Larry is a proud Marine veteran who served in Vietnam. This month he has written a special Veteran’s Day edition of his column in addition to the regular one. He answers reader’s questions about Vietnam, today’s wars, his service, and more. It is a very special read. Hope you enjoy!
At what age did you join the Marines?
I joined the marines at 19 years of age.
I know you are a veteran and I was wondering how you felt about the recent announcement that all troops are finally going to be removed from Iraq and what your feelings about that war and the one in Afghanistan are?
Cedar Rapids, IA
I am very excited for all of them to get home as soon as possible. I am suspicious of marketing, conditioning, of parades and July 4th, and the wonderful sacrifice that we are to get in line to so we can give our lives for our country. Hmmm……
Hi Mr. Wilcox,
In recognition of Veteran’s day this month, I wanted to ask about your military service. Why did you choose the Marines over the other branches of the military? Was there any aspect of your time in the Marines that you particularly enjoyed?
Although he died 10 years before I was born, President Kennedy and his presidency have been of particular interest to me. I’m guessing you were about 14 when he was shot; do you remember that day, and if so, what do you remember? What are your views on his Administration and service on PT109?
Melanie – I chose the Marines for a couple of reasons based upon my limited education and lack of parenting. First my older brother was a Marine and I was so proud of him as he was my paternal figure. Second, I began reading the glamour stories about the famous Leathernecks and the Marines and it suited my young evolving ego who wanted to be the Best…..or as the marketing campaign for Marines continues to reiterate….The Few, The Proud, the Marines. In retrospect I am very proud to have been a Marine as the training is extremely difficult and hard on you emotionally and physically. We got hit, slugged, swam in mud, punished abused stuffed 70 guys in a closet, etc…..and they were preparing your psyche for WAR. Marines were very well prepared in my opinion for WAR and ill prepared for the transition back to a so called normal American life. I am extremely disappointed in the likes of the soldiers being prosecuted for crimes in war. I will not elaborate but you train a 19 year old how to be an assassin and then prosecute him for his choices. Who are WE as chameleons in this world?
I was in my English Class and my teacher was Howie Strauss, a young man who was going to go into the seminary but decided not to and became a teacher. I felt he had lots of depth and young wisdom at that time in my life and I gravitated to him and have subsequently remained friends. We listened to the announcements of JFK’s death and issues over the school P.A. systems and my teacher cried as sparingly as he could as …..Our momentary leader. A person fighting tears is always more moving than a person out of control sobbing. It was a moving and deeply felt time and he sat down and began writing. He wrote a poem and I no longer remember its contents but I knew when he wrote it and read it…..that is had almighty meaning and was the raw vulnerability of his soul and his parents souls screaming with a silent hush that was disruptive and disrobing to all of us. I knew this was an area of my psyche that I was not ready to enter and again….I wondered who knew where I was and if I would escape or transition this time! I think most all of us were impressed with this young Catholic President and what he had accomplished. And of course with all heroes there are flaws, some tragic and some minor.
First I just want to say thank you for all you have done for the generations who had the pleasure of watching every week as we grew up. I sure loved the show. Secondly I guess for me this is more of a thank you to you for serving our country the way you do and for being so honest about it as you have been. I am retired as of Friday this week from active Army service almost fifteen years. For me it is bitter sweet. How did you deal with leaving the military and more importantly what did you find were the most helpful tools to help deal with the transition into civilian life and with for some of the ptsd we take with us as we leave the military behind.
Sincerely and with respect,
JENNIFER – Well thank you and congrats on your retirement. Often I wonder about my service and its meaning. Anyway, it was a young evolving mind in my case and here I am…..still evolving. I was anxious to leave the very restrictive and myopic mindset of the military. I found it oppressive and probably a good experience for my maturing mind but also very un-creative if you will. It was probably a necessary facet of my life but not necessary for many others.
The transition can be difficult for many who have become the all embodied “military personality” or the personification of such. I think the less one acts like a military person in vocab and in mannerisms the better off they will be. Often people talk different and have different styles in the military and they do not seem to be helpful with a civilian society that would just such behaviour as weird. So downplaying all of that would be helpful in my humble opinion.
PTSD warrants group therapy to continue to address the subtle and over signs.
Alcohol and drugs are NOT a solution and any transition to these will be a grave signal. Exercise is one helpful band aid and so is helping the needy.
All the education you can get will be helpful on many levels. Be careful of relationships in civilian life as they are not as protected as ones in the military. I would move cautiously as your judgement and ability to discern might be limited….and it might not. But I would be slow and cautious. Sometimes people get out of the military and have co-dependent needs and recognizing this would be key. I would also search and read psychological articles on this transition subject matter as it may be a fine map to refer to.
First, thank you for your service to our country. Semper Fi! I have always wondered how you felt about the presidential pardon given to the Vietnam draft dodgers, and as a young man yourself facing the draft, did you ever consider running to Canada? I can’t imagine the horror of being a kid forced into war. Bless you!
Margaret – Semper Fi and thank you. Perspectives often change with time as does the reporting of History. At the time people were going to Canada I was a product of the old…..MY CHOICES WERE RIGHT and so YOUR CHOICES were obviously wrong. Youth…..oh my God?
I suppose in some cases, these draft dodgers were mislabelled like most labels. They were confidant and indep souls and said……NOPE….don’t believe the bull****. To them, I am VERY impressed with their choices.
For the others who searched for a rationale I have no judgement whatsoever. I love them and hope they have found peace and joy in their life cycle and I hope they have found their direction to contribute to society while here. Opinions, Judges, .Blamers……I am so sick of that mentality. We all need to help out in any way we can and with no LABEL….just damn well help some way!
Thanks for your questions! See you next month! –Larry
To ask Larry a question, send an email to AskLarry@larrywilcox.net. He is happy to answer questions and offer advice and will answer as many letters as he can in this column each month. He regrets that he is unable to send private replies. When you send your questions in be sure to include your first name and location!