Respect all that served

Respect all that served

Sgt. Grit,

Recently I have read many stories concerning our military personnel being disrespected. Other stories centered on those that served stateside duty not being considered as veterans. This has got to really hurt and is so undeserved. Only a few of us are so fortunate to be combat veterans.

Growing up I always felt that I was destined to do more with my life than playing sports in high school, going to college, and then entering the business world. After 3 semesters of college and untold amounts of alcohol I felt this burning desired to make something of myself, make my life mean something to others, and to have a clear purpose for my life. It was then I joined the Marines at the height of the Vietnam War. My Dad was a Marine and received a medical discharge missing all the action in WWII. To this day I know that has been his greatest disappointment in life. Maybe that is why he began a long career in law enforcement. It’s not that we both want to kill something or someone; it’s just that we both love our country and will do whatever it takes to stand in the path of those that want to destroy what we love so much.

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    • After being in the Marines awhile I soon made my way to Jacksonville, N.C. where I was converted from a fixed wing engine mechanic to helicopter engine mechanic. It was then I saw the handwriting on the wall and started preparing my wife and family that my dream to become a combat Marine would soon become a reality. In late ’67 I started my deployment to Vietnam finally arriving in DaNang in January ’68. The minute I stepped off that plane I realized this foul smell in the air, but I knew this was where I was meant to be. Later that day I took a short ride to Marble Mountain where I’d spent the next 13 months. I was assigned to the headquarters? squadron component shop with a responsibility of repairing the helicopter’s main and tail rotors. There I saw the main combat veterans that were flying missions each day providing support to our brothers on the ground. This is what I wanted, this is my chance to make a difference in someone’s life, but I was assigned to a headquarters? maintenance squadron and they didn’t fly……..they supported those that do. After many months of dodging the usual mortars and rockets, of “supporting those that do”, and watching my request to fly falling on deaf ears, I couldn’t stand it anymore. After chow one day I went over to the flight line where the most action seemed to be. I inquired with the LT in charge what my chances would be to start flying. To my surprise he directed me to gear up, draw a 60 and .38, and report back ASAP. He asked who my supervisor was and stated he would notify him of my new assignment. Like a good Marine I followed my last order, returned later, and was in the air before sunset flying as a General’s Escort, a HR mission, and followed that night by many Medi-vacs. The days and nights seemed to blend into each other and became as one. I lost track of what day or week it was…….I didn’t care…….I was finally where God meant for me to be.

      Since I had been sleeping on the flight line I did not have an occasion to see any of my hooch or shop buddies, however I did see one who advised me I had been reported as AWOL. I made it a priority to contact my supervisor and advise him what the LT had said. Needless to say this did not stop the steam emanating from his collar, but I felt like he at least understood my motives as he too proudly wore a set of air wings. The end result was that my record was cleared, but I was ordered back to my shop and not to venture near the flight line again. This made my last few months almost unbearable. I knew where I was needed….. I had done the job, but as an E-4 my opinion didn’t count.

      In January ’69 I returned to the world to face those that hated me for what I had done and those things I had not done. It did not take me long to figure out that it was the Marines or my wife and at that time, stateside duty in the Marines really sucked, although another stripe was soon added that eased some pain. I believed that all Marines belong in a combat zone. Since I was still assigned to a headquarters? maintenance squadron in California I knew I would face the same or worse situation regarding me flying on my next deployment. Therefore when my 4 year enlistment ended so did my days as an active duty Marine. I returned to Texas and immediately joined the police department. Maybe I was again where God meant for me to be.

      In November ’04 I read a newspaper ad looking for former police officers to train police recruits in Iraq. A month later on Christmas Eve I was boarding a plane for Baghdad. After during my 7 1/2 month stay in Baghdad I received a call on my cell phone from my youngest son, Jacob, who wanted me to convince his mother that he should join the Marines. Later during my next 7 1/2 month mission in Mosul I received another call from Jacob who had a Marine recruiter sitting at the kitchen table, Jake wanted to be a grunt. I returned from Iraq in April ’06 in time to be present for Jacob’s graduation from boot camp as a third generation Marine. He was following his own destiny. Today Jake is with the 3/5 Marines, India Company in Anbar province doing what God has led him to do.

      To say I’m proud of Jake is quite an understatement. He has been a special son since his birth and there are not enough words to describe how he completes my life. Now my days and nights are measured by his occasional phone call to tell me he and his fellow brothers are alright. Attached is his picture in case one of your readers bump into to him someday. And I would be just as proud of him if he had never become a combat veteran as I am with 3 of my 4 best friends who served, but never saw combat. Their sacrifice and dedication to this country can never be repaid.

      So to those that served outside a combat zone I say to you……..stand tall…….the majority appreciates your service, sacrifice, and dedication.

      Semper Fi

      Bill E. Mills, Jr.
      Sgt. E-5 USMC
      1966-1970

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