Veterans tell their stories

In recognition of Veterans’ Day, the BC Association of Veterans held a “Veterans’ Stories” presentation in the Carlson Theater on Nov. 10. This event was to give veterans of the various U.S. Military branches a chance to share their stories and experiences in the armed forces as well as the lessons they learned. This event was also organized by Evan Bowman and hosted by R.J. Amador. The three speakers that attended the event were Tom Abel, Monique Brown and Ryan Mielcarek.

Veteran speakers amongst “Veterans’ Stories” event attendees.
Veteran speakers amongst “Veterans’ Stories” event attendees.

Abel is a 27 year veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served during the Cold War and in Afghanistan. In his speech he organized his thoughts into sections about the people he worked with and the machinery he used.

He recalled a time in Korea when he worked with the Republic of Korea marine division, whom he described as “a tough crowd.” There was a steel mill where he was stationed and he recalled specifically that on the arch over the entrance was written “Resources are Limited. Imagination is unlimited.”

Later, he went to a pier in Pohang, Korea, where a carrier like the one he was stationed on earlier in the war was waiting to be scrapped.

Abel said that “nothing was as symbolic to the end of the cold war as that item right there to me.” At one point he brought out a helmet that was given to him by a Russian named Nikolai during the Cold War. After his speech he explained that soldiers today are still brave, and that they would make the people who fought in the World Wars or for the independence of the United States proud.

Mielcarek is a veteran of the United States Army who originally started out as a theater major and showed that in his speech. He explained in poetic form that he grew up in hard times where he hardly knew his dad and moved constantly around the country with his mother trying to keep a home.

Brown is a 26 year veteran of the United States Navy, enlisting after she decided she no longer wanted to attend college. She was a chef during this time and spent 13 years on active duty and the other 13 injured. The last of her surgeries occurred in 2012.

She explained how she had her work cut out for her as a lesbian woman of color in the Navy and her experiences having to keep her sexuality a secret, whereas now women are being admitted to the front lines of combat and soldiers aren’t at risk for termination on the basis of sexuality.

People like Brown have worked to provide housing for over 700 homeless veterans in King County alone, and still 1,300 remain.

Brown went on to explain that the best way to bring awareness to these sorts of topics is to talk about them so that they can’t be ignored. She explained that a problem facing regional politics is that veterans are often not able to find work or a home after leaving the military.