One thing that most of us older guys have learned over the years is that not everything we hear is true, factual or even believable. Unfortunately, this adage is as true for veterans as it is for other people we may meet.
Sometimes we hear outlandish stories from men about the women they’ve known, especially in the carnal sense. At JSU (where I had the privilege of going and graduating) there were any number of “ladies’ men” to whom the more outlandish, romance stories were par for their course. Most of us might hear these once or twice, before we almost automatically realized that the Don Juan speaking was just that—speaking or rather lying.
We may have met athletes who had high school (or later college) sports “exploits” that would better fit the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or even Olympic highlights. These tales, like those of the “lovers’ boys” were just as dramatic and just as false.
In business, I’ve met people whose claims at being the “real” inventor of many of the greatest products and approaches that we have in society today. Some of them were salesman (who might be slightly forgiven) but even stenographers and janitors have shared “what really happened!”
As I said, sadly veterans sometimes fall prey to these same flights of fantasy. Stories of incredible bravery and superlative military skills are far more common than they should be. I have met these “heroes” and heard their “war stories,” only later to discover that some of them had never been in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Korea or anywhere near combat! One at least one occasion, I heard tales of combat daring-do from someone who had never been in any branch of the military!
Don’t get me wrong, our veterans are no more truth-stretchers than most of people (most of them—men). There exists in the human existence the strong motivation to pretend to be more than we are. Why this is, I’m not all that sure, but this willingness to greatly elaborate on one’s accomplishments is definitely there and part of the human equation.
At the Veteran’s Information Tables at the Gardendale Civic Center’s Farmers Market (each Thursday through September from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) many veterans tend to congregate. One way that has greatly helped in eliciting true accounts is a large, wonderful, full-color Vietnam War map given to our project by Ron Becker (president of the Vietnam Veterans Association of America, Chapter 416, which meets the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Downtown Birmingham VFW building) which shows every city, town and most hamlets in both North and South Vietnam where we veterans can actually point out where we were. The rarely seen false non-Vietnamers never go to the effort to name any locations.
The next Veterans Information Table will be at the Gardendale location, tomorrow from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. We’d love to see anyone, veteran or not, who would like to meet with our team: (usually Sr.CPO Benny Reeves; Vietnam-Era vet, Jim Parola (head of the G’dale Farmers Market); Vet2Vet computer whiz, Zach Burton; and just old me—GIJOE). Of course we usually have other veterans there to listen, learn, share true lessons and meet all our guests. BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!
Mat God bless our country, leaders, military people, veterans, first responders (police/deputies, firefighters, EMTs, teachers, clergy) and most of all may God bless YOU!
Gerald “Joe” Stahlkuppe is a combat Army veteran of the Vietnam War. An ordained clergyman, public speaker and author of several books, he lives with his wife in Gardendale.
Questions or veterans issues you would like to see addressed in the column can be directed to Stahlkuppe at P.O. Box 849, Gardendale, AL 35071 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.