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Defending Home: U. S. Veterans Speak

John Horrall

John Horrall, Austin, TX:  Pararescue medic. Active duty member of the; 147th medical group (A National Guard unit) 1979-1983

HS:  What is your definition of home? Is it a feeling, a house, a place, or something else?

JH:  Home was a place to get away from, I grew up in a small town on the edge of Houston. I had a difficult family situation, my friends were great, but not really interested in reading or discussing the issues of the world, large and small. I dropped out of high school. I didn’t seem to fit in very well with any of the groups. The military offered me a way out. My First Sergeant made me get my G.E.D. I will always be grateful for that.

Did your sense of home and coming home change before and after  combat?

I was never in combat, thank the gods, I did search and rescue in the Arctic. It got hairy a couple of times, but no people were trying to kill me (and I am forever thankful I never had to try and kill anyone), nature was trying hard enough.

Why do or did you feel you should defend home?

I feel that what we have needs defending, unfortunately most of what the military is asked to do in these times is the projection of U.S. policy and power. Despite my disagreements with United States policy over the last several decades, I feel our Republic and its citizens need protection. I have been a paramedic for 30 plus years, I certainly didn’t do it to become rich. My grandfather and father instilled in me the words: “If not me, then who?”

Do you still feel you should defend home?

Yes. Part of it is simply pragmatic, everyone and everything I love is here. Part of it is service to a country that has given me so much. I’m an old white guy, so I realize I was born on third base.

What was your experience of other people’s homes in other countries that you served in?

My experience was overwhelmingly positive, even with various language barriers I was treated very kindly and respectfully. I was always conscious of being an outsider, but I found a warm smile and an honest attempt at understanding was usually very well received.

Has the current political climate and/or administration changed your feeling of home? If so, would you say for better or for worse?

The current administration is a betrayal of everything I have stood for my entire life. The raw, undiluted hatred of my fellow citizens by the administration comes close to making me despair. I will only add that I swore on oath to defend the constitution from ALL enemies foreign and domestic. I was never released from that vow.

Geoff Hughes

Geoff Hughes, Austin, TX: A retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer (serving from 1982-2003)

HS: What is your definition of home? Is it a feeling, a house, a place?

GH:  Home is a sense of belonging and refuge. It is a place where you feel accepted, are accepting of others, and is a place to rest and recover from life’s physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds. Did your sense of home and coming home change before and after combat? Not really. Having someone to come home to makes it worthwhile. That never changes.

Why do or did you feel you should defend home?

The idea of home is an abstraction. A house or other physical space in which we choose to live is just a space unless it is imbued with the emotions and memories that actually make it a home. When one defends home, they defend the idea of home, as well as the place.

Do you still feel you should defend home?

Absolutely. Even though I’ve been retired from the military for 14 years that sense of duty and commitment never goes away. If I were to be recalled to active duty (rare, but not unheard of) I would gladly put on my pack, grab my aid bag, shoulder my rifle, and step off. What was your experience of other people’s homes in the countries that you fought in? There seems to be a universal constant that this idea is worth defending and the loss of home can be one of the most traumatic experience a person or people can go through.

Vietnam Veteran’s Day Parade, NYC  pics by Sam C. Long

Has the current political climate and/or administration changed your feeling of home? If so, would you say for better or for worse?

Small-minded authoritarian demagogues don’t scare me; history is not on their side. The current administration cannot change my idea of home, only strengthen my resolve to defend the ideas that make it precious.

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