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Honor Flight: old times remembered

The Spirit of Tehachapi

A couple of weeks back the monthly Honor Flight/ Veterans’ Breakfast was held at St Malachy Church’s McMullan Hall. Some 130 veterans, family and friends spent three hours or more greeting one another and reminiscing while volunteers from the community and veterans organizations served the meal. There were vintage vets from World War II, Korea and Vietnam plus more recent veterans of our present War on Terror overseas. These seasoned vets were able to greet one another in the language particular to their period of time spent on active duty. Both during war or peace times there are moments of camaraderie and good times that make those who served store up lifetime memories. Each branch of the Armed Forces speaks a special language sprinkled with jargon of their own making -- something that is their very own and changes with each generation.

For instance, my husband, from “The Old Corps,” always called his ties, “field scarves. ” I asked a young Marine recently, what they called ties these days. He looked puzzled and said, “ties.” Hmm. In our sixty years of marriage, Doyle, never once said he was going to bed. He either “hit the sack” or “climbed into the rack.” We really didn’t speak “Marine” at home, but a few things do linger. Once, when my husband was still an enlisted man, I told my mother that “Gracey” was soon to “ship over” and she said , “Oh my, that’s bad!” I hastily told her, “No, that’s good! That means he will re-enlist and be getting a re-enlistment bonus.” Shipping Out, I told her, means leaving for overseas. Now, in another generation, the men are deployed. It still means the same thing: They’ll be leaving the country for a good period of time.

Listening to the laughter and snatches of conversation at the breakfast that day was heartwarming. To define the branch of military in which they had served can be interesting. Their names for one another were affectionate but sometimes quite descriptive causing a few black eyes on occasion. Old Salts,or Swabbies or Coasties, when translated were Navy or Coast Guard. Leathernecks or Jarheads , described Uncle Sam’s U.S. Marines. G.I.s or Soldiers were, of course, U.S. Army but if they were called, by some foolish person, “dog face” then the aforementioned black eye might be visited upon the name caller. The old Army Air Corps had a great song but when it became U.S. Air Force, they just changed a few words and it remained their hymn; an inspiring song. I have heard those in the Air Force called Airmen but sometimes also “fly boys.” Nothing wrong with either of those. Not black eye material at all.

Everyone has a story and although many have had bad experiences in their careers, they manage to ferret out interesting and often humorous tales as well. For instance Larry Thompson, a former U.S. Marine helicopter pilot, having served in Vietnam, can tell how it feels to run out of gas in a helicopter. You can’t dial AAA when that happens. By the way, they sometimes call their copter, a “bird.” Don Branske can keep you interested as he relates his experiences during a collision at sea. Everyone has a story and sharing them just makes the day seem special.

Those who have made the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to view the World War II Monument and many other sights, return saying it was a lifetime experience. Tom Stenson, who heads the Tehachapi Hub of the Honor Flight program says they are still sending vets on the flight. The program is still actively maintained as well as the monthly breakfasts here in town. The Honor Flight, itself, takes a good bit of planning. There must be a companion or guardian to accompany the vet plus an EMT must always be on each flight.

By the way, Tom Stenson told me that when he was in the Green Berets, they had a definition of a serviceman’s tales of his career. Sailors call them “sea stories”. My husband used that term. Often they are called “war stories.” Sometimes without meaning to, or maybe meaning to, the details in these “war stories” or “sea stories” have been known, at times, to contain a little embroidering of facts. Anyway, he said the difference between a war story and a fairy tale is: the teller of the tale, be it Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman, will say, “Now look, this is No-Sh--.” The fairy tale begins with,”Once Upon A Time!”

At any rate, these special people, are “Comrades in arms” and we’re proud of them.

Definition of terms:

Doc: honorary term for medic or corpsman - and well deserved.

Skinny: getting the info on something.

Scrambled eggs: Field Grade Officers trim on the brim of their hat.

Head/Latrine: restroom

Pokey Bait: Candy, cookies, cakes, etc.

Skivvies: underwear

Geedunk: Water cooler

Boot Camp: Where one learns to be a Marine.

D.I. : Boot Camp Sergeant who rules your life during Boot Camp.

Jahootie: a World War II person to blame everything on. “Jahootie did it!”

Knuckle head, yard bird, gold brick, : self explanatory.

One can go to Google and ask for Military Slang and find a few hundred more.