, from traps that were set on roadways and things like that. Never one-on-one combat, but just being in that environment, there were times where we had to try and go around roadways that we knew were set up for bombs and explosions, as well as crossings. 

Did you ever have any interactions with the enemy forces?

Not one-on-one, but there were several times while I was out where we encountered enemy people; I was always out with a security- I actually had a security force that I went out and travelled with. There were several times where there was some engagements, and we had to take cover and assess the situation, and find an alternate way of either getting out, or staying in place for a while until we could get someone to come in and help. 

Tell me about any specific memories or experiences that stand out.

I’d probably say that holiday times were usually the most difficult, but they were also probably the most memorable, at least for me. The US military tries to go out of their way to make sure that soldiers, around holiday time, still got to experience those holidays as much as possible, within reason and within the environment. The things that really stand out were holiday times, or those days. Most of the other stuff, from the day-to-day standpoint, just went- you’d take a breath at the end of the day. I would also say that the first time that you had an opportunity to meet some of the soldiers from the other side you were working with were memorable, because you end up finding- you didn’t know what to expect, but you end up finding out that they’re not so different from us. Most of them want the same things out of life that we want; they want to be able to have their families, to go off to the park, and travel amongst the country without fear of being shot at, or blown up. It’s only a small part of the population that are extremists, but it only takes a small number to cause a lot of damage. Coming to that realization- you’d think it would just be common sense that that would be the case, but you have lots that runs through your mind. The anticipation, finally meeting- you end up getting quite close to a lot of the people. I didn’t expect that to happen, but as you spend and share experiences with them, that causes you to get close. 

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What were the most trying or difficult moments of service?

I’d probably say leaving. Once you got there, you knew, “Okay, I’m here to do a job.” You did what you needed to do to focus, to try and keep yourself safe and get back home. Definitely the most difficult day of the whole thing was the day I left, that you had to say goodbye to your family. In all, you didn’t know if you were going to come back. You got all your hugs and kisses, and you tried to get a second or third one. Out of each of my deployments, my most difficult days were the first day[s] of leaving. Coming back, oddly, ends up being a little difficult, because I don’t think anyone goes in those environments without being touched in some way, or having some issues when they come back. It’s your ability to work through those items when you get back that ends up determining how well you end up functioning once you get back. First week or so back ends up being difficult, and it’s the little things, the odd things, that you really wouldn’t think of- the whole time you’re there, you have a uniform that you put on- each day is kind of the same, and you go through it without really having to think much. You go to the cafeteria, the food is cooked. When you come back, you gotta assimilate yourself back to society, and choices. Odd enough, trying to decide on things- trying to figure out what cereal you now want to buy, because there’s 50 different boxes of cereal opposed to the 2 that were on base. 

What were the best memories of service?

For me, it was just the people that I was with, just having that common, shared bond that you end up creating in an environment like that. You can’t make it alone. The camaraderie, and the friendships that you establish; the tightness is hard to explain, but that common sharing- you have an experience that probably less than 1% of the population ends up hearing. Those friendships that you have are for life. I still keep in touch with quite a few of my comrades; they’re on the other side of the map, but we still talk probably more than even some of my childhood friends. 

Were you injured at any point during your service? 

Not to the point where I had to leave or do anything, but it did take a toll on me physically, while I was there. I ended up having to get some things taken care of when I got back as a result of some of the things I had experienced there. 

Did you face any discrimination because of your race or your sexuality? 

No. Military-wise, no. I don’t feel that anyone treated me differently because of any reasons. There were only a couple of people who knew I was gay, but that’s also because of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell thing. Once that was eliminated- even under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, someone couldn’t come up and ask about it, but if it’s found out that you were, you could still get kicked out. If somehow they stumbled across it and found out, it could affect you career-wise. That was probably, for me, the biggest thing to try and at least cope with, on a day-to-day basis there, because when you’re home, you get to leave. Leave the work environment, and you can kind of let your guard down, and you can do that day-to-day. Because of where you were, there was no letting down, nor could you- when people started talking about family, and spouses, and you had to be careful with what you said. I was in Afghanistan, in June of ’14, when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell got eliminated and they said, “Okay, you’re safe. You can now tell people.” That occurred in June of that year, so by September, it was [that] they would recognize your spouse and you could go and get married. My spouse, I’ve been with now for 19 years. A large portion of my time in the military, I had my partner, but I could not talk about him, acknowledge him, in those essences, nor did I ever think that while I was ever in that that was going to change. When it did, it was amazing, but then you still have to try and figure out, “Well, who do you tell?” While being there, people joke and said things; you had to try and figure out how serious they were in terms of their joking, or are they doing to perceive you differently? Are you going to be accepted differently? There were a couple of friends, while I was in, that knew, so I kind of had an outlet with those people. They knew, so I didn’t have to be on guard in terms of what I was saying. Once it ended, I- [sighs]. It was actually hard to try and change, even though it was accepted. As the people that I was with found out, there was no one that I would’ve considered a friend or a comrade or an associate that made me feel any less of a person because of what they found out. As a matter of fact, with some of them, in their minds- I’m sure they had other gay friends that they didn’t know about, but now that they had someone who they know, and is openly- I got asked a lot of questions. To me, it was amazing that some of the people who you thought would’ve held things against you a little, end up being some of the ones who were most accepting. I don’t know if it was just a matter of luck, or what, but most of my friends, the way they put it- “You know, we knew you before, it would be hypocritical of us to change our minds about you as a person just because of that.” I ended up having the opportunity to introduce my spouse to them, and let them know who I’m with. We have two kids, a son and a daughter- it’s funny, because everyone knew about my son and daughter- well, you gotta be straight! {Laughs} I have a biological son, and he had a biological daughter, and they knew each other from age 5, 6. They grew up together, basically. Just being able to show them- it broke down a lot of stereotypes, just what people thought. The way you act around them- here they had two masculine guys, who being out there- no one would really question them. To find out that okay, yeah, you’re together, and you guys have two kids and you’ve raised them? And how many years have you been together?! My time in the military, I had to be careful. I learnt how to do it, and how to navigate through things, but it was the best day I’ve had in the military, the first time I got to acknowledge my spouse. I’d never had the opportunity without his support- I would not have been as far. As a matter of fact, I was gonna get out at one point. I’d had a bad month. I finished up, and said, “I’m getting out. I can’t do this anymore.” He says, “No, you’re not.” We talked through it, and he explained to me why I wasn’t going to. It was from the financial side! He goes, “Listen. All of our planning has been that you are at least going to have full medical stuff when you get out! If you don’t have that, we gotta figure something out!” He’s in the whole finance side, and planning stuff- he goes, “Here’s what we’ve been planning that includes your retirement”- not even from the pay standpoint, but from the medical standpoint- “here’s what we’ve got without it.” He showed me what the delta was, and said, “How are you gonna make up that money?” {Laughs} “You gotta make it up, since it’s you who is leaving!” I said, “Okay, I’ll stay.” The plan was to stay for 21 years, and after 21 years- and plans changed. I just kept going, and it ended up being 32 years. 

IMG_2368What was your friends and family’s reaction to your service?

They were always worried; it was kind of hard not to. It’s hard not to be at least a little concerned with it. The thing that I told my family is that, “I have and had the opportunity to get out at various times.” The deployments were usually the big thing where they would get concerned. While I was stateside, it wasn’t an issue, but when you’re off, it is. The thing I always told them was, “Very few people get to do, in life, what they enjoy doing. You have a lot of people doing things because they have to, not necessarily that they want to. I’ve had the opportunity, I could’ve gotten out, I could’ve done something differently, but I went back to this because I enjoy it. With whatever happens, take some solace that I’m doing what I enjoy.” I don’t know if that made them feel any better, but at least it was one of those items where you’re doing it by choice. They always let me know they were concerned. I never had to guess that. They were always forthright with, “Okay, what are you doing? Why are you doing it? How do we change it- how do we keep you safe?” They were always supportive.

How did you stay in touch with your family and friends?

FaceTime, Skype. Skype was probably the most amazing thing. During my deployments, we talked twice a day. Once in the morning, once in the evening. I don’t know if I could’ve done it without having Skype, or FaceTime. Those things actually allowed me to stay involved in their life back at home. It was, “I’m going to work for the day, I’m coming back and let’s sit and talk.” That was a lifesaver. How old were your kids during your deployments? 15, 16 when I went to Iraq- my daughter was in 11th [grade], my son was in 12th [grade], so 16, 17. When I was in Afghanistan, they were out of school and in college. Son was in his second year of college, and daughter was in her first year. So they definitely understood what you were doing. They understood what I did; both myself and my spouse, we believed in not trying to shield them from what was going on, but always trying to use it for them as a learning experience. In life, sometimes you get to go down these paths, and you make decisions. With every decision, there is a consequence, and understanding what those consequences are, whether good or bad- we always talked with them about choices. This was something I chose to do, so I need to see it through. It’s a commitment. 

Why, or when, did your service end?

They kicked me out! {Laughs} I did the maximum time I could, based on my rank. I actually went over by a year and half, because I was going through some medical issues that were being cleared while I was in, so my mandatory retirement came, but they hadn’t finished doing my evaluation for my medical, so they had to keep me in until that finished a year and half later. I did serve the maximum time that I was allowed to. 

How did you relocate to Portland?

My spouse grew up here. He grew up here, he left 23, 24 years ago. Change in job, ended up going to California, and that’s where we met. The funny thing is, when we met, he had said that he would never go back to Portland. He goes, “You couldn’t drag me there. I’m never going back.” And so what, 22, 23 years later, we’re sitting down and talking about, “Okay, where is it we want to be from a retirement perspective?” We both knew that wherever we went, we wanted to be close to family. His family was here, mine was in New York; I wasn’t going back to New York. I loved my family, but I did not want to go back to the East Coast. I loved the West Coast, the Northwest, and that was the same with him. However, we did look at one place on the East Coast- we were contemplating Tampa, but the heat and humidity- we spent two years there, the last two years I was in there. I said, “I like it as a place, [but] there’s no way I’m tolerating these summers!” He brought up Portland, and I looked at him like, “You said you’d never, ever move back there!” He goes, “Well… my mom’s there, my uncle’s there, they’re both kind of getting old…” That was his excuse, although we’d both spent a lot of time in Portland, both for work and because I was with him. I liked Portland, but we’ve gotten to see a huge change in Portland over the past 20, 25 years. Hindsight, we should’ve bought some things then that would’ve been great, a great investment! {Laughs} We just decided one day, we got serious about it; we said, “Let’s take a week and just take a week to look around and see where we’d like to be. If there are any homes there that we like.” We made two or three trips here; after the first one, we’d decided that we were gonna do it. We ended up finding a home that we liked, and said, “Okay, let’s do it!” Our friends were laughing at us, because they tell us that we never even said goodbye! One day we’re talking about it, and the next day, we’re gone! It was because we feel like Portland offers a lot, just in terms of things to do. I wish they did some things better for the things offered from the veteran’s standpoint, to match some of the things other states have, but it was someplace that we knew that was also less expensive than California. We got here, and ended up finding out that there were some property taxes! 

Do you think the world has any misinterpretations about the conflicts in the Middle East, or Iraqi and Afghanistan?

In some cases, yes, although I do think that most people who haven’t been there- they don’t understand that the extremists are only about 10% of the population. I’d say a lot of people have these views that it’s 50% of the people who don’t like Americans, that they don’t like democracies- why are we there, trying to change their minds? The numbers that are in favor of trying to do things the way we do them- I say that lightly with the current administration- it’s what they would like to see their country at. Coming back, and telling some of our friends- you end up finding out that the majority of the population are just like us, in terms of what they want. The choices that they want to make. It’s that small percentage that’s wrecking the havoc that’s going on. Getting people to understand that they are people, that a lot of them aren’t running around, crazy, stirring up things- most of them are people, just like us. Families, just like us. They want to have their families and their kids live just the way we want to. 

You were in the military during both 9/11 and the eventual death of Osama bin Laden. What were those events like? 

In all honesty, they weren’t really- killing Osama bin Laden- it was going to happen, just a matter of when, and how, or what. Not necessarily killing him, but the capture of him. When it happened, it was just one of those- another one down, who’s next? The big thing was more, who’s going to be the next person who tries to fill that void now, and how much of an impact? It’s more of the impact it was going to have on the people we were fighting vs. when it actually happened itself. 

What do you think the general public should know about war?

I think that the majority of people probably know this, but even in the small percentage that don’t, it has a huge impact. We did a better job with the soldiers that are coming back now than we did when they came back during Vietnam- the soldiers aren’t making the choices about what they do over there. They’re given a mission, and for lack of a better word, it’s a job. They’re doing what they do so that their family and friends can live a nice, safe life. It’s not that you’re over there because you want to kill. Soldiers are human; they have the same thoughts that you have, but they are doing what they’re doing because they believe that it’s something that’s going to benefit, or at least allow us to live safely. So don’t try to get on a soldier because they are a military member and have been over there and done those things; it’s not that they’re doing it because they want to do it, they’re doing it because that’s what they’re trained to do. 

In the current presidential administration, there has been lots of talk about the military and veterans, such as the transgender ban, women serving, and Colin Kaepernick kneeling. What are your thoughts on these events?

I think it’s great that they are opening the door for women in the military. They are just as capable as the guys. I’ve met some incredible women that have done great things in the military; I try to make sure that my daughter knows them, because I want her to be able to seem them. They are tough, they’re out there doing those same things because they want to do it. They have shown that they are just as capable, and strong-minded, and they can think equally as good- and sometimes better- than what you get out of some of the male leadership. From women being in there, I think it’s great. I think everyone should be able to be who they are, and don’t judge them on what you think- let them go ahead. Set a standard; if they can meet that standard, let them do the job. It’s about doing a job. Doesn’t matter if you’re in heels or sneakers or what- if the job calls for heels, you wear heels! If the job calls for sneakers, you wear sneakers. You go out there, and as long as you can meet the physical requirements, it should be all good. [For Kaepernick], I think they’ve tried to use the military to say that you’re disrespecting the soldiers that have been out there fighting for the flag. No! We’re out there fighting so you can express those, so you have the right to be able to express your opinions, and not be penalized for choosing the ways in how you try and get those across. They make more noise about that then the people running around burning the flag! It’s okay to burn a flag, but it’s not okay to kneel? You’re not disrespecting the flag. In terms of the kneeling part, it has nothing to do with the soldiers or the flag. To politicize it for that reason, it’s been crazy; It’s been wrong. 

Have you found adequate resources and connections in Portland?

The VA here has been great. I have a contact person whose assigned to various cases, and she’s been awesome- on top of things, making sure when I was trying to get enrolled in a medical facility here. She took my information, and I had someone call me back within a week, telling me what I needed to do. There is a difficultly in terms of initially getting in their system; it takes 60, 90 days. That would be the one thing I say they need to do better on. You can’t have an appointment in a few days, I think there’s a problem. There’s either not enough people providing those services, or it’s being mismanaged. I think it’s probably a combination of both. The good thing they have now is that if you can’t get an appointment within 30 days, you can go out and do it within the community. They give you the ability to do it in the community; someone calls you back, and they set you up with an outside source. That can take a while, while they are trying to figure it out. I was recently trying to get a physical therapy appointment through the VA; the appointments were more than 30 days out, and they told me I could go through an outside source and that someone would be contacting me about that. I got contacted about 3 weeks later, and that was to get my information so they can go out and find an appointment. From that side, it’s not so great, but the resources are. Once you get in, it ends up being a lot easier. Once you get a primary care physician who is there, you can go ahead and set up appointments through them, instead of trying to get the initial setup. Once you get in, from what I’ve seen so far, they tend to do a pretty good job in terms of keeping up with the things that you need to get done. It’s just getting into the system can be difficult. 

How did your service affect your life?

My service has been my life. With the amount of time I’ve been in, it’s had a huge impact on my life, while I was going through it as well as now. I sustained some not so desirable injuries as a result of a lot of the things that I did, so that affects me and the things I am able to do now. Would I change it? No. I’ve had a great life, great experiences, and with the things that I have, the people that I have and know, and where I am in life with myself, I’m fine. I’m fine with it. I wouldn’t want to change things, because any little thing that you change could make it worse! It might make it better, but you don’t know. You’re grasping at straws. I’ve had a great time in the military, I’ve had incredible experiences and I’ve got some incredible friends. I’ve done something that less than 1% of the population will ever experience in their life. 

IMG_2396Author’s Note: This project was recently featured in Portland’s Street Roots Newspaper. Read the article here: http://news.streetroots.org/2017/11/10/these-veterans-have-lived-something-extraordinary-portland-student-listens-shares

This interview has been lightly edited for readability. However, to maintain integrity, and to respect the stories of the veteran, content has not been altered from the original transcription. This interview was originally recorded and later transcribed. Questions partially retrieved from:

“Guidelines.” Veterans History Project. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 23 June 2017. <www.loc.gov/vets/guidelines.html>.

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