Edwin, a US Army Veteran, was born in Indonesia. His family immigrated to Holland when he was four, and he grew up in Rotterdam. Later, his family immigrated to the US, which was his father's lifelong dream. Edwin became a US citizen in 1967 and now lives in Southern California. He has two children and four grandchildren. He believes that Veterans could use each other's support and had an idea to start a discussion group specifically for vets on GetSetUp. He describes why he thinks this forum could be valuable for Veterans to support and connect with each other.
A bit about Edwin’s military service
I was drafted in March 1969 because I didn't apply myself in college, and my GPA wasn't good enough to qualify for a student deferment. I did, however, learn to become a pretty good hearts and pinocle player in those days. Draftees had a two-year service commitment. However, I fell for the spiel that if you signed up for specialized military training, it would keep you out of Vietnam. So I was discharged as a two-year draftee and signed up for a three-year service commitment with training in electronics in the US Army Signal Corps.
Unfortunately, that didn't work the way it was supposed to, and my first set of orders was for a place called Phu Bai in South Vietnam, close to the demilitarized zone. Luckily, when I got there, I was sent south to the Saigon area, which was a lot safer. I spent my year in Vietnam from January 1970 to January 1971, working in a microwave radio station in a place called Gia Dinh.
After my tour in South Vietnam, I spent the rest of my time in Heidelberg, Germany, a much more enjoyable duty station. I actually considered re-enlisting and staying in the Army in exchange for becoming a Warrant Officer, but the Army wouldn't guarantee me officer status, so I left at the end of my obligation in early 1972. I went on to use my GI Bill benefits to help pay for my college degree.
What does it mean to you to be a Veteran?
One of my favorite Ronald Reagan quotes about veterans probably sums it up best. The quote goes something like this: "Many people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference in the world. A Veteran doesn't have that problem." So it means that Veterans have unselfishly sacrificed their time, and in some cases, their lives, to defend the values our government believed were important enough to defend or go to war over. It means Veterans have done their share to defend the freedoms we enjoy, our values, and our lifestyle.
Why is advocating for Veterans important to you?
The active military, Veterans, and their families deserve to be recognized and supported. Today, Veterans are largely appreciated, and I understand that there are tens of thousands of non-governmental organizations across the country that serve the military, Veterans, and their families in some way. That wasn't the case in the 70s and 80s because of the very unpopular Vietnam War. That pendulum may swing in the other direction again, but regardless, my current interest is in doing my share in serving those who still need help or who have fallen through the proverbial cracks in the system.
What are some of the biggest obstacles facing Veterans today?
In no particular order, it's probably access to benefits, affordable housing, healthcare-related issues, and caregiving resources; plus not knowing what rights and benefits they may be entitled to or missing out on.
What do you think is the best way for people to show their appreciation to Veterans?
Here's a non-comprehensive list that is a good place to get started if you want to help Veterans:
- Donate time or money to Veteran-focused non-profits.
- Thank someone for their service.
- Visit a VA hospital.
- Celebrate Veterans Day with children and grandchildren, so they understand the day's significance.
- Write encouraging letters and cards and deliver them to a VA hospital or clinic. Find one near you: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/
Tell us about your upcoming Veterans' discussion group on GetSetUp.
We'll spend the first couple of sessions finding out what the group wants or needs from a Veterans group on GetSetUp. Once we have a list of priorities, discussion topics, and objectives, I'll create an agenda to add some structure to our sessions. I should note that this is NOT meant to be a place for people who may need a lot of emotional or PTSD-type support.
Some upcoming topics might be participants sharing resources, job leads, ways to deal with the Veterans Administration, Veteran burial benefits, or simply connecting with other Veterans and building new relationships. One of the things I believe Veterans miss the most is the camaraderie they had and enjoyed while serving. Perhaps this group can be a substitute for that need and a place to vent to others who'll understand the issue.
Join Edwin's discussion group, Vets Supporting Vets, starting Saturday, November 12.