Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veterans' Day Musings

Mollie writes:

My husband is a retired Naval Reserve officer.  My son is an active duty Air Force Captain with a few deployments under his belt.  My father was a sonar technician, on both submarines and destroyers, in the Pacific during WWII, and my father-in-law was a CPO store keeper during the taking of Okinawa.  My mother's brother, Bill, was in stationed in the Philippines when Japan invaded, and endured the the horrors of the Bataan Death March and subsequent imprisonment in a POW camp.  My father's brother, Bill, was killed in the Pacific, fighting for each of us.

Each of them has a story to tell, just as EVERY service person has a story to tell.  Lest we forget that all service people are important to the bigger picture, I have a story that is both amusing and profound.

During the Vietnam War, my husband was a electronics technician, ultimately achieving Second Class Petty Officer.  He was also stationed in the Philippines, at Subic Bay on Luzon Island.  While the war raged, he repaired electronic equipment.

John is an electronics kinda guy.  Early on, the Navy realized this and sent him for additional training once he was out of basic training.  Once he reached the Philippines, he was charged with repairing radios.

Back in the sixties, electronics were just becoming a household word, but my John spoke electronics fluently.  This was an area where often the "kids" knew more about the system than the officers did, and John was a classic example.

There was a radio that, frankly, went kerplunk.  When John was assigned its repair,  he quickly identified the problem as a mal-functioning transformer.  He ordered the parts and awaited delivery.

His CO called him on it, not believing that this was the problem.  John was called into his office, ordered to bring the schematics, and grilled on the repairs he had stipulated.  The CO was convinced that the problem wasn't with the transformer and ordered John to review his work and, ultimately, "fix the problem."

Well, the problem WAS the transformer, so John ordered the CO's driver to pick up the parts.  The driver was a Philippine national, a civilian, and was able to leave the base to pick up the parts quickly without a lot of administrative hoo-hah.

He did it with all due speed and gusto.  When John had the parts, he repaired the radio and all was put right on heaven and earth.

Later that day, John was in the mess and the CO came and thanked John for his work.  When he asked what the problem really was, John told him it was the transformer and that the CO's driver had gotten the parts on John's request.

I guess the CO looked a little surprised.  John went on to explain that, although he'd been told that the transformer wasn't the problem, John knew it was.  AND the CO had told John, just before dismissing him, to "fix the problem."  So, John did fix the problem, it was the transformer.

The CO just shrugged it off.  No big deal.

We hear a lot about egos, etc. in the military.  But we don't get the little stories, the minutia of everyday service.  If fixing the transformer was John's duty, he did his duty and fixed the transformer.  John's CO was humble enough to see it.

So, this Veteran's day, celebrate doing your duty.  Remember that the military is filled with souls of talent, inspiration, stubbornness and a willingness to obey a command, even if it's politically incorrect.

Forty years later, after claiming GI benefits, John has earned a BS, MS and doctorate in all things electronic (ok, maybe not all things, but a lot of things!).

And, he's a big-time expert on transformers!

(for more information on where a kid can take his service-encouraged talents, Google
"John H. Brunke" AND transformers)

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