Our Shared Military History

This past Veteran’s Day, we took a moment to reflect on the impact of our country’s military.  We asked staff to share their personal stories – either as veterans or members of veterans’ families – here are some amazingly touching stories from our own staff:

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John Gonzalez:

I would just like to share a story about my experience in the Military…. I was on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier named USS Constellation (CV-64).  We were deployed to the Persian Gulf.  For the first time ever, I heard our Captain over the 1mc (which is a loud speaker for the whole ship to hear) announce that “we are going to war and have been authorized by the President of the United States to conduct the first of many air strikes against the terrorists responsible for the attacks on our country…” The speech was very motivational and emotional for all of us (this was after the incident of 9-11-01). As we were preparing the flight deck and working long hours it was finally time to launch. It was late March 2003 around 2200 (10:00 pm) when we got to launch the aircraft for their missions. Before take-off the aircraft had to reach full power because of the amount of ammunition it was carrying which included ammunition for the aircraft, missiles and bombs. This whole event took us to the early morning and as it was time to wind down, I finally realized that I was a part of the first air strikes for Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I always think about that when it comes to Veterans Day, the day we fought back as a Nation! I am proud to be a Veteran and want to thank fellow Veterans and those who are serving now for their service!

Ricardo Gonzalez:

I just recently started with Walters Management but do have a Veterans Day story.  I am the oldest of 5 kids and the 3 oldest are boys. My two younger brothers both served in the military, Jose (who is currently a Drill Instructor based at Camp Pendleton going on 13 years I believe) and John who served in the Navy (who currently works in IT for Walters Management).  I remember when they both enlisted how much I would miss them and worried for them. I have always looked out for them even though now they say they look out for me. Through the wars they both fought in and with all the time away from family, it actually has brought our family a lot closer because of the sense of pride we have in them for serving. Every year we attend a 4th of July parade in the city of Rosemead where we went to High School and all the “Thank Yous “ we get from people who know my brothers served or are serving is overwhelming. Any time my parents get a reason to fly their Navy and Marine flags they do it outside our home in Los Angeles and they even go as far as buying meals for any veterans they see out and about. In a nutshell, our family was close growing up and with having two of my brothers serve our country and put their lives on the line for the freedoms we enjoy here at home I cannot say how proud I am to be called their brother.

 JB:

My dad was a company commander with the US Army during Vietnam and we grew up hearing a number of different stories about his experiences there.

Of all the ugliness that he saw during his experience, he often expressed that the hardest, most painful memories from his entire experience in serving as company commander- even more than seeing his friends injured and killed- was having to call the families of those who died and let them know that their soldier would not be returning home. The memories of those calls are still hard for him to talk about, even today.

And for a happy ending…

My dad was drafted right out of law school and was a young, very green, very non-grizzly college kid. He had no idea of the position that he was to hold, until his arrival, when he was told that due to his education /ROTC experience he would be the company commander over many men who were considerably older and had much more war-time experience than he did. He said he always kept that in mind, and for that reason he never pulled rank over those with more experience but talked to them with respect despite the differences in rank.

This came in handy when several months later a soldier was transferred to his unit after lighting his former company commander on fire. He interviewed the new soldier explaining the rules of his camp and his high expectations of the soldiers, and he felt the resentment and lack of respect from the new soldier in return; so my dad mentioned it to one of his guys at the unit who was lower ranking but had “been around the warzone block” for a while.  About a week later, my dad ran in to that new soldier and saw that he was visibly bruised and beaten up pretty good.  My dad asked him what had happened to him, and the soldier just muttered “I tripped” and walked away…My dad knew better than to ask any further questions.  Time went by and the new soldier was compliant from that day forward to the demands that were placed on him. The following year,  after that once bitter& angry soldier had been discharged, he sent a letter to my dad thanking him, saying that no one had ever before believed in him enough to hold him to such high standards, but that the military experience in his unit, while hard, had changed him for the better and he was grateful.  I’ve heard my dad say numerous times that that letter is one of his wartime memorabilia that he most treasures.

TG:

I am a 2nd generation military brat!  Both of my grandfathers served in the Merchant Marines during WWII & Korea. One of them was the only survivor when two of his ships were sunk and then went on to serve in Vietnam along with his son.  My father served in Vietnam and was a career military officer in the United States Coast Guard for 28 years achieving the rank of Lt. Commander.  He visited me last summer and shared with me that he once spent a night in the brig at Liberty Station after a little bit too much fun!  The brig is now used as a storage room for the Association and the jail cell is still inside of it.  (Makes sense that I am now managing Liberty Station!)

My mother served on the Army National Guard for 20 years as a Nurse Practitioner.  I am very proud to be the daughter and granddaughter of military veterans and am deeply grateful for their service, as well as the sacrifice of so many of our military and their families.

Kami W:

I did not serve in the military nor did I grow up in a military family, but I was married into it for about five years.  During that time my husband and I were stationed in Japan and he was on an aircraft carrier.  The ship was supposed to be deployed from the beginning of March until June 13 (one day before our first son was due); however when the Secretary of the Navy met the ship in Guam on March 31, he informed them they were going to be gone for three more months which meant that my husband would miss the birth of his first child.  When the ship did finally come back into port, our son was nine weeks old.  There were reporters on the dock and they wrote the following article.  Anytime a ship is deployed and a new child is born the new dads are the first to get off the ship.  I remember when we were standing on the docks they played the song “I am proud to be an American” through the loud speakers.  To this day, I still get goose bumps when I hear that song because it makes me think about the first day my son met his father.  We still have many friends that we met while Taylor’s dad was in the military and I am very thankful for their service and know what a struggle it is for the families whose loved are away from them for long period of time.  They sometime miss large stepping stones in their family’s lives but this is a sacrifice they are willing to take to fight for our freedom.  I don’t know if this is what you were interested in, but I thought I would share the story.