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Share a Cup & a Story with a Veteran

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The Folger Coffee Company. The opinions and text are all mine.
I am excited to help spread the word about Folgers and Walmart’s, Share a Cup & a Story program. This program encourages us to spend some time with a veteran and share stories over a cup of Folgers coffee and not just waiting for Veterans Day to say thank you for your service.
I headed to Walmart, picked up some Folgers coffee, then headed over to my friend Bob’s house to listen to his colorful stories about his experiences from his time in the Army
folgers-picturesas well as his day to day life now.
Ever since I have met Bob, I have been interested in hearing stories about his life. I find him to be one of the most fascinating people I have ever met so I was thrilled to get the chance to talk to him about his life in the service and beyond.
I started by asking Bob about why he had enlisted in the service, how long he served and where he was stationed. I was also curious about how his time in the Army had impacted his career choices, and if he had kept in contact with anyone he had served with so long ago. This is what he had to say…
It was a much different time when I was a very young lad. We faced a conflict then in South Vietnam and there was a draft to support if you were a single or married male without children. If you could pass the medical tests and were under the age of 24 your fate was sealed. At Christmas time in 1967 the gift I received was that my Uncle Sam needed my body to be in his Army. Like many other young males I found myself wearing green clothes at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri on January 18, 1968. Some were able to defer this by being in college and a very few protested by moving north to Canada. After two months of the joy of living the Army way I moved along to Fort Benning in Georgia. It was a grand summer there of care free living the life wearing all green clothes. But things never stay the same. It was late summer and it was my turn to move on to South East Asia and the land of lots of rice paddies.
As I stepped off my chartered flight it felt as if I had been moved back in time. While in Saigon, a large old city, I saw paved streets with curbs and sidewalks all filled with many motorized vehicles of strange make and model. However, the rural country a few miles south turned to just gravel and mud roads. Added in were two wheel carts pulled by oxen and water buffalo, which was the farming tractor model most used. I remember a very few real rubber tired gasoline powered tractors sitting high and dry, never used in the small hamlets. Likely a gift from America. While these were well-meaning gifts, we just had no clue how the world was a different place over there. No one living this rural had a phone or any electrical devices except for on their 125 CC Honda motor cycles. In the rural rice paddy neighborhoods a great home was 2 or 3 rooms with rice straw and mud walls and roof. No glass windows or nice mowed lawns. Just a mud path between the homes. No plumbing, no natural gas lines, no tv to watch; just mud and rice straw to shelter the family from the sun and the rain. Yes, there was a lot of rain. Often. Bamboo was the tree most often growing there. A very simple life.
While first living at Pershing Field in Saigon, in a large tent with a wooden floor. I helped build a two story tall wood building and moved upstairs to get away from the mud and water. After two months I moved south 100 miles to another city of size called Can Tho which is on a very large river and again boasted paved streets with sidewalks and plumbing and an electrical system which was never the same voltage from hour to hour. Now I was on the third floor of a concrete and red clay block tile design. Far above the mud and water but it still rained often and in large amounts. While there, one day a One Star General paid a visit and asked what we had been before joining his army and wearing all green clothes. I had already been through a technical college to become an electronics technician and worked for over a year at a large major supplier of electronics equipment for the Army. I had a related job code with the Army. Hearing all this the General laughed very loud and said, “Son the Army screwed up, they should have made you a cook,” and grinned from ear to ear.
Time slowly moved on and I had my 21st birthday in a little village called Cai Lay with only about a dozen other Americans wearing green. I was finally old enough to drink and vote now and choose the next Commander in chief, who was of course indirectly my boss. We spent our “Christmas break” here in Cai Lay repairing their radio antenna system. Of course we worked 7 days a week for one year which was the standard time most spent in country during their tour of duty in South Vietnam. You become friends, of course with your coworkers and learn of their prior lives back home. Mr. Bell had lived in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and was a drummer in a rock band. Another was just from Kansas who was married and another good friend was from Montana. We were from all over America, and found ourselves here all thanks to our Uncle Sam. While there I visited with two of my former high school friends, also now wearing green and serving their country.
Because there were so many of us in green due to the draft, when we completed one year in South Vietnam, our time in the Army was cut short with up to a 5 month early out program. Who could refuse such an offer like that? I got out 4 months early and then had clothes of other colors besides green. People move on with their lives and you write letters to a few for a while. As I have grown much older I see some veterans who wear head cover, which is the term for a hat which shows their prior life in the military with unit names and numbers. I still just carry one of my dog tags with keys attached for home and car. The dog tag has ones name and SS number which may be handy as I age and become forgetful of who I am and where I have been in younger years.
I then asked Bob about how he spends his days now that he has retired and what he thinks people can do to show gratitude to the many veterans who have served our country. This is what he had to say…
The retirement years are truly the best part of life as every day is a weekend. I reflect back on my past but have no desire to relive those years because now I am on vacation every day. I fill my days now with gardening, and water sports like sailing and wind surfing. I enjoy construction projects of any nature. I search the sky above for free tv content with 30 year old satellite dishes. Military service is a little different now as the draft has been gone for many years. And, of course, it has many members now of genders different than my own. It was a very short part of my life but it affects greatly how I view life and the choices our countries current leaders make. I now get the small and humble reward on my property tax bill but will never be repaid for the wages lost from a good job while wearing the green clothes for my Uncle Sam.
Is there a way to repay our veterans for their service? Yes, by selection of future leaders of our country who will respect the blood and treasure in making smart and prudent choices for our country. When you look back at history you have to ask—-what were they thinking when making that decision? As a country we need to help others but not be the bully who only sees the world through our own eyes. Our history speaks of how we have done so far as a nation. Perhaps we should learn from past history and strive to do better as just one nation on a planet of many countries.
I am so thankful to Bob for sharing his story and I hope this encourages more people to Share a Cup & a Story with a veteran in their life.