Branch of Service
Where did you serve?
I Stationed in California from 2001 through 2005.
Why did you join?
I joined because I wanted to pay my dues
Why did you pick the service branch you joined?
I joined the Marine Corp for the challenge.
Do you recall your first days in service?
Yes, the first few days were tough training, something that’s different; you really develop a good sense of comradery.
What was your job/assignment?
My assignment was very structured in routine, everyone had a specific purpose. We relied on team effort.
Were you awarded any medals? How did you get them?
Individually no, however our unit would proceed to get a combat action ribbon.
Were you deployed? If so, where did you go? How Long?
Yes, I was deployed. I was in Iraq for 6 months. Before Iraq, I was training in Japan for a year.
Which war(s) <if any> did you serve in (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Second Congo War, Iraq War, Afghanistan War, Desert Storm, Operation Freedom etc.)?
I served in the 2nd Iraq war.
Do you remember arriving and what it was like?
I was on edge; we were in the combat zone. When you get there all you think about is how hot it is, we would slowly go outside because of the weather. We only went out to smoke, eat, and to work on equipment.
How did you stay in touch with your family/friends?
A majority of the time we stayed in contact through mail. We were given the opportunity to call home through phone stations. You can pay for calls with gift cards that we had to buy. If the squad did really well, they let us use the phone to call home, we would share the phone.
Was there something special you did for “good luck”?
I would pray that everyone makes it home. Having each other in the moment kept us all together and sane when times get tough.
What did you do when on leave/ R&R?
The Marine Corps has a different arrangement than the army. The army was in Iraq longer, so they had leave during their deployment. I was in Iraq for 6 months straight. We did get a leave before and after we were deployed.
Do you recall the day your service ended?
It was a bitter sweet experience. You won’t be seeing your buddies all the time, but they turn into family.
What did you do in the days and weeks afterward, did you have any support?
A bunch of my buddies and I were all over the country. I had to relocate from California to Nevada to sustain a job. In 2009 I moved to NY to be closer to family.
Did you make any close friendships while in the service? Did you continue any of those friendships?
Yes, we don’t talk as often, but especially during the Marine Corps birthday we check in on one another to see how we are doing. My roommate in the barracks lives in Queens and I invited him to my wedding, every once in a while I see him.
Did you join a veteran’s organization?
Not at first, I didn’t get introduced to any veteran’s organizations until I moved to New York. Now, I am a part of the VFW and the American Legion. It is nice to be around a group of guys that know what you have been through; you get back into that old mentality of “these people have my back”. There is quite an age gap. Guys from my era started to come around and join, we have a mixed group of guys now.
What support helps you? What support do you want to see more of to help veterans or those returning from service?
The only thing is what the veterans themselves should be doing. They should start finding out what’s out there for them before they come home for example: finding the mental support to reach out to and get help from. There is much more support now and they are improving. More things are available, medical professionals offer free services. It is hard for guys to make appointments during normal working hours; there are places available outside of regular work hours. Example: 24-hour hotlines and weekend appointments. I am not a native New Yorker so at first it was hard to find places, but now I know a lot of places to go. I would know a lot more than guys who are just starting out to get support. I can tell them where to go for support. It is all a part of being part of the military, looking out for your own and watching the guys back. Once the person is out of the service, they feel like they are alone and that they don’t have anybody.
What can we do to spread awareness so others are not forgotten?
I think writing letters to people who are in active duty. Children in elementary school write letters saying “Dear solider, you are my hero.” Or sending small boxes of essentials, candy, beef jerky, and baby wipes. When we got the packages, we felt like we were important. It feels nice to be appreciated by people you don’t even know. Every thanksgiving, the VA gives out turkeys for veterans who are in need.
What stigma have you experienced or seen others experience of being a veteran?
In the veteran’s eyes, especially if you are first getting out, you have this mentality that everything should function like the military. The idea there’s no nonsense, you just get things done. When you get out, you find out things aren’t like that. When you are in the military it is about the group, when you get out there is a whole lot more of individualism.
Has this stigma stopped you from receiving services?
Not necessarily, but you have a feeling that you are being treated differently. Like the special parking spaces at the store for Purple Heart guys. Some people could kind of throw a fit about why is this person parking there? People could start to question why that person has a purple heart. What makes them special? I have witnessed this myself. Of course it bothers me; I just like to let it roll off my shoulders. I don’t even let it bother me because I’ve been out for so long. If I was just getting out and I experienced this, my reaction would have been different.