6-PART SERIES STARTING OCTOBER 1, 2019
MEET OUR VETERANS:
Dan Maucieri U.S. Air Force
Dan Maucieri was born in Chicago, Illinois November 25, 1964. Dan had three brothers, two were twins, Michael and Steven and a brother Mathew. He had three sisters. The sisters were named Becky, Regina, and Sara. Dan is the oldest and the only sibling who was in the military. His dad’s name was Louis Maucieri, and mom Mary. His grandparents are from Italy and his grandfather told the family upon arrival in America, “you will learn English in our family because we are Americans.”
“My dad went to Loyola University in Chicago and became a Chemist,” said Dan from his home in Canton. “In 1965 he was hired by the Aerojet Corporation in Azusa, California. There he worked as a research chemist for the Apollo Space Program,” said Dan.
INFO: Azusa is a city in the San Gabriel Valley, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The A on the San Gabriel Mountains represents the city of Azusa, and can be seen within a 30-mile radius. Azusa is located along historic Route 66, which passes through the city on Foothill Boulevard and Alosta Avenue. (Source: Wikipedia)
“As a research chemist he was studying the breathing systems of the Astronauts. The actual Apollo 13 he was working on was testing all the charcoals and the media to assure the astronauts had good oxygen because they suspected a Teflon seal failure. He was searching for fluoride in the charcoal to see if maybe that had happened,” said Dan.
“When I was growing up my dad had about eight rental properties. Every weekend after delivering newspapers, I would go with my dad to refurbish and did repairs on his rental properties. I learned a lot about home repair and home maintenance by working with him. He was a big mentor for me growing up. I always tried very hard not to let him down. My mom was involved in the school and raising us kids,” said Dan. “Both my parents were very big role models for me and had a servant’s heart,” Dan said proudly.
“We had a really good childhood. In 1969 we moved North to Sacramento. That is where I really grew up, attended school, graduated High School and attended college. I went to Christian Brothers High School and Cosumnes Junior College and studied Marine Biology. It covers everything from a shark to a snail.
I always had a thing for fish and fishing and we had it all there in Southern California. Along with the Marine Biology I was also taking courses in automotive, bowling, racquet ball along with my chemistry and biology courses. I ended up about 20 credits shy of an Associate’s Degree.
In 1982 to around 1984 the economy was very difficult. I was working various jobs but making minimum wages. There were just very few jobs to be had,” said Dan.
JOINING THE AIR FORCE
“My father and I had one of those father-son talks and my dad asked me if I had thought about what I was going to do with my life. I told him I think I will just keep working at the print company, hang out with my buddies, drink beer and raise some hell.” “Well, he said, that’s not much of a career plan. Have you ever considered the military?” said Dan about his father’s advice.
Eventually Dan did take his father’s wise advice and went to the Air Force Recruiters office. The Army had already burned me once. The Navy, if I am going to be on a boat, I want to be fishing. The Marines, God Bless the Marines. I love em, and we need em. But, I can’t buy into the YOU ARE A LEAN, MEAN FIGHTING MACHINE, GO GET EM,” and we both laughed. “I needed something to motivate and challenge me. I NEVER intended to do more than four years in the military. In 1984 I volunteered for the Air Force and signed my contract on October 16th for four years active and four years inactive Reserves,” Dan said smiling.
“I was going to commit as a one-striper because I already had at least 45 credit hours from college. If I had committed for six years active I could have been a two-striper. No, I had other things to do after the Military.
OFF TO BOOT CAMP
“I went to boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I was in good shape when I went to Boot. I was playing racquet ball and lifting weights. The tough part was the mental challenge, but I was raised by a very strict father and I had three brothers and three sisters. There wasn’t a damn thing the Air Force could have thrown at me and bothered me in the slightest. By my second day in boot I was appointed the Crew Leader. In the first week, the goal is to break you down. Anyone that is appointed any kind of position is going to be fired, on purpose. Yep, I got fired. Demoted,” laughed Dan.
“Eventually, I did get appointed as a squad leader. One of my guys was screwing up, so I beat his ass. I got fired again. Within three days of graduation, I had to go see the TI and give my salute and he told me my salute sucked. We are washing you back. It was an idle threat. I survived boot camp,” said Dan smiling.
“I had gotten my Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) before I went to Boot Camp. I scored well on my Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test so I was able to select what I wanted to do,” Dan said.
INFO: The ASVAB test is taken by individuals interested in joining the U.S. military. It may be taken by high school students in the 10th, 11th or 12th grade. Or, it may be taken by someone who has earned a GED or higher degree. Along with determining your suitability for enlistment, the score you receive on this test lets officials know what military occupational specialties you may qualify for. SOURCE: asvabmilitarytest.com
“I signed up to be an Aerospace Ground Equipment Technician. Every aircraft has various systems to keep that plane flying. They have electrical systems, environmental (the breathing and cooling), and pneudraulics. To service all those aircraft on the ground we have to have equipment. We have hydraulic test stands, air compressors, generators, cabin pressure systems and other support equipment. My job was also to repair and maintain all that equipment. I selected this as my MOS because it was the most diverse job the Air Force could offer me.
CHANUTE AIR BASE FOR TRAINING
“In April I was sent to Chanute Air Base is located in Champaign, Illinois. This was a six-month training school for my MOS. It was great. I loved it. You only had to be 18 to drink,” said Dan taking a sip on his wine.
“School was so easy for me. I sailed thru it. My next stop was Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. I got there in August and first thing I heard hitting the ground was President Reagan was coming to visit. We had to get all our equipment looking spiffy. We had around 1800 pieces of equipment. Their goal was to paint as much of it as we could. I was assigned to a sanding and paint prep crew for six months. The President made it and he was impressed. We had six months to prepare so we dazzled him.
I wasn’t all that happy about going to Nevada, since it was right next door to my home state of California so I was ready to travel,” said Dan.
“In June of 1987 I met my wife, Lynn. I met her at a party at another Air Force members house,” said Dan smiling and looking over at his wife.
“Dan did meet me at a friend’s party but he forgot to mention it was my Divorce party,” said his wife Lynn laughing. “I was drinking whiskey, playing poker and when he walked in the door, it was love at first site for me.”
“We dated for a couple of months and in August I got orders for Korea. We got married on December 12th. On December 26th, the day after Christmas, I flew out to Suwon, Korea for a year. Was it love at first sight? Hell no. I was 23 years old. I was lean, mean and super successful at my job. Lynn chased me down and got her hooks in me,” he said with confidence.
“I did set my hooks in him, and he did need my help. I am the best damn thing that ever happened to Dan,” Lynn said beaming with pride. “Little did I know that she was the best damn thing I would ever have in my life,” Dan said shaking his head.
“I wished for Korea and I wanted to travel, but now I was a newlywed and I didn’t want to go,” Dan said.
“He went off to Korea and I was home fighting for custody of my kids. I knew zero about the Air Force and I knew nothing about military id cards, hospitals and boom I am pregnant and my husband is gone,” said Lynn.
“A lot of people in the military never do their remote tours,” replied Dan. “I was still thinking I was only going to do four years active so I better go ahead and knock out this remote. And that is what I did. A remote is a station somewhere not stateside where the wife and family are not allowed to go. The good thing about a remote is the next one the military person gets to pick his next location,” said Dan.
“Suwon is located about 35 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). We had A-10’s and the Koreans had F5’s. I loved Korea. I stayed there for a year. The food is phenomenal. There were about sixteen of us in the shop. I was an E-4 and was in the position that if you were a good mechanic you could really shine. The experience was great.
I bought a Korean bicycle and converted it over to a mountain bike. I worked nights so I had a lot of time to see the country on my mountain bike. On the weekends, I would hop on a train here, grab a taxi there, ride my bike over here. I was there in 1988 and the Olympics were in Seoul,” said Dan smiling.
“Being separated was difficult,” said Lynn. “Here I was at home with four kids. But what was he going thru. They don’t’ get to hug their kids, go to ball practice, don’t get off work to take them to the dentist or hug their wife. He had so much guilt because he didn’t get to do what normal dads got to do,” she said.
“I remember riding on a bus and looking out the window I see this huge crowd of Koreans. In the middle of them was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold is about three feet taller than anyone on that continent. It was hilarious. Security was crazy and there was a lot of posturing between the North, the South and the United States.
The Olympic torch was going to come by our front gate. Our front gate at Suwon Air Base was fully camouflaged. There are about 200 Americans at the gate waiting for this torch to come by and some jackass in the crowd throws a Molotov cocktail. The Humvees with the 30-cal. come up. For some reason the South Koreans love pepper spray. We all got burned from the pepper spray. It was just not as intense over in Korea as it has been in the last 20 years,” recalled Dan.
“I talked to Lynn almost every day on the phone. I have an ammo box in my closet that is full of the letters we sent while I was in Korea,” said the romantic Dan.
“I still have all the letters we wrote to each other stored in that ammo box. In 1987 there were no computers and we made Morale calls once a month that could only last for 15 minutes. It took 30 days to get our mail, that was frustrating,” recalled Lynn.
“When I left the states, I was a single man with no kids. Twelve days later I went to Korea. When I got back she had won custody of her three children and given birth to our daughter, Stephanie while I was away. So, I arrive home married with four children,” said Dan taking another sip of his wine.”
PEASE AIR FORCE BASE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
“A friend from Boston told me this would be a great place to go. It was an outdoorsman Paradise. So off I went, with my wife and four kids. We lived in a 900 square foot cracker box house,” said Dan wondering how he ever lived in that small house.
“I loved New Hampshire,” said Lynn. “I was now pregnant with five girls in this 900 square foot house. We had seven mouths to feed. Dan was a buck Sergeant of three stripes and a colored star. But he didn’t get a raise for that. How did we do that?” asked Lynn.
“Winter in New Hampshire lasts from September to June. I still had on base fishing lakes and skeet shooting, it was fantastic. We bought a Chevy Blazer to drive up there. Within three months the Blazer was repossessed because I couldn’t afford it. I worked nights and walked to work every evening in snowdrifts that were sometimes knee deep. I got a job at Sears to help with my income and Lynn was babysitting at home. She eventually came to work at Sears too,” Dan said.
“I worked at Sears at night,” said Lynn. “He worked Sears at day. But there was always someone home with the kids. Take home pay was $395 every two weeks. We both had to work two jobs just to put food on the table.”
“So, we both had two jobs each,” recalled Dan. “I got there in January 1989 and under the Base Realignment and Closure System (BRAC) in August of 1990 they shut the base down,” Dan said.
MOUNTAIN HOME, IDAHO
After the closure Dan was sent to Mountain Home AFB, in Idaho. When he got there 75% of the base had been deployed to Saudi Arabia.
“Our next favorite base,” recalled Lynn. “The compadre was really good on that base. They had a lot of need for the families and that is when I started getting involved with the military families.
My first goals when we had our last daughter was to immerse myself into military life. I didn’t even know the military would pay for my baby, so I went to a private hospital and had to pay for it. I met a lady who really gave me all the scoop about military life and I began really educating myself.
We didn’t have Key Spouse at the time and I ended up writing a lot of those programs for the military. I also started their squadron programs. It was because of Dan I did that. I starting talking to Commanders and their wives. It snowballed into a serious career of running Key Spouse Programs for the entire Air Force,” Lynn said.
In August of 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait.
DEPLOYED TO TURKEY
“I eventually ended up on another rotation to Incirlik, Turkey with the EF-111’s,” Dan said. “These planes provided radar jamming and were instrumental in the Gulf War. We were deployed in an operation called PROVIDE COMFORT III.”
INFO: Following Desert Storm, the entire Kurdish population of Iraq attempted to flee the country to the north out of fear that Saddam Hussein would attempt to exterminate their entire population. Because of political concerns, Turkish officials refused to allow these desperate people permission to cross the border into Turkey. The result was that hundreds of thousands of Kurds were essentially trapped on barren and rocky hillsides, vulnerable to not only Hussein’s forces, but to the harsh elements as well. Without basic necessities, to include access to water, food and medical supplies, hundreds of Kurds were dying each week. In April of 1991, President George Bush made the decision to provide relief and protection for these beleaguered people. (SOURCE: globalsecurity.org)
“We were there to provide support for the Kurds who were really being beat up by the Iraqis. We were there for about four months. I was now a supervisor and most of the personal under me were the crew members. We got shot at plenty of times,” Dan said shaking his head.
“I had a couple of young crew members I put working on a turbine generator. This generator holds 195 gallons of fuel. It has a fuel transfer system that allows the fuel to move from once cell to another cell. So, they opened all the fuel cells. Turkey is hot country, very hot. They energized the electrical system to see if the transfer solenoids were working properly. They had a spark. That spark ignited all the jet fuel fumes. When I saw it there was a mushroom cloud of explosion and both of these guys are on fire. I jumped in to get them out. I ended up getting burned and passed out because there was no oxygen left. Both guys recovered, but with major burns. I ended up in the hospital. I went thru three fire extinguishers putting out that fire. I was injured from falling down and being oxygen deprived,” Dan recalled. It was hard for him to tell this story.
BACK TO MOUNTAIN HOME AFB/Tech School Instructor
“After Turkey I went back to Mountain Home AFB. It is located north of Boise in the mountains of Idaho. I could have stayed there the rest of my life. I was a Staff Sergeant at the time and my Tech Sergeant came knocking on my door and said, you have an assignment to become a Tech School Instructor. I hated the idea, hated it,” said Dan raising his voice.
“He fought that like a baby,” and Lynn laughs out loudly. “When he went thru Tech School he looked at those instructors as flunkies. You are not out there fighting the battle, you are back here teaching. We talked a lot about that.
I was excited about it. You are going to make Master right after this, I told him. I understood the Air Force more than him,” and Lynn laughed.
“By this time, I had completed my Associates Degree. Instructor’s with Associate Degrees is part of their Accreditation. They shipped me to Sheppard AFB in Texas. I was leaving Mountain Home with all the great fishing and hunting. I did not want to go to tech school and surely did not want to be an instructor. With all my efforts to get out of the assignment I went to be an instructor at Sheppard AFB. An assignment that I absolutely dreaded and hated to do.”
“In Mountain Home I started a program called the Airman’s Attic,” said Lynn. “That is where Airmen E-3 and below and their families can come and get furniture, clothing, dishes, pots, pans and everything they needed. Dan and I sat on a used couch for ten years, so I knew what they were going thru. They still have that program going today. All bases now have Airmen’s Attics.”
SHEPPARD AFB AND INSTRUCTOR
“It ended up being the best assignment of my life,” said Dan. “I was instructed to go there for four long years. I was one of the best mechanics in the Air Force and to send me to be an instructor was a punishment, so I thought. The Air Force was right, I was wrong. I became a very good instructor. It took me six months to get an attitude adjustment that I sorely needed. The Air Force is brilliant in so many ways. They take these guys who are experts in their field, who already have a degree, and make them instructors. Then, they make them competitive with each other. We all have to compete for a better performance report. It made us all better instructors. It forced me to get my Bachelor’s Degree to remain competitive with the others.
Those Tech Schools are a breeding ground for the future leaders in our military. When I left after four years, I thought, holy cow, look what they did to me. I was phenomenal at taking performance tests and teaching. Because each student learns at a different level it forced me to change my curriculum to the individual student. I was forced to be an expert in every aspect of what I was teaching. Several of those instructors I worked with retired as Colonels. I would never be where I am today had the Air Force not made me an instructor. Sheppard AFB was a breeding ground for greatness,” Beamed Dan.
“I quit teaching in 1997 and today twenty-one years later I am still emailing some of my students and instructors. I am very proud of the legacy I have left. I never knew how much of an impact I really had,” said Dan slowly shaking his head.
At this point his wife Lynn started taking classes and setting up groups of spouses throughout the different wings. The commanders embraced the idea and more than welcomed her help. They now had someone that is going to help them and help the troops when they come home from deployments.
I WANT TO BE A HELICOPTOR DOOR GUNNER
“I wanted to try something a little more adventuresome. I wanted to be on the edge of the sword. I wanted to be a helicopter door gunner,” beamed Dan. “That’s a different world Dan,” I said. “I did everything for the assignment, I took all the tests. I was ready to go.”
“I put a big KABALSH on that,” said a determined wife. “It was mandatory cross training for his rank and his career field. Hanging out of a door with a gun getting shot at and getting killed was not my idea of fun. His Commander called me in her office one day. She said, “Lynn I need to talk to you right away.” She said, “YOU have GOT to talk him out of this. He has passed every test.” I said for what and who is he? “Your husband,” and I said WHAT? I said oh no, we are not doing that,” laughed Lynn recalling the story.
“Instead of going to gunner school, I was selected for an assignment to aerospace ground equipment guy at that same location as the helicopter gunner school,” Dan grinned.
“What they selected me for was something very specific. It was a Tanker Airlift Control Element (TALCE). It is a very rare part of our Air Force. They are responsible for creating a base where there is no base. It allows aircraft to fly in and unload whatever we have to do. They sent me to Okinawa, Japan as a TALCE crewmember,” said Dan with a big grin on his face.
“TALCE is the sweetest job that you can ever imagine,” said Lynn. “You are at the top of your career. He was an instructor. He was in every flight in the maintenance group. He worked on multiple aircraft and multiple pieces of equipment. They said, we want this guy. They hand pick you. We finally got to go overseas as a family. We went to Okinawa,” said a smiling Lynn.
“I eventually let go of the chopper door gunner idea and liked this TALCE assignment. We bring air crews in an absolute austere location. Anywhere in the world in remote locations. If I need to send a group of Marines to Pusan, Korea, I send in a TALCE unit. They set up all the ground communication. They can accept aircraft where there is no tower or base.
If there is an airstrip, great, if not, we build one. Or at least the Navy Seabees come in and build it. We had TALCE units in Japan and Germany. There was maybe 40 people in this unit. I was the Technical Sergeant. I had all the mechanical expertise but was also an instructor as well. Eventually they made me the Readiness NCO. My job was to make sure we were ready to go anywhere in the world,” said Dan.
“He is now the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the unit,” Lynn replied. “He had a great group of men. It was a small unit. Most people don’t even know it exists or what it is. Their motto was “first in, last out.” He was gone 265 days of the year. He could never tell me where he was going. It drove me crazy,” Lynn said shaking her head.
About this time Saddam Hussein was rattling his swords in the Middle East. “Our unit was asked to fly back to the states and pick up a Patriot Missile Battery and take it to Israel. We hopped on a C-130 with eight hours’ notice. We were ready to pick up a Patriot Missile, when we got a call to fly to Dover AFB. We lived on this C-130 for three days. I was so tired I fell asleep with pretzels in my mouth,” laughed Dan.
“One time I got a credit card bill in the mail. It was his military credit card,” Lynn said. “I opened it up and yelled, WHAT ARE THEY DOING? So, I took it up to the first Sergeant and I said, I am NOT paying this. He said, NO mam you are not. The bill was for fuel in the amount of $82,000.”
I thought, “That is a lot of fuel.”
“We set up in so many countries I can’t remember them all. Places like Hanoi, Vietnam…Korea multiple times, Thailand for “COBRA GOLD” at least five times and God knows where else.
INFO: Cobra Gold is an Asia-Pacific military exercise held in Thailand. It is the largest Asia-Pacific military exercise held each year, and is among the largest multinational military exercises in which the United States participates. (SOURCE: Wikipedia.com)
“It was one heck of an adrenalin rush.
Bill Clinton and several dignitaries came to Hanoi when we were there. I got to visit the Hanoi Hilton and listened to stories of people who were there when it happened. That was quite an experience. I even ate Pumpkin soup. That was a staple at the Hanoi Hilton. You can boil a pumpkin and damn near feed 180 people.
Bill Clinton was very charismatic. I don’t subscribe to his politics, but I understand how he can have such an influence on a crowd,” said Dan.
“When he got back he brought me things from the Presidential plane and from the Hanoi Hilton,” said Lynn. “He said that was probably the freakiest experience he ever had going thru at the Hanoi Hilton.
Dan’s unit guarded Air Force One, which any military unit can. He said President Clinton was a pretty cool dude. No, he didn’t like his politics. He liked the way he handled people. He wasn’t standoffish. He was very nice to all the troops,” she said.
“I loved Shepperd AFB as an instructor, but I also loved TALCE. I always looked at what assignment was for the greater good. The greater good was me being an instructor. There I influenced hundreds of people. I understand the impact I had on others, but never the magnitude I might have had. It was very rewarding.
The Air Force consistently gave me opportunities that helped me get promoted. My attitude has always been, you are serving in the military. You are serving your country. If you are not willing to do that, you need to go find a job somewhere else. You can always go work at McDonalds. I like my fries crispy and salty,” laughed Dan.
AVIANO BASE IN ITALY
“I always wanted to go to Italy, and my kids were in High School. I wanted to protect them from the drugs and violence in the schools in America,” said Dan.
“We always sheltered our children,” said a proud mother. “This is a win lose situation for us. They could have an education and a safe environment or an education without a safe environment. There was always a guard at the gate. Now they are leaving home and are not prepared for this totally different environment. I grew up in Chicago and I understood street smart survival. My kids are nice. Now I am on the phone trying to teach them how to be bad girls,” Lynn gets a huge laugh out of that story.
“I was in Ground Support for a short time,” Dan said. “You have to grab opportunities and I had that opportunity in Aviano to be a Production Superintendent. I was a Master Sergeant in Italy.
The Superintendent is the one who coordinates all of the maintenance from the various different pools. I have fabrication, electrical and environmental, egress, aerospace ground equipment, munitions, all of that. I am coordinating all of that with the aircraft repairs. A typical day was 12 to 14 hours. I did this for about three years. I eventually rose to Squadron Assistant Superintendent. Now I was responsible for just about everything under the sun. I was extremely busy. There were many challenges but also a lot of opportunities. Every day was new, with new challenges.”
As Dan continued moving up in his career, his wife Lynn was now taking on more responsibility with her own career. “My program got picked up in Aviano, and now all over Europe,” said Lynn. “I would go to different functions and doing a lot of speaking engagements. I was now working with Generals wives, Wing Commanders wives and Safety wives. I had my own office there and he didn’t.” said Lynn laughing.
KIRTLAND AFB, NEW MEXICO
“I was at Kirtland AFB about one month when I was promoted to Chief Master Sergeant, (E-9). I was running the Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight but soon realized I needed more. So, I was assigned to the Quality Assurance Flight (QA). I did that for about a year. I then negotiated myself a promotion for to Squadron Superintendent of the Maintenance Flight. I was selected. This is the job every maintainer that grew up in a Maintenance Squadron wanted to be. This is where you have the greatest influence over the Colonel who runs that squadron. The only way in the Air Force that you will have the influence to change way things are done, you have to be promoted to the position where YOU decide. The Colonel has the final responsibility, but he does not have near the experience you have. Therefore, he relies on your expertise and judgement. The Squadron Commander relies on the Squadron Chief. Usually, the Squadron Commander is doing well because of his Squadron Chief. I was only in this position for six months,” Dan said.
“The Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander wanted me as his Squadron Chief. He stole me and I hated it. I was where I wanted to be and had the greatest influence. I felt like I had abandoned my people under me. I stayed with Aircraft Maintenance for a year. Leadership at Kirtland Air Force Base went downhill fast. I saw the writing on the wall and applied for sixteen different jobs across the Air Force.”
“Commanders kept fighting to get Dan in their squadron,” said Lynn. “He is now working on CV-22’s, the double rotor helicopters. A brand-new program coming to the Air Force. He is now in charge of that. He has the knowledge and now has worked on every aircraft in the Air Force. They wanted him to be a Command Chief. He never wanted to be a yes man or a party planner.”
OKINAWA, JAPAN AND GROUP CHIEF
“One of the guys who was influential in hiring in Okinawa was a person I had worked for in Aviano, Italy.” He said, “This is the guy you want.” Dan was now in a place he loved. He was now a Group Chief. Dan and Lynn were in Okinawa for three years and nine months. All the kids had moved out now and only Lynn followed him to Japan.
“We are now living alone, empty nesters,” said Lynn. “I almost didn’t go. Our girls had four weddings going on. A week before the packers came. He said, I need you. I need you in Okinawa. I can’t do this without you. So, I went. It was not an easy decision. I struggled with it even when I was there. I flew home a lot to be with the kids”
“My level of influence was astronomical,” Dan said. “We had 2,400 people in our maintenance group. I was the senior enlisted person. My Colonel’s knew I had more experience than they could ever hope to get and my whole goal was to insure they shined. We kicked ass on every front imaginable.
The Raytheon Trophy is awarded to the BEST combat aircraft unit in the Air Force. We won it three times in four years,” said Dan smiling.
INFO: The Raytheon Trophy dates to 1953 and is awarded annually to the top air superiority or air defense squadron in the U.S. Air Force. The squadron displayed teamwork and dedication to the mission during a grand total of 190 days in 11 allied countries, and by executed 146 days of deployed flying operations while integrating with 22 allied air forces.
“Our ratings from every inspection were phenomenal. I have never achieved a damn thing in my life. I have been part of teams that have consistently did fantastic. It is all about teamwork. I had some GREAT teams. I was fortunate to have great leaders who showed me how it should be done and I had leaders who showed me NOT how things should be done,” said Dan emphatically.
“What is the key Dan, to making great leaders?” I asked. “Empathy,” he said after a brief pause. “You have to understand where that person is and what that person needs to achieve. If you don’t know your people and you don’t understand what your people are trying to achieve you are lost, you are never going to get there. You have to be part of their lives, not just demanding they need to do this or that. Never focus on yourself, but others in achieving their goals. You will be successful in anything you do.”
“My wife Lynn has always been a very positive motivation in my life. I understood what the military was and what they required. When I made E-7 I felt that was as far as I could go. Lynn always made me think outside the box. It was not always about you getting to the next rank, it was about influencing at a greater level. She always kept me focused on a greater calling. Don’t be happy here. Think about what you could do and what you could accomplish at a greater rank. I couldn’t see a path to reaching E-8 Senior Master Sergeant promotion and never to an E-9. She constantly challenged me.
Find a way, she would say, to get to that. The Air Force also challenged me and always gave me opportunities. I had to be smart enough to realize it and strive to get there. Lynn was a driving factor and understood how I hated how things were done. She knew I could change how things were done. I didn’t know it but she did. Before I knew it, I was the Superintendent of the largest combat coded Air Force unit in the United States Air Force. How in the hell did that happen? But, it is what happened.”
“He always gives me a lot of credit,” Lynn said smiling. “He always says I could not have done it without you. We were a team. Even our house had a big sign that read “Team Maucieri.”
Dan Maucieri served thirty years and five months in the Air Force. He got to a point in his life where he had a difficult time physically to live as a normal human being. “I am doing good and I am very happy with the time I did in the military,” said Dan proudly.
In 2012 Dan spent eight months in Afghanistan. There are several things that happened there that he has difficulty talking about. He was stationed at Kandahar Air Base as a superintendent. Dan received a Bronze Star for his bravery in Afghanistan.
RETIRING FROM USAF
“My fondest memories about the military was aircraft launches where we are launching a fleet. I had some great relationships with co-workers. The family connection you have and the travel going all over the world.
I have three mottos in life. They are loyalty, Integrity and servant leadership,” said Dan.
“As a Chief you can only go 30 years,” Lynn said. “As we got closer to retirement, he knew it was going to be a big deal. He was the Crew Chief of the largest Maintenance Group in the United States Air Force. His parents flew in. There were 650 people in attendance. It was a lot of fun. You know what Phil, in a way, I retired too. We were a team and we were ready to retire.” Yes, Lynn you were a team, a GREAT team at that.
“The first thing I ate and loved was SOS, sausage and gravy on toast,” smiled Dan. “WOW. I had never tried that. It is amazing. Fried Rabbit is another food I love. I ate that in the chow hall at Nellis AFB. It was a normal dish there. Number three is Bulgogi in Korea. With Bulgogi you will taste a little bit of pear, soy, and garlic. You use thin sliced beef. Put it in a lettuce leaf with some rice, half a clove of garlic, maybe some kimchi, maybe some bean base, roll it all up and eat it like a taco,” It is great said Dan. “I hate macaroni salad. Mayonnaise is disgusting,” we both laugh.
MOVING BACK TO VAN ZANDT COUNTY
Dan moved to Canton in 2015. “Our focus was central to the United States and must be one hour from an International Airport. The location must be rural and affordable. It must have good fishing nearby.”
Dan and Lynn hired a realtor in Quinlan, Texas. She sent the couple several pictures of their criteria of what they were looking for. “We looked at countless houses. We drove into Canton and I saw the Veterans Memorial. This is something special, I thought,” Dan said slowly.
“Dan came down to the Memorial and we ordered a brick for him,” said Lynn. “He said I need to be here. This is what God is telling me. I was in here a week and walked into the Visitor’s Center. I can change this, I can change that. Now I am running it,” she laughed. “We help so many people in here. Some just want to come and talk. I never officially retired, but I love helping veterans. It is in my heart. I didn’t know I had that in me until I met Dan,” Lynn said with a big smile on her face.
“We found a house on some acreage and ended up buying in Canton. In May of 2015 I saw a three-plane flyover at the Memorial and it moved me. In July, I met with several people at the Memorial and I knew I needed to volunteer. I spend about 20 hours a week volunteering. I love it because so many in the community have embraced it.
My wife, Lynn works in the Memorial office five days a week. It goes back to my servant heart. I have a huge heart for veterans,” said Dan smiling.
“On my bucket list I want to go to Niagara Falls and I want to go to Times Square and I want to take my dad camping for his 85th birthday,” said Dan taking one more sip of his wine.
“I do have one regret. That is, I was not a good father in my early days. BUT, I am so thankful that the Lord educated me and helped me to be one of the best fathers I can be. I still owe,” he said.
“When people tell me on the streets, thank you for your service. I always tell them, thank you for your support. Those Americans that appreciate what the military does, we really appreciate the hell out of you. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT. We took care of what needed to be done, and you are welcome.”
“He is a great husband,” Lynn said slowly. “Very understanding. Very willing to talk. His kids and grandkids think he walks on water. He is a great guy with a big heart. He has a huge heart.” said his loving wife.
Dan Maucieri, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Air Force. You have had a tremendous influence on a lot of people. You had an exemplary career and WE thank you.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of this page and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
(ALL photos on this Facebook page are ©2019, Phil Smith and Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial. NO unauthorized use without permission) All Rights Reserved.
MEET OUR VETERANS
Juan Herrera U.S. Army
Juan Herrera was born in Dallas, Texas on December 26, 1978.
He had two older sisters, Rhonda and Leslie. His dad’s name was Jose Herrera, who passed away from a heart attack when Juan was six years old, and his mom Sara.
“I lived in Dallas until I was about 13 and we moved to Azle where I graduated from High School and went to one semester of college at Eastville in Dallas.”
VOLUNTERRED FOR MILITARY
“I volunteered for the military in March of 2003. I always wanted to go into the Army since I was a little kid. When I was young I would ask for canteen and mess kits for Christmas and I like watching all the Rambo movies. I shopped a lot at the Army-Navy stores and bought fatigues and combat boots,” said Juan.
“The invasion of Iraq was around this time and I wanted to go to war. So, I joined the Army for an eight-year commitment. I talked to my wife, Crystal and she was very supportive. It was six years in the Army National Guard and two years active. I felt It was my duty as an American to join up for the military. I signed up in Shreveport, Louisiana where I went thru the Military Entry Processing Station (MEPS).
I was in for six months until they shipped me out to Ft. Knox, Kentucky where I went for Basic. I was 24 when I enlisted so I was older than most of the other guys. I am from Texas and it was cold and miserable in the winter in Kentucky. I was in basic and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for about five and half months.
In AIT we worked in small groups where we worked observation points observing the enemy and reported back to command. We were the eyes of the battlefield. My MOS was 19 Delta, which was a Calvary Scout. Shortly after that I reclassified to Infantry which I enjoyed more than being a scout.”
Juan was in the Army Reserve and tried to go active duty but the Commander wasn’t releasing anyone. Five months later he was activated in August 2004 to go to Iraq. It was where he wanted to be.
HEADED TO HURRICANE KATRINA
Three days before he was supposed to ship out he broke his wrist. “I was extremely disappointed. I ended up going on search and rescue mission down in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. We were there about two days after it hit. Everything was still about four or five feet under water when our unit arrived.”
Juan’s unit was camped out at the Children’s Hospital which was right across from the 5th Ward near Xavier and Tulane College. “That was devastating to see. The Old Plantation homes with hundred-year-old trees laid across them. That was part of history and hard to see. Just demolished,” said Juan shaking his head.
“We were at the tennis courts at the Children’s Hospital where we set up a tent city. It was miserable and humid. Not everyone had mosquito nets. I heard the buzzing all night long. It still messes with me and raises my anxiety really bad. We were there at the end of August, hot as hell and we had to sleep with the sleeping bag over our heads. You either sweat or got eaten up by mosquitos. We were there for three weeks. We then came back to Texas for Hurricane Rita. We were there just for support, mostly delivering water.”
OCTOBER 2006 TO IRAQ
A mission came up in August 2006 and once again Juan volunteered for the assignment. He went to Fort Dix, New Jersey for pre-training. He was there for three months and then was headed to Iraq in October of 2006.
“We were attached to a Military Police (MP) unit. It was out of my MOS. We were a police transition team in Iraq, dealing with POW’s. We went out with the Iraqi police, trained them and did joint missions with them. However, you couldn’t trust the Iraqi Police. You don’t know who is bad and who is good. My platoon was stationed in Al Kut, Iraq on an old airfield. We had about thirty people in our platoon.
Al Kut was south of Baghdad. Our missions included dismount missions and scope walk thru and present patrols. We set up Technical Control Points (TCP). We pulled over vehicles and did random searches working with the Iraqi police. We were away from the main U.S. forces and got to pretty much what we wanted to do.
We interacted with the locals including the kids handing out candy. It was more laid back than what was going on in Baghdad.
Our area wasn’t highly kinetic,” recalled Juan.
“We were on a Coalition camp so I got to meet Polish, Ukrainians, El Salvadorians, Georgians, Romanians, and Kazakhstanis. It was neat working with them. We communicated mostly just in broken English. We had an Army Special Forces group there who trained the Iraqi Army. Sometimes we trained with them and that was cool,” smiled Juan.
“We got rocketed a few times from old Russian rockets. We had a large and spread out camp and their makeshift launchers weren’t very accurate. If they hit something they got lucky. We did get some small fire and ended up wounding a couple and took them in as POW’s until they were transferred. We had a couple of IED’s, but nothing serious there. I stayed in Al Kut for twelve months,” recalled Juan.
HEADING TO AFGHANISTAN
Juan was sent home for seven months for some R & R. Once again, Juan volunteered for war. This time to serve in Afghanistan. You have been to war, you come back seven months to the states and then volunteer for war again, why? “I like war,” Juan said emphatically. “The high stress atmosphere was an adrenalin rush and it was a different country,” he said.
“I was in the mountains, the Hindu Kush. We flew into Kurdistan, but this time our mission is different. It was a new military concept to bring the tactical side to military intelligence. There were about 40 infantry men who got cross trained and imbedded with a Military Intelligence (MI) battalion,” said Juan recalling his tour in Afghanistan.
“I was one of those 40 infantry men. I am now doing both, infantry and intelligence. We all had top secret clearances for the equipment we have to use. I was signal intelligence and my job was to monitor radio traffic, translate it and relay that intel to the battlefield commander.
It was RC East in Afghanistan, and we were about twenty miles from Pakistan. It is a safe haven for the Taliban and there is a lot of chatter going back and forth. The language over there is Pashtun. There were seven of us in our Hutch. Two interpreters with top clearance and five of us. When the Taliban keyed up we would get a line of bearing of where their radio keys up at. We would log it all in a computer. After a year in country you would start picking up on certain words. We would learn how to translate without our interpreter.
The main chatter was attacking the Americans and attacking the helicopters. After every engagement, they would get on the radio. It was a morale booster for them. They would say, “We killed fifty Americans.” They didn’t hit anybody,” Juan said laughing. “These Taliban would sit up in the mountains and relay all this chatter, from mountain to mountain. We were 15-17,000 feet above sea level.” According to Juan it was the same mountain ranges where Marcus Lutrell and his Navy Seal Unit was ambushed. The operation was made into a Hollywood movie called, “Lone Survivor.”
“We would leave our camp at 2300 at night and set up in the mountains by 0500 in the morning. We were a team where we would go and set up Operations (OP’s). You had a team at base and a team out in the valley or mountains with the same equipment. We would send a convoy up in the valleys and sit there and monitor the chatter. They were trying to draw fire, essentially guinea pigs. We would get them to start moving and engaging on these vehicles so we could get their coordinates. Our air support which were Kiowa Warriors, Apache A-10s, or F-15’s. We would relay to them our line of bearings. The pilots could go right on top of our bearings, find the enemy and engage them,” Juan said.
“We had battlefield commanders, forward observers that were trained to call in fast movers and (JTAC), Joint Tactical Air Controllers, with the Air Force. There are a lot of moving parts for an engagement of the enemy. Every mission is a fast moving, high tempo operation.
Afghanistan was my favorite mission. We were involved with a lot of contact. It was a high stress situation. I loved it,” Juan said shaking his head.
“The Taliban had eyes on us, we heard the chatter a lot. We got sniper fire, we were vulnerable. They would mortar us and hit us with small arms fire. They would hit us with mortar and sniper fire several times a week. They would catch us walking back from our missions. Walking to chow, showers, to the latrine, you never knew when you would get hit. We once got hit from all three sides and we had to retreat about 300 meters. That doesn’t sound like much but it is on the side of a mountain, especially when you are taking fire. Rounds would hit in front of me as I am running. Physically I never got hit. You come to terms about death. You come to accept that any moment is your last,” Juan said lowering his head.
“Afghanistan is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Five o’clock in the morning when the sun starts cresting the ridgeline is beautiful.
The Afghanis build terraces (retaining walls) on the side of the mountains to farm. They stack rocks 8-10 feet high to make level ground on the side of a mountain. That took thousands of years to make. They would stair climb all the way up the side of a mountain. They planted corn and wheat and there were small poppy fields.
When we got in country we were told to leave the poppy fields alone, they were Taliban controlled. That is how the Taliban makes money. They harvest the poppy, make Heroin, sell it and make money. Most of the ones we saw were small and probably used for medicinal reasons.
Marijuana grew like a wild weed. They grow like sticker burrows in Texas. It is everywhere. The sides of the mountains have
very fertile grounds. It is a very beautiful country,” Juan said looking off into the distance.
“There were local Afghan Nationals that worked in our camp. Some of the carpenters near my hutch would take pallets and make furniture out of it. The guy who was in charge of laundry point was an old school mujahedeen fighter commander. He told us stories about fighting the Russians. You can see it in his hands, his skin, his face and his eyes, he has been around.
We once got them a paid day off, gave them some money for a goat but ended up buying a sheep. A nice big sheep. It cost $200 for this sheep. We got a mountain dew bottle full of vodka, and a bunch of vegetables. We have video of them slaughtering the sheep. Their ritual and prayer ceremony was for their life and this sheep. The meal was great and we really enjoyed eating a feast with our Afghan friends,” said a smiling Juan.
“Fighting in Afghanistan was a pointless battle. Not far from Vietnam. A political war. Those people have been fighting for thousands of years. You are not going to beat them. The Russians didn’t. I do know that I would rather fight over there than to fight here. I would rather it be their country and not my country. I do agree with war because I am a patriot. I believe every male should serve in the military.
I served twelve months in Afghanistan.”
“Over there it was different. You come home, you are a civilian. But it is different to know, that in your heart, and in your soul, you have already accepted death. It is not easy to deal with,” and Juan paused.
“I went thru a PTSD program in Bonham.
They talk about stuck points, one of them is trust issues like trusting anybody of Muslim descent. I am not racist, but I have seen a side that other people haven’t. I don’t shop at their stores, and I don’t give them my money or fund them in any way. I call them Hajjes. Seeing them automatically raises anxiety.
INFO: The Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial and PR Director Phil Smith will be writing a 6-part Series dealing with PTSD. The series will begin on October 1st and run thru Veterans Day. We will be interviewing veterans, PTSD counselors, and doctors from the VA. Please follow us on Facebook at Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial and on our webpage at www.vzcm.org.
“It is nice coming home, but nice being at war too. I liked the comradeship, the fighting and the adrenalin. I hate the movie, The Hurt Locker. The best thing about that movie is the very beginning. It said, “Adrenalin is addictive, and war is the Drug.” That is extremely true.
How do you get off that drug Juan? “You never do.” I wish I was still over there fighting right now. It is hard to get away from. When there was no more war, I left. I am not big on wearing berets, walking around saluting officers. I am not a Garrison type soldier,” said Juan.
INFO: The garrison is the people who stay behind and keep working when the rest go overseas to war. In the US Army sense, a base will typically have “tenant units” like deployable divisions, brigades, and battalions, plus a “garrison” of troops who stay on the base to run things there rather than deploying overseas to the war.” ( SOURCE: www.quora.com)
“I stayed in the Army National Guard until 2015 when I got out. I ended up serving twelve years. There was no more war so that made my decision easier.
I enjoyed the friends I made in the military. The knowledge I learned and my deployments. If I had to do it all over, I would do it again. I would try to volunteer even more. I have a lot of funny stories about the military but probably not that appropriate to print. You are an infantry man around hundreds of guys, you shit, shower and shave in the same place and you share the same frickin fox holes. You smell their farts, and guys who haven’t showered in weeks.” Juan and I got a huge laugh on these stories. He is so right.
“I will never eat Cordon Bleu again. The Army has a pre-made Cordon Bleu. In Afghanistan we were the last stop the chow truck made. All the other camps before us got the food. The good stuff. We ate Cordon Bleu for breakfast, lunch and supper for almost two months straight. I also try to avoid eating MRE’s.
INFO: So, what is an MRE? The MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) is a totally self-contained complete meal. One MRE equals one meal. The packaging of an MRE is designed to withstand rough conditions and exposure to the elements. Inside each MRE bag is an entree and a variety of other food and drink items. (SOURCE: www.mreinfo.com)
“I ate so many MRE’s that I will not have to be embalmed when I die. I have so many preservatives in me from MRE’s. I will still eat an MRE before I eat a Cordon Bleu,” he said laughing.
“I did eat a Falafel in Iraq once and loved it.”
INFO: Falafel, a fried ball or patty made from spiced chickpeas or fava beans. Originally from Egypt, falafel is a form of fast food in the Middle East, where it is also served as a mezze. Kubba, a dish made of burghul, chopped meat, and spices. The best-known variety is a torpedo-shaped burghul shell stuffed with chopped meat and fried. Other varieties are baked, poached, or even served raw. (SOURCE: www.widipedia.com)
“To me, it was like a Pita bread with vegetables, full of fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onion. Then it had these fried crispy things, almost looks like a hashbrown stuffed in it. The vegetables in it were full of flavor. BUT, I know how they irrigate their farms. With human waste. It was hard to put it out of my mind, but it was good. The tomatoes were so juicy, so red,” Juan shakes his head laughing at the memory.
THE KNEELING SOLDIER AT THE VETERANS MEMORIAL
“I have been living in Van Zandt County since 2002. My mom and three kids lived out here. My wife, Crystal and I have been married 19 years.
Crystal used to bartend up at the VFW next to the interstate near the Ford House. They had a meeting and they were talking about the Veterans Memorial in Canton. This was around 2005. TexDot donated the land and they were looking for a veteran from the county to pose for the Kneeling Soldier Memorial on their Plaza. My wife volunteered me. I knew most of the other veterans involved. So, I agreed.
The Memorial contacted me and asked me to get in touch with Ed Pickett, a local Canton sculptor. Ed owned a Winery at the time.
INFO: Read more on our Air Force veteran from Canton, Ed Pickett. Go to the top of this page and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click on Air Force, drop down and click on Pickett, Ed.
I sat out in the ditch in front of the Winery for a couple of days. I posed for hours, in the heat, in full gear in one position, taking pictures. Ed had to have very specific photographs. They even included the wrinkles in my pants leg down to the boots. Very detailed. I put in a lot of hours posing. Ed needing more pictures and a mold of my face, so he could make a cast. They did an excellent job on the statue.
The Kneeling Soldier Statue is not about me, it is about the fallen soldiers. That is what the whole memorial is about. It is for my buddies that are no longer with us. It is for all the fallen soldiers.
Van Zandt County has the nicest Veterans Memorial than any I have ever seen,” quipped Juan.
“One day I would like to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington. I like everything about the old Guard and would love to see the Changing of the Guard. I would also like to visit the 911 Memorial in New York. When I was in Fort Nix, New Jersey I could see the lights from the Memorial. It was spectacular,” said Juan.
We ask our brave soldiers to fight in faraway wars. Some come back and some don’t. Some of those return home carrying the burden of guilt, shame and the scars of war.
Many are battling the effects from the chemical, Agent Orange. Many suffer from (PTSD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We ask them to fight and die for this country. The least we can do is take care of them when they return. Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
Juan, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Army. Your courage and bravery will not be forgotten.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of this page and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
(ALL photos on this Facebook page are ©2019, Phil Smith and Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial. NO unauthorized use without permission) All Rights Reserved.
MEET OUR VETERANS:
Pete Guinn, U.S. Marine Corps
“We were in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. That is where I got my ticket home.”
Pete Guinn was born July 19th, 1950 in Friona, Texas. The town is located about 30 miles north of Muleshoe in the northern panhandle of Texas. “I had one sister who died of breast cancer at a young age,” said Pete from his home in Canton. “My dad, also named Pete, served in the Marine Corps. He was stationed stateside in the Military Police (MP). My dad got polio while he was in the Marines. Of course, none of it was documented since all his files were lost in the great military fire in St. Louis, Missouri,” said Pete.
INFO: The 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri (NPRC) destroyed approximately 16-18 million official military personnel files. No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. (SOURCE: archives.gov)
“My dad broke horses, sold auto parts and in the 50’s got into the automobile sales business at a Ford dealership in Hereford, Texas. I remember my dad bringing home the first 55 T-Bird that hit that area. I sure would love to have that car today,” Pete said smiling.
“Growing up I was in the Cub Scouts and played some baseball. When we lived in Comanche, Texas I played for the Western Auto Wizards where I played pitcher and first base. I really liked playing baseball. I was good enough to play on the All-Star team. I went to Muleshoe High School and when I got back from Vietnam I went to Red Rock Junior College on the G.I. Bill.”
JOINING THE MARINE CORPS
“A friend of mine and I drove over to Clovis, New Mexico to visit with a Navy recruiter. They told us at the time they did not have any openings.
The recruiter encouraged us to go to Lubbock to see about joining the Marine Corps. My friend got cold feet but I came home with military papers for my parents to sign. My dad asked me if I wanted to join and I said yes. My dad was an old Parris Island Marine and he shared with me some stories about his time there. He then signed the papers. I was ready to get my obligation over with, come home and get on with my life. I signed up for a four-year enlistment,” said Pete.
Pete went to San Diego for thirteen weeks for Boot Camp and received a nice welcoming party on arrival. “We got our clothes and seabag and they promptly marched us out to the tents. I remember at lights out I had just laid my head down on the cot. The Drill Instructor (DI) starts yelling for everyone to get off their ass, on your feet, out in the street, with your seabag. In all the mass confusion, I could not find my seabag. I fell out and no seabag. You can imagine what happened then. I had a Corporal that kept giving me karate chops and telling me to stay down and I kept getting up. I kept real good control of my sea bag after that first day,” Pete laughed.
“My MOS was 0311, or ground pounder. Now I got to experience the life of a grunt. I took a battery of tests and scored high in electronics. However, I didn’t know squat about electronics. 0311 was basically a pack mule. I survived boot and then went to Basic Infantry Training (BITS) school in San Diego for about six weeks,” he said with a frown.
“There was a mountain called Mount m’fer. I went up and down that thing many times. With a full backpack and my M14. I had a Drill Instructor named Harrison who was one of the most sadistic human beings I had ever met in my life. He had been to Nam. He was definitely screwed up in the head, bad. I personally witnessed him beating the hell out of another marine. The kid ended up in the hospital. I thought he was going to die. If he was in Nam and I was there, he would have died of unfriendly fire,” Pete said emphatically.
NEXT STOP, VIETNAM
“I went home for leave after Basic Infantry and while I was home the Corps assigned me to the 27th Marines. I drove my 1963 Ford Fairlane Coupe with three on the column to Camp Pendleton.
I had never been to L.A, so we drove my car up there. Me and a couple of buddies ended up going one way the wrong way. We then hopped on the sidewalk and went back the right way. We ended up that night going to Tijuana, but without the car. A gunny told us not to go there, but we did anyway. Glad I didn’t take my car,” he laughed.
“While in L.A. we were kind of in a holding pattern, waiting for our orders. I was eventually ordered to go to the gunny’s office. He said, you need to pack your seabag. He said you are fixing to go across the choppy waters. So, me and a couple of buddies went out and got pretty drunk. I recalled calling my dad about three in the morning and telling him. We got on a plane and stopped in Hawaii, got fuel and headed to Okinawa.
“Finally, after jerking our chain for a few days we got onto another plane. That was when reality hit. We flew in on a Delta flight to Da Nang, Vietnam.
As we flew in and I got off the plane, I looked over at the guys rotating back to the states. I saw a lot of rough looking Marines,” Pete said shaking his head.
At this time Pete and I took a short break. A lot of memories and a flood of emotions. He was there again. Back fifty years to the jungles of Vietnam.
“When I got to Da Nang, no one seemed to know where I was supposed to be or what unit I was in. I was told we needed to go to Quang Tri. Me and a couple of other guys took off walking. We had no clue where Quang Tri was or how we were going to get there. We finally flagged down a deuce and a quarter and I asked the driver where Quang Tri was. He said I was going the wrong way. We eventually got a ride back to where the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines were located. It was the most dis-organized bunch of bullshit I had ever seen,” said Pete.
“When I finally reported to Quang Tri they issued me an M-16, and one magazine. Yep, one magazine. I went into one of the tents and found me an open cot. One of the Marines asked me, “Is that all the hell they gave you is one magazine?” I said, “Yeah, why.” “He said, you won’t last five seconds out in the bush.” “I asked him, where the hell do I get another magazine,” he said, “you are going to have to steal them, and you better be careful because you will get shot if you are caught.”
“I ended up with several magazines, and yes, I stole them. I found the enlisted man’s club and sat down for a few drinks. I sat there as a battery of 155’s were going off. I was jumping out of my britches every time one exploded. Someone yelled, incoming and every one flew out of there except me and this other guy. We just sat there and drank our beer,” said Pete recalling his first days in country.
“I was given two days of orientation and assigned to a squad. The first activity I had I was guarding a bridge. I was sharing a foxhole with a salty old Marine. We would walk along the tanks with our weapons and look for enemy. There were about six or eight of us in the squad. We were providing security for the tanks. We were behind a tank one time and I was eating pound cake and peaches. Man, they tasted good. About that time a round came flying over my head and I tossed the cake and peaches and hid behind the tank.
There was an 81-mortar team across the river from where we were located. The Army had set up a bunch of tents and we looked over in one of them and there was a stack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. We were going to steal their beer. Instead, we ended up playing football with them with a big rock and we all ended up drinking beer together. We had a great time playing football in that river with the Army guys,” and Pete laughed about that story. “The beer was a whole lot better than the river water. I drank some and got dysentery. The corpsman finally came down and got me straightened out, but I thought I was going to die from it. That was my first week in country,” said Pete.
“My next assignment was on a chopper and we flew to “Firebase Cunningham.” We were in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. That is where I got my ticket home,” said Pete choking back his words.
INFO: Perhaps no other battleground in Vietnam defined “war of attrition” better than A Shau Valley in the northernmost part of South Vietnam.
The mile-wide, 25-mile-long bottomland running north-south along the Laotian border was a conduit for the Ho Chi Minh Trail as it bypassed the Demilitarized Zone. Containing an estimated 20,000 Communist troops by 1967 and a massive store of war supplies, A Shau was a painful thorn in the side of South Vietnam. The enemy used the steep mountainous terrain surrounding the valley to launch battles against every major allied position in the south during the 1968 Tet Offensive. (SOURCE: historynet.com)
“Our unit was going to replace the 9th Marines at “Firebase Cunningham.” When we got there, they were getting incoming and rockets. I got to the door of the chopper and looked down. It seemed like 1,000 feet to the ground. I hate heights and I remember someone placed their boot in the middle of my back and kicking me out that door. I hit the ground and rolled over into a hole and stayed there until the firing stopped,” said Pete.
“We went out on a lot of night ambushes patrolling all around that mountain. We were supposed to have a battalion size sweep thru the A Shau Valley. Our platoon ended up going and they put me on point. I had a Chieu Hoi scout with me. I did not trust him at all.”
INFO: There was a special program initially created by the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War involving the use of former Viet Cong combatants as intelligence scouts for American infantry units. Enemy cadre and combatants ( Viet Cong, NVA) who defected and rallied to become aligned with the Saigon government were known as Chieu Hoi or Hoi Chanh Vien the latter being a term loosely translated as “members who have returned to the righteous side”. Only a very small number of these Chieu Hoi were selected, trained, and deployed with American infantry units as Kit Carson Scouts.
Those Chieu Hoi who volunteered for selection and training as Kit Carson Scouts had, during their service with the enemy, little or no contact with anyone speaking English. Few had any knowledge at all of the English language, creating a communication challenge as they were deployed with American units. A further complication was that almost all Hoi Chanh Vien had a distrust of Vietnamese soldiers and interpreters because of the degree to which friendly forces had been infiltrated by enemy agents. (SOURCE: Wikipedia.org)
I WAS SHOT TWICE
“As time went on we got more contact with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). There is a lot of rice, ammunition and rifles,” said Pete trying hard to get his words out.
Pete and I once again take a break. This was the toughest part of the interview.
“Me and the scout moved forward. We run into about six NVA soldiers. We shot two of them. The others took off and we followed. One of NVA were hit pretty bad. We followed his blood trail. We get into some thick elephant grass and then it got really quiet. I knew them son of a bitches were in there. They were, and they were waiting on us. I got hit twice and the scout got hit. Then they all hit us. It was like the fourth of July. The rest of the company finally got to our location. I don’t remember too much other than I was in a lot of pain,” said Pete.
“I got hit in the hip, here in the ankle, blew up my femur artery. It broke my femur, tibia and fibula, an inch and a half of bone and sixteen units of blood. It took them forever to get me out of there. They finally got the medivac chopper and loaded me up. I did not know if my guys were dead or not. It was one hell of a ride back,” said Pete shaking his head slowly.
“They operated on me in the Quang Tre field hospital. I woke up and there was a gook to the right and a gook to the left. I thought I had been captured. Fortunately, I wasn’t. The doctors gave me the impression that they did not know if they could save my leg or not. I shouldn’t even be here. But I am,” Pete said.
“They eventually flew me to the US Navy Hospital Ship Repose (AH-16). I had a chance to see what had happened to me. The first thing you do is feel sorry for yourself. I did. Then they brought in a guy who lost both his legs and an arm. He stepped on a mine and I remember him screaming constantly. I thought to myself, by God, I’m going to be all right. He’s not. To top it all off the Colonel came in there and started giving medals to all of us. I would have liked to have him take those medals and stick them up his %^#.”
“I don’t how long I was on that ship but from there they flew me to Guam. One of the Corpsman by the name of Bradshaw was there from Lazbuddie, Texas which is just a few miles from my hometown, Muleshoe. I knew who he was.” “He said Pete, I am going to take care of you, and he did.”
I remembered I called my dad and told him I would be coming home soon. I left Guam and then they fly me to Travis Air Force Base in California and to Lackland from there. I am highly allergic to morphine but a nurse at Lackland gave me morphine. It was in my records and luckily, I survived that.
From there I once again was transferred to Corpus Christi Naval Hospital in Texas. There, I was put on an orthopedic ward. They put a pin in my knee and I was put into a full body cast around both my hips and leg. I still had mud in my hair. Believe it or not, I had not had a bath since all this had happened. Finally, the Red Cross contacted my folks and told them I had been wounded. My parents drove to Corpus Christi to the hospital. I had problems near my groin area and I asked my dad to pull up the sheet and tell me what they did to me down there. I told him, whatever it was it didn’t feel right. He raised the sheet and just shook his head and pulled the sheet back over me. I said, “ well, what did they do dad?” He said, “Well son, they cut off your balls.” I said, “You got to be kidding me,” and he started laughing. “I am not going to repeat what I said,” and we both started laughing. “That was my dad.”
“The hospital allowed us to have one cigarette at night, a beer and a sleeping pill. I saved up several sleeping pills. You mix that with the beer and you have one hell of a cocktail mix. The next morning when the Doctor was making the rounds. He noticed in my chart I had a bad nightmare and ended in a chair next to my bunk. They were giving me Demerol shots for the pain. There was a corpsman there from Sweetwater, Texas named Fred Butts. He was a short guy with curly hair and could surely play a guitar. He and I became friends. He bought me a guitar and I wanted him to teach me how to play. I never did learn how to play as well as I wanted to.
The ward I was in was pretty sadistic. There was a kid in there named Jerry Tumi from Oklahoma. He was in the bunk next to mine. He had been shot in the heal. They would take this large gauze and pack in his heal. I would laugh at him and say, “What is the matter Jerry, does it hurt?” When it was my turn I had the nurse take about six tongue suppressers and I would bite down and start cussing like a sailor.” He would say, “what’s the matter Pete, does it hurt?” we both laughed loudly at that story.
“There was a guy in there with me named Gary Hollingsworth from Lubbock, Texas. Long, tall red headed kid. He had somehow screwed up his knee. He would smoke his cigarette down to a nub and stick what was left between my big toe and my second toe. I could reach only so far. I had burnt toes on a regular basis. I told Gary, your time is coming my friend. It did. I had one of my friend switch bunks so Gary’s was next to mine. I had this long cane and it was hung next to my bed. They brought Gary out of surgery and he was laying there all peaceful. His knee was all wrapped up and had pillars under it. I carefully reached up and got my cane. I pulled myself up on the bed and proceeded to whack that son of a bitch across his knee. I said, “now we are even.”
These stories play themselves out all across military hospitals in America. It is a tension reliever for vets coming home from war. Their way of coping, thru laughter.
“I was in the hospital for over a year. I ended up in a VA hospital in Big Springs. I wasn’t really happy with the doctors there. I had seen some of their handiwork. They were convinced they needed to amputate my leg. I told my parents and that Doctor that he wasn’t going to do any cutting on me and that included my fingernails and toenails. In hindsight, maybe I should have had them take it off. I figured now I have had this limp for this long I am going to go ahead and take it to the grave with me,” Pete said as he slowly rubbed his leg.
MEDICALLY DISHARGED FROM THE MILITARY
“With all I had been thru I still had to fight to get a medical discharge. The Marine Corps was so kind since I couldn’t perform any of my duties they were going to just discharge me. My dad said, “that isn’t going to happen son.” I was just ready to get out of the military. My dad started to write our Congressmen. No results. After three long years, he finally got the attention from President Nixon. Don’t know if he personally read the letter but somebody did. I got a letter from the Marine Corps to report to San Diego and go in front of a medical review board. I flew out to San Diego. Was there three days. I had a Marine lawyer, who was worthless. He told me I had not have a Chinaman’s chance in an ass kicking. I told him if that is what you think then sit over there in the corner and keep your mouth shut. The first day I was there I was examined by one doctor. The second day I was examined by a bunch of doctors. By this time, I had cancer of the bone. On the third day I go in and all the Brass are there. I felt like I was on trial for murder. They wanted me to give them an example of a normal day for me. I told them what a normal day for me was like. They asked lots of crazy questions. They had me get up and walk. I was pissed off to say the least. Like I was trying to hide something. They asked me to leave the room and I did and waiting out in the hall. They deliberated. They finally came to a decision that I was to be placed on permanent disability from the Marine Corps at fifty percent,” said Pete shaking his head.
“I took the disability and the next battle was with the VA. Another nightmare. I got $180 a month combat pay in Vietnam. I battled the VA for years. Again, my dad stepped in along with a retired Master Sargant in the Air Force in Lubbock. I am now on eighty per cent disability. The VA has one of the most asinine ways of evaluating a person’s disability. It is worse than a Chinese fire drill. The Government has no common sense. I feel bad for any of these veterans coming back from any war and then have another war with the VA. There is no reason for it,” Pete said shaking his head in disbelief.
“I was officially discharged in November of 1970 after spending two years in the military. The Marine Corps teaches you to adapt. I have adapted pretty good. I have pretty much adapted to society. I have PTSD issues but it is not in my record,” said Pete.
INFO: Starting October of 2019 the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial will be publishing a six-part series on PTSD.
I have talked with several veterans along with professional counselors and PTSD medical experts along with Doctors from the Veterans Administration.
There is a tremendous stigma with reporting or being diagnosed with PTSD. Veterans say they know they were turned down from a job after admitting they were diagnosed with PTSD.
Most of the arguments are not justifiable but never the less, they are real. Veterans do not want to report any PTSD issues to their employer because they are afraid it will hamper them from getting promotional consideration.
Please mark your calendar for October 1st and visit our Facebook page at Van Zandt Country Veterans Memorial and the series will be permanently displayed on our webpage at www.vzcm.org.
PTSD is a battle veterans face from traumatic experiences from war, and then have to battle the stigma associated with the DISORDER. Phil Smith
“When I got to Big Springs VA hospital the first thing they told me is I had to go to Rehab,” said Pete. “So, I went into this big room and I saw guys making belts and some were making wallets. There was this guy with a ball of yarn. He was rolling it back in and back out. I surveyed the situation. I then hobbled myself out of there and went back to my room. I didn’t go back. I felt like, yeah, I screwed up but I wasn’t crazy. I am ok. You can experience something very traumatic and it surely can affect you. Going forward is up to you and the man upstairs. I don’t know what the answer is and how to fix it,” said Pete.
MOVING BACK TO TEXAS
“We moved back to Van Zandt County and closed on our house on March 15 in Canton. We looked all over North Texas. We have a daughter and three granddaughters in Wylie and a son in Nevada, Texas. We have a grandson who lives in Fate and a son in New Braunfels and finally a son in Amarillo. Lot of family in Texas.
I like to fish and just be out on the lake or pond. I don’t hunt anymore. After I got shot twice in Nam and once in the face and chest hunting with some buddies so I am done with that.”
“On my bucket list I would like to see more of the United States. I would like to go to Seattle, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and maybe Fall River, Massachusetts. The second thing on my bucket list is just to get up every morning.”
“I have some regrets. I would go back in the Marines but under different circumstances. Of all the services the Marines always had the lowest budget. I had some good times in the Corps. I don’t regret it. I don’t have any animosity. I understand all their madness of what they are trying. Not that I totally agree with all of it. They didn’t hurt me. It is a brotherhood. You never stop being a Marine and I am proud. I will take it to my grave,” said Pete.
Pete Guinn, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Marine Corps. Your courage, bravery and honor will never be forgotten.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of this page and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first, and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
(ALL photos on this Facebook page are ©2019, Phil Smith and Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial. NO unauthorized use without permission) All Rights Reserved.
In October 2016 Names were etched to the Granite Mural on the Veterans Memorial Plaza. VFW Post 9171 in Wills Point, Texas was the gracious donors of the Monument.
Donor Red Level names include Travis Deen, DVM and Carol Deen, PHD – Dick Ingram Enterprises.
Donor names Virgil and Janice Melton, Jr., Melissa Wilson, – Sgt. Ray Tate Pittman
Donor names McLemore, William D., CPL, AAC, WW II for KIA
Donor White an Blue and Level Donors Inclusive