Author Topic: Episode 315 — Veterans Day  (Read 3094 times)

Offline Shadowrider

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Episode 315 — Veterans Day
« on: April 22, 2012, 03:10:20 PM »
The Survival Podcast

Jack Spirko

Episode 315 - Veterans Day

November 11, 2009



Much of today’s show is a re-broadcast of last year but there are some new things included. Take time today and think about all the sacrifices made by our vet, thank a vet and expect something different at the end of today’s show.

I used last year's audio only because it said all that needed to be said. To all vets out there that listen to TSP this show is especially for you, thank you for your service and thank you for the honor you so clearly demonstrate. Thank you also for listening to TSP, that indeed is an honor for me to know how many vets out there find TSP worth taking time to listen to.

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Offline Shadowrider

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Re: Episode 315 — Veterans Day
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2012, 03:11:06 PM »
Today's not going to be about how you can survive. It's not really going to be about politics other than how politics sometimes play into the life of a soldier. As today is Veterans Day I am going to talk about what it means to be a veteran and some of the things that our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, our marines, and even our coast guard do for us on a daily basis that's unseen and seldom seen in any light of the glory of combat. And I use that term hesitantly because I don't really believe there's anything glorious about combat. I just know that whenever we stop and recognize our troops, we recognize our frontline combat troops generally first. That's what we think of, and especially people that don't have military members in the family. The people that are kind of one step away from direct contact with any military personnel really look at it and go okay, well it's the combat troops that do everything. And those guys get a huge, huge amount of thank you from me and I think from most of America.

But I think it's important maybe we look at the whole system of the military and understand how it works and the sacrifices that very, very young people make. Sometimes sacrifices they don't even understand or appreciate themselves until many years later. I'll try to relate some personal experiences to you of some things that you just would never know, unless you were there, about people, the things that they do, the sacrifices that they make, and the hardships that they endure. And seldom will they come back to you and expect pity, or sympathy, or a handout.

Generally speaking, I'm going to ask you to do something today, which is to find a veteran somewhere, anybody that served, that wore the uniform of their country with honor, and stepped up and did what they were asked, and what in many cases they were not even asked, they volunteered to do. And just say thank you.

But just about any soldier you'll find, any sailor you'll find, any airman, any marine, whether they were something as humble as a cook, which maybe it shouldn't be as humble as we look at it and see it, and I'll talk about that in a bit, or as frontline as a Delta Force soldier. Just about any of them when you say thank you, will say they appreciate it, but they'll get a very almost embarrassed look, and I'll tell you what that look is, folks. It's "No, there's people that deserve this more than I do." That's what that guy is thinking when you tell him thank you.

And when you put your hand on his shoulder and say, "Hey, man, I appreciate what you did." He's thinking, "Not me. There's people that did so much more than I did." And you'll find that from the guy that sat behind a desk in South Carolina and never deployed, he'll feel that way. And you'll see the guy that lost a leg and he'll feel the same way. And it's something that's hard to understand if you haven't been there.

I want to tell you guys something about Veterans Day that I think a lot of people may be heard in history class, but it's long since been pushed to one of your back brain cells and kind of forgotten about. And that's why it's November 11th. What is significant about November 11th?

November 11th for a long time was actually just known as Armistice Day. It was the end of The Great War. At one time The Great War, The War to End All Wars was what we now call World War I, which ended on November 11, 1918, officially at 11:00 A.M., in the morning, or O 1100 for you military types.

Now, it's no coincidence that it was the 11th month, on the 11th day, on the 11th hour. In fact, the people that worked out the Armistice between France and Germany, England, the United States, and Canada by this point, with the Western Front kind of along the way as they were working out the agreement, and the peace treaty, and everything else. And coming up with everything that everybody was willing to agree to end the war, they realized that this day was going to be kind of right there. It was going to be right around the 11th day of November.

And they looked at it and they went, 11th month, 11th day, why not 11th hour? And they planned it that way so there could be this great decree that the guns fell silent on the 11th month, at the 11th day, on the 11th hour. And it sounds glorious when you hear it, if you heard like a James Earl Jones voice say that and watched guns go silent.

Well, what World War I should have taught us is that war is not glorious. War is bloody, it's nasty, and it should be avoided at all costs. And it should be an article of last resort, not a first response because young men and women die and because people come home maimed. And because men do things to each other that should never be done on our planet in time of war because they're put into a situation where they have to.

But clearly by the end of World War I we hadn't learned that lesson because we let idiots, just like some of the idiots running our governments today; idiots decide that it was cool to be the 11th month, of the 11th day, of the 11th hour. And because of that, thousands of people died who did not have to.

You see, by the time that was made a decision, there was no longer any doubt as to what the outcome was going to be. Because of that decision, thousands of men died. In fact, about 15 minutes before the official end of the war, I don't remember if it was a German group or a French group, or whomever, but some commander decided to make the last charge of the war, and took his men up out of the trenches across the field, and killed enemy soldiers, and lost many of his own. And his soldiers, who knew that the guns were about to fall silent, still went with him. And that says something about the bonds that men form in war, and the willingness to do something that really doesn't make sense because it's what you're commanded to do.

And because of all this, a lot of people, not recently, but a long time ago before this lesson was really lost on our youth, I think most people today, if you asked them about the time they graduated from high school about any of this would probably not remember it, not know it, and probably aren't even taught it anymore. I don't know, I haven't been to school for a long time, but I doubt that that message is really taught that way anymore.

But when it was, there were people that said, maybe this isn't a good day for Veterans Day. Maybe there's a better day for Veterans Day than a day that was put together by French and German government officials that cost the lives of so many men for something that didn't matter, for something that was honestly a stupid idea. And actually, I think today's a great day for Veterans Day because it reinforces how many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines have to do things that don't make sense because somebody in authority over them, usually a civilian in the government, makes a stupid decision.

And it goes back to the creed of the soldier, which is, "Ours is not to reason why. Ours is only to do or die." And you would be able to finish that, if you didn't want it to rhyme, with, "While trying to do what we were asked to do." You see, a soldier, an airman, a marine, a sailor, we're not given the option to not do something because it's stupid, or it doesn't make sense, or even if it's wrong. If it's not clearly immoral or illegal and you're given an order, you follow it.

And that's what 17- and 18-year-old kids that hold up their hand and solemnly swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the officers appointed over them, the president. If they're in the National Guard, the governor. They take that oath, 17-, 18-, 19-years-old. They're trained for six weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks, depending on what branch of service they're in. They're put in a uniform, they're sent off to school to learn their individual trade, and then they're sent to all parts of the world to do whatever they're asked to do by people that they've gone to protect. And even when it doesn't seem like what they're doing is directly protecting us, that's what makes them willing to do it.

There's two things that motivates a deployed soldier. One is home. Home is the most important thing to a soldier. And without home, nothing really else will matter. And it's protecting home and knowing that one day I'll go home that matters more to a soldier than anything else you can possibly think of. And the other thing is the guy next to you, or the woman next to you. The person that you're there with that you have to help get their mission done and help them make it through whatever you're going through. Whether it's trying to figure out how to get supplies to hungry soldiers from a logistical standpoint, or who to get out of a firefight it's still always about the person next to you. That's what it's really about.

And what I wanted to point out today is not so much—and I don't want to in anyway come off like I am belittling the contribution of the combat troops, because they are the frontline. And everything that I'm going to tell you about today exists for one reason: to support the combat troops. In other words, the cook, the mechanic, the supply person. They don't exist so that people can wear the uniform, be a soldier, and not go into harm's way. That's not why they exist. Somebody didn't just create those jobs to give people that wanted something to do but didn't want to do all of it, a place. They exist to support the combat unit.

You take away the frontline infantry. You take away the Army Ranger, the Special Forces, Marine Recon, Marine tank battalions, the Navy battle groups. The F-16 pilot in the Air Force, the YF-22 pilot in the Air Force, the C-130 pilot in the Air Force that flies the Spectre Gunship. If you take away all the combat units, and they don't need a supply person, they don't need a medic, they don't need a cook, they don't need a mechanic. All of these positions in all the branches of military exist so that the combat troop can do its job.

And I think we forget about those people. Or you talk to somebody and you go, "Yeah, well when were you in?" "Oh, it was during Gulf War I." "And what were you?" "I was a mechanic." "Oh, okay." And that's what I did, folks. I was a mechanic. And you feel like, oh, all right. But you know what? The people that were mechanics and supply sergeants made Gulf War I the success that it was because they made sure the vehicles rolled, they made sure that people got their ammunition, that people got fed. That the military could move that fast. So no, they're not risking their lives in the same degree as the guy that's in the Abrams tank, but they're sticking their neck out there and they're doing something for all of us. And we tend to forget how valuable what that is.

We forget what our soldiers do in peacetime. Back in 1992, I was deployed with a group of combat engineers into the Aguan River Valley of Honduras. There were no mortars flying, there were no missiles. Nobody was shooting at us except the occasional pissed-off farmer that was angry that we were on their land. It wasn't a war zone, a combat situation, or anything like that.

We were sent there into the middle of nowhere, to one of the most remote areas I've ever seen in my life that was both harsh, brutal, and beautiful at the same time. We lived in tents, we lived in the dusts, and everybody walking around in this volcanic ash soil looked like Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown with little clouds of dust around them. And we endured that and our mission was to build 10 miles of road and culverts in a place where there were no roads and culverts, so that the people that lived there could receive supplies and food.

We had six months to build the road, and we were told when we went there, "Men, if you don't get it done in six months, we'll be here seven. If you don't get it done in seven, we'll be here eight. We need to get this road done. If you get it done in five, we can all pack up and we can go back to Panama." Which for us, when we were deployed to Honduras, Panama was a pretty nice place to want to be. We really wanted to get back to Panama.

So we went to work and we worked hard. And we finished that road in just under five months. We had the engineer guys go up and down the road, run sonic testing to make sure everything was compacted right and everything was done right. And we got the road certified as being completed. It wasn't quite five months. And we had a choice. We already had our deployment set up at six months and we could wait for that to come and stay and find something to do. Or we could go ahead and accelerate our deployment back to Panama.

In the end, the commanders, after talking to the sergeants decided that, you know what? These men were motivated and they were willing to do more. And they'd already been here this long, so why not finish the full term of the deployment? And there was some grumbling, but basically the soldiers got behind it and for the next month we built schools.

We built schools for children that had never seen a school. We built schools that were better housing than the houses that they lived in. And they were simple buildings, built out of cinder blocks and mortar, plywood walls interior. But they were a place where kids could go and learn instead of sitting around under a tree to learn. They actually had a place for when it rained, and it rains a lot in the Honduran rain forest. All right? Where they would be protected, where they would be safe. And we did that for a month. And we built a lot of schools in that area. And we built some community centers, and we built some other structures that would be used by the little local town governments.

We made a difference to people's lives and that's not about me. I sat around in the motor pool and I worked on trucks, and I worked on forklifts, and I worked on scrapers. And I turned a wrench, and that's what I did. These other guys, they went out and they ran cranes, and they put these huge culverts in, and they risked their lives. And I do mean risked their lives.

There was one truck that was brought to me and they said, "You need to do a CoD on this." Which a CoD is a cost of damage assessment. And basically what you're doing is you're determining if the damage to the vehicle is so extensive that its repair would outweigh the cost of replacing it. And this was a five-ton dump truck, and if you've ever seen the dump trucks with the big pieces of the dump bed that extend over the cab of the truck, well that piece above the cab of the truck had been smashed down into the truck.

What had happened is the guy driving it had to go into a place where we hadn't actually built the road yet. It was some kind of like a trail to bring some gravel in. And when he did that, that trail kind of gave out and the truck tumbled, end over end down a very steep bank. And when I looked in there, I couldn't believe that when I was told that the guy that was driving it was actually alive, had been MEDEVACed out to Soto Cano and from there would be taken to Texas, to San Antonio, to the San Antonio Medical Center for further treatment.

He had broken his feet bones, his leg bones, his ankles, his knees. His pelvis had been shattered. His shoulder, one side had been completely shattered. His arms had been broken, both of his hands. They say he would probably be lucky to regain the use of his faculties above his waist. He would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. But he would probably survive with a lot of complications.

We never really heard more about that man. I didn't really know him. It was a fairly large unit; I was deployed with over 800 people. And we were a logistical support element for that battalion. I don't know whatever happened to him. But I know that on the side of a hill in Honduras, when nobody was shooting at him, when no one had a gun, when everybody would have looked at him and said, "Yeah, he's just a construction worker," he sacrificed a lot of his life so that people somewhere else could have a better one.

And I don't even know his name. I just know his truck. And I have a picture of that truck. And every time I open my old photo album and I look at that vehicle, I think of that man that I've never seen, whose name I don't know. Because at the time that I was doing that, I was 18-, 19-years-old and I didn't really understand the sacrifice at the time. It was just a truck that I had to work on because just like that man, I was still a kid.

That's who we have all over our world right now. And I want you to understand how proud we should be of everybody, from the guy that risks his life in the dark with a sniper rifle, down to the cook that makes sure that sniper gets fed with hot chow when we comes in from that long mission.

And there's a lot of bravado in the military. And everybody thinks that their group, that their unit is a little bit better than everybody else's group. There's even bravado among the cooks and the supply people. The cooks say, "Hey, without us you wouldn't eat." The supply people say, "Hey, without us, you wouldn't have anything to feed them and they wouldn't have any bullets." Right? And there's all this machismo, and this attitude, and even some animosity among groups within the military, but it's all because of one thing: they're proud about what they do. They believe in what they do.

And in the end—in the end, when they're all put together, our military is the most awesome force ever put together on the planet. And sometimes I may seem like I'm not real happy with what our military is doing. I'm always happy with what our soldiers are doing. I'm always happy with what our sailors are doing. I am always happy with our airmen. I am always happy with our marines. I am right now unhappy with a lot of the people in our government. And I'm hoping I don't become more unhappy with them in the future. I have a bad feeling about some of the things that our soldiers, airmen, et cetera are going to be asked to do in the near future. But I'll never stop pulling for them and you shouldn't either.

The other thing is find someone today that served, shake their hand, and tell them thank you. And I don't mean by email. Find someone that you can personally walk up to and say thank you to. Don't skimp out on it. I guarantee you, with the millions of men and women that have served over the years in this country, somewhere around you is one of them.

And the reason I want you to do it in person is I want you to see the way that maybe a big man or a tough woman turns bashful, won't make eye contact with you after you say the words thank you. Because they believe that someone else deserves it more. That's important. It's important for the soldier to hear and it's important for you if you're a civilian to understand. You won't understand it unless you do it and I can tell you from personal experience that every time someone does it, it matters.

So today, the 11th day of the 11th month on the 11th hour, the guns fell silent and men died so that we would have those words to ring throughout history because somebody somewhere thought they were cool. And that's just one example of sacrifices that have been made by soldiers all across the world for countries all across the world so that somebody else could have something cool to talk about. When you thank a soldier, what you're saying is, "What you do matters in spite of some of the things like that you were forced to endure."

Again, this has been Jack Spirko with another edition of The Survival Podcast helping you figure out how to live a better life if times get tough, or even if they don't. Take a moment today and thank a soldier.