Over the years I’ve noticed a seismic shift in the American public’s attitude towards military veterans. After I finished my tour in Viet Nam in June 1967, I came home to a public that was indifferent or downright hostile to vets. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, Americans saw a direct need for a strong military and began referring to anyone that had ever served as, “a hero” and began to constantly “thank them for their service”. This is a welcome change, but to my generation of Veterans, we saw our service as a duty, as a part of our American birthright of citizenship. The price of living in a safe, free, creative and prosperous society is directly proportionate to the sacrifice the warriors and their families make to hold the peace. Peace is never guaranteed – freedom needs a soldier.
When I was growing up during the 1950’s, everybody had a brother, uncle, husband, father, or cousin who was or had been in the service. With the draft hanging over every young man’s head, it was not uncommon for a guy to join-up or volunteer before being drafted. The idea was to get the military service out of the way, so he could start his working life, family or career. Sometimes, guys were encouraged to join like my high school buddy who was given the choice of jail or joining the Marines. The Marine Corps Drill Instructors got him on the right track and after his discharge he became a successful land developer and businessman.
The draft and military service have been referred to as “the great leveler” by some. The concept was that American citizens from all walks of life and social statuses were mixed together and bound in a common purpose. I saw this first hand in my unit. We had a guy from Boston whose family socialized with the Kennedys. We also had two guys from Arkansas whose first pair of shoes were the boots the Marine Corps issued them.
Last September, I attended a reunion with my Viet Nam unit, “Charlie” Battery, 1st Battalion, 13th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division. We toured the war memorials and national monuments and then we went to Arlington Cemetery for a wreath lying at the tomb of the Unknowns. I was privileged to be one of the four presenters, presenting a wreath with our unit’s name on it. As we stood there saluting while Taps played, my wartime experiences flashed through my mind. The patrols, my buddies, fire missions, monsoons, rice paddies, mud and the heat. My experiences weren’t so different from those veterans from past and present wars. It was hard to believe 48 years had gone by! We were surrounded by the graves of veterans from other wars; regular guys and gals who had to do what was right at a time when their country needed them. None of us felt like heroes.
Jack Poeske, a Corte Bella Resident served in the United States Marine Corps from 1963-1967 and RVN – Charlie Battery 1st Battalion 13th Marine Regiment, 5 Marine Division – 1966-67.
To see a short video photo show of our Viet Nam photos and our 2014 Reunion via YouTube, see the links below. You may also Google the titles in quotations:
“CHARLIE BATTERY 1/13, 5th Marine Division 1966-67
“CHARLIE BATTERY 1/13, 5th Marine Division 1966-67 *2014 AD REUNION* WELCOME HOME MARINES!”