maybe "rants" isn't the right word. these are simple thoughts about my life. some may be more colorful than others. some language may be offensive, but it depends on your definition of offensive. consider this your warning ;)

18 October 2009

The Veteran: according to Marlon Deleon, EM2/SS

hey y'all. i haven't written anything in a while, and this is what came to mind as my fingers flew over the keyboard. 

"veteran: the most common usage is for former armed services personnel. A veteran is one who has served in the armed forces, especially one who has served in combat. It is especially applied to those who served for an entire career, usually of 20 years or more, but may be applied for someone who has only served one tour of duty. A common misconception is that one had to have either been in combat and/or has retired from active duty to be called a military veteran." 

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Disclaimer: The following text is my opinion and by no means am I representing the opinions of everyone. I have no place to speak for everyone but for myself. These words may or may not reflect the opinions of people I know or associations I am affiliated with and I am not attempting to label them as such. 

I am a Veteran. I was enlisted in the United States Navy from July 1999 until September 2004 when I was medically discharged for a recurring shoulder injury. Basic Training was at RTC Great Lakes (or Great Mistakes, depending on who you talk to) and from there I was transferred to NNPTC South Carolina. I graduated from the Nuclear Powers Program as a third class Electrician's Mate with orders to the SSN-709, USS Hyman G Rickover, a now decommissioned Los Angeles Class Nuclear Submarine, on September 7, 2001. I left Charleston that night, driving back to California to stay for a month before I reported to my boat. I had not been back to California in about a year and a half, and when I arrived in the Antioch area, I stopped by my friend Angelina's house to see her before I came back to my parents' house. That was the night of 9/10/01. The next morning the world was changed because all of our lives changed, and my life was no different. The next two years were spent stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, but I was mostly out to sea. There are many stories about life on a submarine, and no matter how they get told, who tells them, or to whom they are being told, I do not think it is entirely possible to describe life on a sub to someone who has never experienced it themselves. Submariners will only truly understand this experience, and we are only one microculture of many in serving in the Armed Forces. 

Veterans are different. Different from those who have never gone in, and different from those that are still in. We were one way before we went in, we became something else while we served, and the person that re-enters society as a civilian (or reserve) is forever changed. We see things differently, smell things differently, touch things differently, hear things differently, and taste things differently. This is no one's fault, because it is not a bad thing. We're simply different. There are words and sounds that mean different things to us, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Gunshots, the roar of a jet flying by, boats, piers, firearms, medals, shoe polish, creases in clothes, alarms, the list goes on. Because of what we have been through, and each veteran's experience is uniquely different, these unintentional triggers evoke different feelings within us. I am no different. Certain images, comments, and sounds can cause flashbacks and produce levels of emotion that can possibly put me in a fragile state. There have been several instances in which I felt isolated as a result of my status as a Veteran. It is not the intention of the others and I'm willing to bet that they do not even know it occurs. A comment was made in one of my classes the other day about "don't ask, don't tell" and how if someone's in a foxhole and they know the guy next to them is gay, is that going to make a difference? plainly? Fuck no. When the shit hits the fan the last thing you don't have time to think about is someone's sexual orientation. Get real. I may not have been in the middle east or in a combat zone persay, but you can take that kinda shit outta here. I was on a submarine for two years, completely dissociated with the rest of the world for weeks at a time. No sunlight, emails, text messages, facebook, radio, or an array of other things that get taken for granted everyday like fresh eggs and real milk. Soldiers and sailors have a certain level of discipline and respect, and a work ethic that can only be attained through such rigorous training as we have experienced. Nearly every day I go to school I see older Veterans taking the bus to the VA hospital next door to campus. Many of them talk to themselves, sometimes unintelligibly, and some of them just sit there patiently, knowing the world is different. I am like them in some ways, and in some ways I am different. What I feel inside for those men and women I've seen on the bus is something that I can only hope a child will feel when I am older and sees me in whatever state the future brings upon me. 

Veterans Day is approaching in a few weeks, and it is observed to honor all the men and women that have served in the United States Armed Forces. A popular bumper sticker reads, "All gave some, some gave all" and it is 1,000% true. Whether someone was in for two years, eight years, or 32 years, we are all Veterans. We will always have a common bond, and even though many people do not agree with some of missions we have participated in (and some of those people are Veterans as well) most of the Veterans you could meet did not make the choices that sent us on those missions. We were a part of them because we enlisted. We enlisted to serve our country, to better ourselves, and to give back to a nation that gave us and our families something whether we recognize it or not. We stay in because we love it, because we don't know what else we would do if we got out, or because it sounds like a good idea. Some of us, like myself, didn't have a choice if they stayed in or not, and we have to deal with our lives as they are laid out. Whether you approve of the military or not, we are here. We always will be. This is not some pity party invitation or even a decree that you must worship the ground we walk on. This is just a notice that we are here and we're still people. I am one of those people. I ask questions when I'm confused or when I want to know more, and if you share that belief as well, then feel free to ask. There aren't many things I won't tell you, especially in regards to my military upbringing, but sometimes I feel like we can understand each other better if we figure out how we are different. Just ask. I will.