Musings of a Tanker-Joining Up

Joined the army to get money for college. Wanted to join tanks because my great Uncle10479534_10206333941729168_1298285649498770301_n Matt Mattes died in Holland as a tank crewman. It was taboo. I was also looking to drink, see the world. I always knew I would serve, as almost every generation of my family has served our country as far back as the Civil War.

My great Uncle died in the fields of France. My great great-great-grandfather lost a leg in the Civil War as a Union Soldier. My daughter’s great-great-grandfather served in the horse cavalry in the early 1900s. I still have his saddle. I thought I would join the Navy, as had my Grandfather, a purple heart recipient Navy Corpsman at Guadalcanal.

My father served about Navy destroyers in Vietnam. He bombed the shores and supply lines. His destroyer was directly behind the Maddox and Turner Joy when they were hit with North Vietnamese gun fire. He saw the damage. It happened.

My uncle followed up by flying as a navigator on the EA-6B Prowler on the U.S.Kitty Hawk and America in the 70s. The Mattes and Osborne name have been well represented in the military. I almost forgot my three uncles on mom’s side. My Uncle Don Hegewald served in bomb disposal in Korea. My Uncle Don and Gerald, my mom’s older brothers, both served along the border in Korea, as the Cold War began to freeze. Continue reading

Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Christmas

322466_world-of-tanks_wot_tanki_rozhdestvo_1920x1200_( Steve Traywick

It’s Christmas time again.  It’s the time of year where we Americans lose our minds and gochristmas_presents into a commercial feeding frenzy.  We do this every year and by the time Christmas evening rolls around and the toys are put away and all the wrapping paper and empty boxes are ready to hauled out and the dinner table is cleared, we swear that THIS IS THE LAST YEAR WE’RE GOING TO DO THIS!  Next year we’ll do it all over again.

In a few weeks the economic gurus will crunch numbers and announce if this holiday season was a good one or a bad one based on the amount of money each household in the country spends.  As a country we’ll feel good or bad about ourselves based on the amount of money ‘Charitable’ organizations say they took in this year.  Walmart, Target, Christmas-Dinner-dpMacy’s et alii  will let their stock holders know if they can expect a healthy pay out on their stocks.  If not, these corporations will look at America with a jaundiced eye and announce “Shame on you! You should have spent more!”

The rest of the world will go about their business. Babies will be born.  Elderly people will pass away.  People will continue to kill each other for whatever political or religious reason they kill each other during the rest of the year. Doctors and nurses will be on duty.  Ambulance crews, firemen and policemenMilitary+Homecoming+12.20.3 will be on duty.

Around the world, too, young Americans will be on ships, air bases, and Army posts.  Someone will be manning the phones at CQ desks, battalion, brigade and division headquarters. GI’s posted close enough to home will get passes to make the drive home.  All that can will have put in for leave and already left to go to the place that means the most to them: HOME.

As has been the case since the end of World War II, some won’t make it home because they’re stationed a continent away.  Those that can’t get the leave time or can’t afford the plane ticket home for whatever reason’ or decide it’s not worth the aggravation will be around post. These days, a lot won’t make it because they’re hunkered down in a bunker somewhere out on the edge of nowhere wondering whether not home for christmassomeone will decide to drop a mortar round or rocket their way. Or maybe fire a few rounds in their direction just for fun. Or maybe get a few hundred of their closest friends together to see if they can overrun a post or firebase. For a lot of our kids Christmas dinner will be whatever MRE they can get.

I was fortunate that I never had to spend Christmas worrying about getting shot at.  My first Christmas dinner in the Army was in the chow hall in Fulda.  It was no big deal.  It was dinner.  I hadn’t arrived in-country in time to sign up to spend Christmas with a German family.  I did hear stories from the guys that did sign up and got to go with the German families that were kind enough to welcome foreign strangers into their homes for the holidays.  For the most part, the American kids loved the experience.  The barracks, while they may be home, are really no place to spend Christmas.  It’s too easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. Continue reading

Reflections of a Cold Warrior – The Men

Author: Steve Traywick

“Some had families waiting. For others, their only family would be the men they bled beside. There were no bands, no flags, no Honor Guards to welcome them home. They went to war because their country ordered them to. But in the end, they fought not for their country or their flag, they fought for each other.” Joseph Galloway, Narrator: We Were Soldiers

It’s Thanksgiving again and, as always, my thoughts return to a different time and a different

Author Steve Traywick

Author Steve Traywick

kind of family.  In Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Being There, I mentioned my first Thanksgiving in Germany but now I think it’s time to introduce you to the men. Grab a cup of coffee or a beer and come on into the kitchen; I have a tale to tell.  I want you to meet my other family.  We fought with and for each other.

If I didn’t mention it at the beginning of this blog, I AM NOT A WRITER!  I’m not sure I can write a word portrait of someone but I’m going to try.  History is made up of what real people have done. The guys I served with were just that: real people. They were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and friends. Several of them made a huge impact on my life.  I remember most of them with the fondest warmth.  There were some assholes of course. You can’t get a large crowd of people together without having at least one, but I’ll get to them much later on.

A lot of us were just kids although we thought we were grown.  A lot of us were in the Army in the first place because of the economy during the early 1980s.  We simply couldn’t find jobs.   I couldn’t find a job, but since I was (and still am) a history nut I thought armor would be the way to go.  I certainly didn’t want to find myself in the woods humping a ruck sack.

I didn’t intend to editorialize, but I still lose patience with people who remember Jimmy Carter as a great statesman. He may have been, but he was a disaster as a president.  I think the country is better off with him in retirement than sitting in the Oval Office.  I remember high unemployment, sharply rising gas prices, interest rates in the twenty percent, the Ayatollah Khomeini taking power in Iran with Carter’s blessing, the Iran Hostage situation, and a lot more.  The high unemployment rate is what put a lot of us in uniform.

A lot of guys went in to take advantage of the GI bill, but not me.  They had just changed it when I went in and it pretty much didn’t amount to anything. A lot of them stayed in and made the Army a career.  I believe to this day that the classes of 1979 and 1980 formed the backbone of the Army that went into Kuwait in 1991 and kicked some and took some.  We became Uncle Ronnie’s Army.

If you can’t tell, I’m stalling about writing the word portraits of the guys I knew. Through the magic of Facebook, I’ve been able to get in touch with many of them.  Some of them have changed and some of them are much the same way we were when we were younger. We’ve certainly all aged.   So, if any of them happen to read this, I hope they’ll understand.  Continue reading

Reflections of a Cold War Warrior – Being There

Being There is the third in a series of Reflections of a Cold War Warrior written by Steve Traywick. This series provides a rare behind-the-scenes view of what a recruit in the military experiences in the transformation from boy to warrior; from a kid next door to a man who is willing to give his life to keep you free. His first two posts, Every story has a beginning and this one is mine and Reflections of a Cold War Warrior are great reads!

Author: Steve Traywick

Saying that I was naive in those days would be a massive understatement. Even after Basic/AIT I was still a blank slate.  I knew how to wear my uniform.  I could march and salute. I could spitshine boots. But I still wasn’t a soldier.  I didn’t know it yet, but my real education was about to start…in all sorts of ways. Continue reading