“Thank you for your service”

You’re Welcome

A memoir by Dave O’Connell

This is the story of Dave’s time in the service,

and more than that, a description of what being in the military is like.  “You’re Welcome” will give you some insight into the daily life of a soldier. This book came about as Dave pondered the rather new phenomenon of people thanking him for his service.

It has become common

…that when one determines a person is or was a member of the military they thank him or her for their service. It’s a respectful and honorable practice, and I am sure it is appreciated by the recipient. I often wonder if the thanker knows what they are thanking them for. 

Dave and I, along with many of our generation, had a different experience.

The truth is there were plenty of people who thanked us, bought us drinks and even applauded when they saw us in uniform (or assumed our military service from our haircuts in an era of long hair).  I was commuting from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Farmingdale as I was mustering in from my reserve group to active duty.  When Sue greeted me at the station with a big kiss the commuters (Dashing Dan’s of the LIRR at a time when windows on trains opened) hooted, whistled and applauded as if we were reunited after a long deployment.  I had been in Brooklyn for a day or two.

These were older folks, those who already served, the greatest generation. There was another group of citizens who took a different approach.  “Baby Killer” was common along with other harsh accusations, especially after My Lai. They assumed it was the soldier who made the decision to invade a country and kill its people. 

Politicians make wars.

Ethnic, economic and ideological differences bring them on.  Fear of those we don’t understand often plays a role, but the soldiers have little to say about it. Although each of us should have a moral compass, it is difficult to maintain when you live among a people who don’t want you there, who didn’t ask you to come. Fear makes for a quick trigger finger.

When Dave and I were in the service we were motivated by the draft. 

Both of us enlisted but only to have some input into our destiny which, if drafted, would more than likely lead to the infantry and Viet Nam. McNamara’s strategy was to overrun Viet Nam with bodies and bombs as Bush’s was to allow Shock and Awe to get Iraq to back down. Neither worked.

There were a lot of us that ended up on the front

…but the military is big and covers the world. It has many more logistical workers than fighters, I think the ratio in our time was 6 supporters for each fighter. Many of us didn’t see the horror of war back then. I am thankful for drawing the Atlantic Fleet. Stationed in Castro’s Caribbean.  Although there were some hot spots and a few dead sentries on our perimeter, it was nothing like those who were “in the Bush” of Viet Nam. Dave was in the second most hostile action of our generation, the Korean DMZ.

We had John Wayne and all the WWII movies to help us accept our war.  It wasn’t like what we thought. Thank you for your thank you but you should probably read this book to find out what it is you are thanking us for.

From me to all the vets of my era and to all the members of today’s volunteer services, both active and veteran, my deepest thank you for your service.

Wes MacLean HS Yearbook 

Weston MacLean News Articles

 

Wes MacLean Memorial Service

To the politicians who create these wars, I pray that your children don’t have to do what we had to do.