Veterans Day – A Veteran’s Reflections

From US Department of Veterans Affairs – here

History of Veterans Day

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

On Liberty

Me on Liberty in California. Joking around with shipmates.

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Raising in the Ranks

In the hanger bay, being promoted… I was supposed to be wearing three stripes to accept my next promotion at this ceremony.

The XO called me on it during the presentation. I guess this shot was before he questioned me.

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West-Pacs

Western Pacific cruises.

I did two.

Which is why I don’t do cruise ship cruises.

I believe this is a shot of the ship in Victoria Bay, Hong Kong… but I cannot be sure… we could be anchored in Singapore… or Manila… or some other exotic Port of Call. But not Hawaii, which I did get to once. On the last West-Pac leg of my tour.

See the World.

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Ships Morale

Before Operation Eagle Pull – which was the U.S. evacuation by air, of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 12 April 1975.

Before that it was steaming in 16 mile squares off the coast. A lot. Day after day.

Over 2 Westpacs. In 1973-74 we waited off the coast. And again in 1975 we waited off the coast.

At one time 85 days.

Leading eventually to the Steel Beach Picnics. For morale building. And sunshine…

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I played movies and TV shows everyday on the CCTV system – that was my key role. For the 600 sailors and 2400 Marines. Besides that, when at sea, I produced a Daily Ship’s Newsletter. I was the chief editor of the ship’s Cruise Book (think HS Annual), and I was in charge of all of the records (LPs) of the destroyed-by-the-Marines ship’s Closed Circuit Radio System.

I used the records from that radio system on the AFRTS (as named at the time) CCTV system playing them all day long as my buddy checked our 75 TVs across the ship. We did programming after I did a 5-minute newscast, pulling content from the ship’s Signal Corp. group’s teletype machines (if they weren’t busy during special operations) from 6 pm until 1-2 am everyday, when at sea.  We went longer on some Saturdays and Sundays – as those nights were the hardest for most, especially as we got further into our longest stretch, of 85 days straight at sea. Not a big deal for many, many sailors.

I did feel the sea legs upon hitting the beach, as they say, after those 85 days at sea.

We all stumbled off the gangplank onto shaking ground, or rather, ground that wasn’t shaking.

But it took a little getting used to, that stable ground as I recall.

Liberty Call Liberty Call

As they say, give me liberty or …

… and you’ve got to show your paperwork … to prove you’ve got it…

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… Liberty that is.

Shipmates

Below – with some friends/shipmates in Subic Bay… Broussard and Jackson (Wallace in the middle).

Photo by Bill, with my camera.

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We 4 were all in boot camp together – from 2 different companies. 45 of the 75 in my company went to the same ship as I. We had been forced to bond – and I guess they got a chance to use that team building exercise. We knew who had to be taken care of later on the ship, and who to avoid as they were headed for Captain’s Mast, and the brig.

Below – with some friends from the ship and some wives and girlfriends of others – up in the mountains of California (near Julian) on one of our weekends off – when we weren’t confined to the “ship on duty” – so that the ship could pull out immediately with at least a set number of the crew on board. The rest could catch up by helicopter.

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Beer and Frisbee. Poor sailor’s weekend excitement.

Up in the mountains – via my motorcycle.

Not quite carefree. Not with Morning Musters at 6 am on the flight deck come every Monday morning.

USS Okinawa LPH3 – The Oki Boat

Da Ship. Starboard side. Overseas. Visiting some Port of Call, I cannot tell which nowadays.

But I “think” this might be from one of my 6-7 trips to Hong Kong on those 2 West-Pacs … maybe taken from up the hill in Kowloon on the mainland? Hmm? Before or after visiting Ned Kelly’s Last Stand – where British businessmen would send numerous free pitchers of beer to our table whenever we went in and they were there. It was my favorite place.

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My A School Training

My DINFOS degree… below… from my all services “A School” … at an Army Fort, in the suburbs of Indianapolis.

Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and some civilians from some 3 letter acronym parts of the government that didn’t share exactly which 3 letters were theirs.

At Fort Benjamin Harrison. (Ben, of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too fame).

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Ahoy Indy! 

After 3 days at home after boot camp and 4 months on the ship it had been decided to send me rather than take whatever the school would send them, I was on my way from KC on Memorial Day, 1973… headed to the NE suburbs of Indianapolis. In the rain. And THE race was on.

I remember listening to it on the radio of my dad’s car (that he loaned me for 30 days – to make sure I’d come home and he could check up on me) the day of the Memorial Day Indy 500.

That degree/diploma above, is for only the Print Journalism side of the dual program I was in. I eventually got the other half of that dual program (for Broadcast Journalism) back on the ship, later. After my Performance Review. Time in Grade. And passing a Written Test.

I had played Deep Purple’s “Rat Back Blue” during the final test for the Broadcast portion of the program at DINFOS, one of the 5-6 songs that I was going to played in my half hour shift simulation test.

My test was stopped and I was immediately flunked out, after a very immediate and very stern rebuke. About what is proper music for the audience. But the immediate F was just for that half (the Broadcast Journalism half) of the dual program.

Who knew?

Rat Back Blue.

The main character played by Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam” – is a story that is loosely based on the experiences of AFRTS radio DJ Adrian Cronauer – who went through DINFOS like I did, 8 years before.

He was there in 1965 vs. me in 1973). Another DINFOS  grad was my MTEC co-worker in 1981/82, Alan Ramias, who is now a partner at PDL, the Performance Design Lab. Alan and I just discovered that we had both been at DINFOS in the fall of 2012, when I was doing some work with PDL. I had just mentioned it in telling some story at lunch. After all of these years we discover that we had that in common too. Besides Motorola, Mager and Rummler.

Other well known graduates of DINFOS include – from Wikipedia:

The station management personalities portrayed in that movie – “nailed it” – IMO. Nailed it compared to the DINFOS instructors, IMO. But hey, I could be wrong.

It was a great program none-the-less. Great. Performance based. As close as it could get to all the variations we would find in our next duty station. Mine, was back to my ship. It would then be overseas. With a brand new CCTV system.

See The World

I flew from Indy to KC for a quick break and then to San Francisco to Anchorage to Tokyo to Clark Air Force Base (PI) and then a long ride through the jungle to Subic Bay to my ship. They didn’t know where to bed me that first night back when I arrived at 4 am.  But when I walked up the gangplank and asked permission to come aboard, the Officer on watch asked if I was Wallace, the guy who was going to run CCTV? Cause it was FU’ed. And I better fix it ASAP!

Welcome aboard.

Uh oh. That’s another story… dealing with shipmate incompetence and ship’s politics; but getting Dennis McCain to be my co-worker and he and I getting CCTV running flawlessly (for the most part) for every evening at sea was my goal.

Our job was to entertain/distract. We played TV mostly commercial free because no one wanted to watch them. Or so I was told after the first few nights. Later, I’d toss in a token one at the beginning of the evening shift, but then there would be no more.

In Hong Kong – in late 1973/early 1974 I learned what a real moustache looked like… from this employee of The Hong Kong Ferry…

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I had walked by him about a dozen steps, after leaving the Hong Kong Ferry ferry ride from Kowloon back to Hong Kong, then turned immediately around and went back and asked permission to have a photo of taken of the two of us. He agreed.

My shipmate and co-worker at CCTV, the late Dennis McCain, used my camera to snap this photo.

My favorite of all of the pictures of me during this time.

Nearer to My EOAS

End Of Active Service. At some point your time left gets shorter. You become a 2-digit midget. Then single digit. And you get so short that you don’t need to open the door to walk out.

Here is the photo below I am about 150-175 days long-short… in Subic Bay… ship side… getting ready to take off for a ride into the mountains… with new bikes purchased with poor sailors pay saved while out at sea for 85 days. It’s as simple as that. Otherwise we couldn’t have afforded them. We were forced to save. Unless you gambled.

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We all got tickets for running a stop sign by the SP on our way back from the mountains to the ship, biking on the streets of the navy base at Subic Bay. I had stopped, having spied the SP jeep following us. But they ticketed me too. I argued and was at first worried about it… going to Captain’s Mast on the base, and not on my ship.

Ha! Our ship left the next morning at 0600.

So I guess that is still on the books somewhere.

But I was getting out soon. A couple and a few months to go (5-6).

I was getting short.

JO3

I stopped after this last promotion to avoid being put into Shore Patrol my last 6 months states-side.

A strategic move.

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I had been on SP a few times, the junior man and the only one without a sidearm. I had a baton? I had to pull drunk sailors and Marines out of wet ditches, were they had passed out. Only to be awakened by me. One time I did that while the Olongapo Police were standing on one bank, guns drawn, with my SP team on the other bank, guns drawn, and me in the ditch pulling some poor SOB outta harms way. And having to duck his drunk wild swing punches as I hauled him up the bank.

As way of my explanation as to why I intentionally avoided the next potential pay raise. I had gone from making $800 a month as a civilian to making $183 a month a poor sailor – back in late 1972. It wasn’t about the money exactly. It was the duty station. I preferred my ship to shore (patrol) at that point.

And I was getting short.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Medals

Nobody is doing their duty for that. Let me assure you. Not the medals. Not the money.

Here is one of my medals…

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… the one for both Operations Eagle Pull the evacuation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 12 April 1975, and also for Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon on April 29-30, 1975 ….

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This is what happens (above) when you just have too many helicopters.

I have personal photos like this one, from hanging around on the bridge and flight deck, taking pictures during both operations. As the Journalist on board, no one questioned me.

They are 35mm slides that I still need to convert/digitize.

As I say, both operations happened in April 1975. It was a busy month. And we were headed home and to Hawaii – and I was getting short.

Photo of the Boat Entering Its Home Port

… off the Internet… LPH-03 USS Okinawa…I could have been one of those white suited sailors standing at attention on that cold deck, for show, entering port, but not just any port most likely. Most likely it was coming home. To its Home Port. To the friends and family. After 9-11 months at sea.

The wow factor. For the folks back home. Wow.

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Burr. The white uniforms meant that according to the Navy calendar – it was summer – regardless of what temperature the ship’s meteorologist (whom I worked for at one time) predicted. I’ve stood on many a cold deck, I can tell you. No fun. No glory.

Except in retrospect.

Shipmates out and about… and my good friend, the late Dennis McCain… in the center… with Mike Corman on the left – from the ship’s Post Office, and myself on the right… in Kowloon… on the mainland… walking up a hill where street vendors sold “art.” And nick knacks. For the folks back home. I still have some “prints” that I bought up there at home today.

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Sail on Sailor.

Sail on Dennis. RIP.

Reflections

Today is different. I get that.

The war ended my 5th day in boot camp. I did collect combat pay and wrote FREE in the top right corner of the letters I sent home f0r many months (where the stamp would normally go) – but I never felt in danger. Well, only once or twice. But nothing like a combat soldier would experience. Not like many of the Marines I entertained.

Today a war continues. People serve. On the front lines, in the supply chain, with the gear in the rear, and don’t forget the families back home. Them too. They serve BIG TIME those military families. Too often forgotten in terms of their sacrifice IMO. Did we talk about military pay – and food stamps?

I’ll let that go right now.

These are some personal reflections of mine.

Rekindled further by a review of these photos, just a few of the hundreds that I have.

Where are your reflections about the military – on a day like today?

Mine memories are both narrowly personal – and also much broader as I extrapolate to others in uniform. From one unique experience and perspective unlike anyone else’s, my memories are both the same and different from many others in that band of brothers, and sisters now, from both the distant and near-term past – and in the current times.

Your and my freedoms have been paid for by these people… who risked life and limb. And many gave them. For your and my and our collective freedom.

My reflection forms a question:

Are we paying them and paying them back, those who serve and served, who risk and risked life and limb, well enough? 

Given what they have accomplished? For us. At what personal cost to each member of the service – and to their families – you and I can only guess?

Well enough…I think not. IMO. But a personally shaded opinion.

But… here’s to them, despite our not taking care of EVERY one of their needs both during and after their tour…

… to our veterans and our active duty members, on this special day, to help us all remember the day to remember the war to end all wars…

Thank You For Your Service and Sacrifices!

Lest we forget.

For there is still plenty to do.

# # #

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4 comments on “Veterans Day – A Veteran’s Reflections

  1. Thanks for your service, Mr. Wallace and all your contributions.. Do you remember the top instructor of the Editors Course around 1972-73? I attended and can’t remember. I’m pretty sure he had a Greek surname. Thanks. Jim Walker

    Like

    • Jim,

      I need to find my spiral notebooks from back in the day. They are already in storage while we prepare to move this fall. Next visit to the storage place I will look for it.

      When exactly were you there?

      Cheers! And thank you for your service!

      Guy

      Like

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