64th Ordnance at the Edge of the World


I was excited when I first arrived at Fischbach bei Dahn, the German town in which the 64th Ordnance Company was located. I just turned 18 years old, and I felt as if I was on an adventure to explore the unknown in foreign country. At first, I was gung-ho, and tried to walk that straight path by following every Army protocol properly, adhering to procedures of personal appearance and dress, and carrying myself as a representative of the U.S. Army in Germany.

My mindset was straight…for a while. And by a while, I mean the first few weeks. What I discovered at the 64th Ordnance Company was that we were on the very outskirts of the entire 59th Ordnance Brigade; a small 200 person depot on 1500 acres on the border of France. The town Fischbach was miles away, and if a soldier did not have personal transportation, they had to rely on a bus that showed up every few hours to take soldiers to Pirmasens, the city in which the 197th Battalion Headquarters was located, and where all the action was. I learned that being stuck on a depot in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do after 5pm could get a soldier in trouble. And by trouble, I mean alcohol. And lots of it.

I did not think anything of it at first. Everyone was drinking in the EM (Enlisted Members) club after work. We would order pizza, and sit around drinking until late evening. At the beginning, this was only on the weekends for me. After months of being stationed there, my drinking became an everyday occurrence. We would leave the secure site at 4pm, go eat chow, take a shower and change clothes, then start drinking. It got to the point where I was drinking every day of the week, waking up in the morning still drunk or hanging-over, doing PT, then heading to the secure site. It was eating me alive, and I knew it. There were others like me, all young men and women who were stationed at the edge of the Brigade’s AOR, stuck at a place with little to no recreational activities except for alcohol. Usually with alcohol comes the related problems of arguing, physical violence and broken relationships.

One of my Warrant Officers told me that I was heading down the wrong path. I was hanging around with the wrong people; the troublemakers and those who won’t complete an entire enlistment. I looked at him like he was a prudish Debbie-Downer. What did he know? I was 18, and I had everything figured out. Later, his words rang true when some of my friends were discharged for various reasons, most concerning alcohol. Towards the end of my time at Fischbach, especially when there were only 2 of us left (nuke-techs) and we were transferred to Muenchweiler Depot to wait for our ETS (my case) or PCS (his case) did the Warrant Officer’s words finally penetrate my thick skull. I slowed down with the drinking, and started to take life more seriously.

In retrospect, there were so many other activities I could have accomplished if I had moderated my alcohol use. I could have hunted for Roman and Celtic artifacts in the hills around Fischbach. I could have also became more involved in the German art scene. I am only happy that I followed that certain WO’s advice. Alcohol and me due not get along anymore, and have’t since the early 1990s.

I am still planning on digging up artifacts in Fischbach and the neighboring areas in the near future. I will then make up for lost time.

Cold War Conversations Podcast and Keeping History Alive


I came across the Cold War Conversations website a few weeks ago while replying to posts on Twitter. After following the link to their website, I came across a wonderful site devoted to keeping the history of the Cold War alive. Ian Sanders, the host and producer of CWC has been instrumental in keeping the history alive, whether it is interviewing former U.S. and U.K soldiers who were vital in their roles in defending Western Europe from the Soviet Block, to former students and media figures who were on the other side of the Berlin Wall during this contentious time in history.

I find it fascinating that Ian and crew are on their 5th season, and have produced 120 episodes to date. Their perseverance in keeping history alive in welcome in these uncertain times in which those who had not lived through the Cold War Era may be able to draw from its history for comparison.

Living through the Cold War was a strange time; though the threat of nuclear annihilation loomed over the horizon for decades, everyday citizens in both Blocs carried on with their lives. Thankfully, this time has passed, though new threats have emerged from the ashes of communism and radicalism around the world. Through his podcast, Ian is helping us all understand the times we lived in, by reestablishing facts that we are familiar with, and presenting new information and personal experiences that have not found their way into historical academic records.

To listen to episodes of Cold War Conversations, or if you are just interested in the Cold War in general, please visit Cold War Conversations at https://coldwarconversations.com/ and you can follow them on Twitter @ColdWarPod

Financial Compensation for Veterans in Illinois


The State of Illinois offers a one-time financial award of $100 for eligible veterans who served during wartime. The program applies to veterans who served during WW2, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War. It also applies to those who recieved the Global War on Terrorism Award (Operation Iraq Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn) for time served during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. 

All service members must have resided in Illinois for 12 months immediately prior to their enlistment, and have an honorable discharge. The information can be found at the Veteran Resources page of the State of Illinois here.

Though the $100 compensation seems small, it is a way for the State of Illinois to show appreciation for our veterans who served during periods of conflict. This compensation is in addition to the other benefits and programs that are available for Illinois veterans from the state. I have written about the burial benefits here, and also the Illinois Veteran Grant here, that pays for up to a bachelors degree at any Illinois public education institution. These are advantages that every Illinois veteran should take advantage of. 

Veteran Burial Benefits


I know this is a subject that we do want to think about. We were young once, full of life and perhaps a bit “wild”. Some of us started families, others went straight to college after the military, and still others made the military their career, and accomplished all of the above. The fact is, we are mortal, and will need to make a hard decision about our own funeral arrangements. The information I am providing is for burial at a national cemetery.

I promised to write about this topic in my post here about requesting your DD214 if it has been lost or destroyed. Having your DD214 at hand is a requirement for gaining access to your burial benefits from the VA. A few years ago, I filled out the request online, and I was sent information via snail mail. The packet included information about the cemetery (in my case, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL.). You need to fill out the information requested, including whether or not you want to be cremated or have a full burial. You also must choose a marker for your headstone, and as of 2019 there are many available, everything from the Christian cross to the Star of David to Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer (for pagans). I filled out the forms, picked my symbol for the headstone, and mailed the information in. The form is VA Form 21P-530, and can be downloaded from the VA website here

Remember, the benefit is not only for the veteran. A veteran’s spouse and minor children also fall under coverage in the benefit. 

There are not many benefits that non-combat veterans can apply for and receive, but the burial benefit is one that should be taken advantage of. I am coming across more information daily about the benefits that are becoming available for non-combat veterans. Just recently, I found out that a veteran pension is available for non-combat and non service-related disabled veterans. This pension is available for veterans or their surviving spouses over the age of 65 with limited or no income. This is just one of the many benefits that are becoming more available for veterans. 

How to Request a Copy of a DD214


A few years ago, I had to request a copy of my DD214. My original copies were so bad they were barely legible, and some information (awards) were left off the DD214 when I ETS’d (end term of service). 

Every veteran knows that having a legible copy of a DD214 is a lifesaver. We use it for VA home loans, veteran license plates, and identification cards. We also need it as proof to get a plot at a national cemetery (more info on that later). If you lose your DD214, don’t panic. They are easy to replace.

The information is now easily obtainable through the VA.gov page which redirects you to setup an account with milconnect. Once there, you will have to create an account, and follow the instructions on how to file to get your discharge papers. Milconnect is also useful for many other benefits that are available for veterans and their families. 

Once I filed the information, it took about six weeks for my DD214 to arrive. There was no cost to me, and is provided as a service for veterans. If you want to get military records for deceased family members, there may be a fee involved. 

The Death of Qasem Soleimani should Unify Americans, not Drive them Apart.


After the recent killing of the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by American drones while he was driving in a motorcade outside of the Baghdad Airport has sent shock-waves throughout Iran, and tensions between the political parties within the United States. While most conservatives applaud the action, the democrats have locked stepped in their condemnation of what they are erroneously referring to as an “assassination”. In a pressing time of heightened tensions in the Middle East, created in large part by Iranian backed militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the threat of violent terror attacks against American and allied interests in the area have been either committed or planned by Soleimani. 

That Soleimani was behind the recent attack on the American embassy in Baghdad was no secret. He had been a destabilizing factor in the region for over 20 years, and had been directly involved in the murders of Iraqi civilians and American service members by ordering his militias to attack both Americans and Iraqi Sunnis alike. His death was celebrated in Iraq, though it had received little coverage here in the United States. 

The Israelis, Saudis and Sunni Iraqis have known for years that Soleimani was a terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands. Yet his death has caused division here in the United States. At this crucial moment, when Iran has been creating more tension by the shooting down of an American drone, or the attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and more recently an attack on a Saudi oil field, Americans should unify behind President Trump and justification for neutralizing the head of a designated terrorist group, the Quds Forces. 

Pritzker Museum’s “Stories of Service”


I am happy to have been a part of the Pritzker Military Museum’s Oral History Program. Earlier in November 2018, the museum staff put together a short montage of veterans who participated in the program. A small scene from my interview can be seen towards the end of the video. You can view the video here: http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/whats_on/video-rucksack/2018-oral-history-video/

Please support the museum. They are striving to preserve the histories of veterans who served in America’s armed forces. 

Audio History Interview at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library


On May 18th, I had the privilege of taking part in the Pritzker Military Museum and Library‘s oral history project.

The project seeks to record oral histories of Illinois veterans who served in all branches of the military. After filling out a small application, and emailing back to the museum, I was contacted a couple of weeks later by Teri Embrey of the Museum/Library.

Challenge Coin from the Pritzker Military Museum, Chicago

The museum is located at 104 S. Michigan Avenue, on the corner of Michigan Ave and Monroe St, directly across from the Art Institute of Chicago. Located on the 2nd floor, the library and museum are well stocked, with thousands of books and military memorabilia donated by veterans and their families. The staff at the front desk were very polite and accommodating.

The interview began promptly at 10am. The audio/visual technician, Angel, was very helpful and put me at ease. After performing a sound check, the interview began. The questions were prepared in advance, and as the Q&A session began to gain momentum, I began to relax. I could see that Teri had read my book, Last of the Glow Worms, and had her questions tailored to the knowledge that pertained to my experience, and to my MOS more specifically. She was very professional, and if she could not tell at the time, I was extremely nervous!

After the interview, I was presented with a Pritzker Museum challenge coin. I donated my book and some photo scans of the 64th Ordnance Company, along with certificates I received in the military.

This was my first experience with an interview, and after overcoming my initial fear of speaking about myself with strangers in an intimate setting (I am rather introverted), with Teri’s help I began to relax and open up.

I would suggest to all Illinois veterans to visit the Pritzker Military Museum and Library at least once. They are working very hard to keep our veteran stories alive, for future generations to study and research.


Business Insider’s Misguided Article on Trump and Nuclear Weapons


I came across a fascinating op-ed piece written by Dave Mosher in Business Insider, Trump Wants to make Nuclear Weapons Easier to Use, and that Should Frighten Everyone. 

The piece posits that President Trump’s support of expanding nuclear capabilities may eventually lead to nuclear warfare, or at the very least make it easier for low yield nuclear weapons to be stolen by terrorists.

During the Cold War, the United States had over 5000 nuclear weapons deployed throughout Europe, both intermediate range nuclear missiles (e.g. Pershing 2 and Lance), and artillery fired nuclear projectiles (e.g. the M454 (155mm) and the M422 (203mm). These systems were spread across Europe, from the Dutch Border in the north, to North Italy in the south; and from West Germany in the west, to Turkey in the east. The United States Army was the custodian of the weapon systems; in the event of a Soviet invasion, the weapons would be released to host countries’ artillery and missile units for deployment. The 59th Ordnance Brigade commanded most of the nuke sites (I was with the 64th Ordnance Company, Fischbach, West Germany, which fell under the 197th Ordnance Battalion, 59th Ordnance Brigade), and it’s AOR stretched from Flemsburg, Germany near the Danish border, to Vincenza, Italy. Until 1992, the 59th was the Army’s largest brigade, with over 5000 soldiers assigned to it.

After the decommissioning of the Army’s tactical nuclear weapons stockpile in 1992, the 59th Ordnance Brigade’s mission was completed, and it was reassigned to the United States.

During the almost 50 years that nuclear weapons were deployed in Europe and South Korea, there were zero thefts by terrorists, and zero accidental nuclear explosions. There was a case in 1985, when a Pershing 2 solid fuel motor caught fire, resulting in the deaths of three soldiers. (NY Times article here ). No radiation was released during the accident.

The security at the former nuke sites was performed by the military police, who patrolled the sites in HUMV’s, and guarded over the concrete and steel storage bunkers while perched in watchtowers that circled the complete circumference of the storage site. Add to that volumetric motion sensors and the internal WADS (Weapons Access and Delay System) inside the bunkers themselves, and what we had was an impenetrable fortress that would make stealing a 100 pound nuke artillery shell impossible.

And that was over 25 years ago.

America’s present day nuclear stockpile is less than half of what it was at the peak of the Cold War. Intermediate range nuclear missiles and nuke artillery shells no longer exist. The tactical nukes that the BI article is referring to are gravity bombs, which in layman’s terms means a bomb that falls from a plane to the ground, using it’s weight as it’s propulsion system. They have been tweaked though; as referenced in the BI article, fins and small guidance systems may have been added to improve accuracy to 100ft of the target, which is a remarkable advancement, when compared to an artillery nuke shell with a max range of 15 miles.

Being nuclear capable as a deterrent had stopped the Cold War from becoming “hot”. The rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea will remain rhetoric, with both leaders strutting for their respective populations.




Cold War Recognition Certificate


The Cold War Recognition Certificate is available for any veteran and government employee who served honorably between Sept. 2nd, 1945 and Dec. 26th, 1991. From the Army HRC website:

In accordance with section 1084 of the Fiscal Year 1998 National Defense Authorization Act, the Secretary of Defense approved awarding the Cold War Recognition Certificate (CWRC) to all members of the armed forces and qualified federal government civilian personnel who faithfully and honorably served the United States anytime during the Cold War era, which is defined as Sept. 2, 1945, to Dec. 26, 1991, are eligible.

The certificate is a nice addition to a shadow box, or a wall of honor. Many young people have little understanding of the Cold War; the anxiety and tension that were prevalent up until the late 1980s. The certificate is a good way to answer those question that the younger generation may have about the military during the Cold War.

Information and the application to apply for the Cold War Certificate can be found on the Army’s HRC (Human Resources Command) website, which can be found here: Army Human Resource Command

While there, a veteran can also search for other awards that may be available. During my search, I found that my unit was awarded the Army Superior Unit Ward in 1992. I applied for a correction of my DD214 on 3/26/17, and still have not received a response. Corrections of records may take up to 12 months, and it seems the Army is using up every bit of that time.