MARK KIESLING: Like Willie and Joe, some guys were just serving their nation

2012-11-11T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: Like Willie and Joe, some guys were just serving their nation
November 11, 2012 12:00 am

Not every veteran got the ticker tape parade after World War II.

Not every veteran got the cold shoulder after Viet Nam.

There were just some guys who had it in their minds to serve their country by joining the military.

Even though there was a shootin' war raging in a place called Viet Nam, a place they would have been hard-pressed to find on a globe before they enlisted.

"It was like having a regular job," said Fred Smolinski, of Lansing, who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in March 1966.

"We went in at San Diego, we were the 'Hollywood Marines,'" Smolinski said.

On this Veterans Day, it's well and right to remember not every vet who served was at Gettysburg, the Marnes or the Battle of the Bulge.

Our nation is founded on the men and women who not only pulled triggers and dropped bombs, but those who made it possible for them to do so.

Today, I salute them.

"We were simply administrators," said Smolinski, now 66, who then hailed from Hegewisch on Chicago's Far Southeast Side.

But as everyone knows, the job is never over until the paperwork is done.

"We landed in Okinawa, and I was transferred off the plane because my MOS (military occupational specialty) was administration."

Sound a bit ho-hum? Well, maybe.

"It (Viet Nam) was a nice place to visit, but ... I landed in Dung Hang, and our helicopter was under fire," Smolinski said. "We were just there to drop off some stuff.

"I was in country, but never was in action," he said. I've always been proud of this country and if I was going to 'Nam, I was going to 'Nam.''

There were the usual funny stories Smolinski shared, stories that could only be shared by those who were overseas (like him) or whose overseas future beckoned (like me).

"All in all, it was a very good experience," he said. "I heard about the things some of the soldiers returning went through, but I can't say I was ever treated badly, not like you see them make out in the movies and TV today.

"I always considered it an honor to serve my country," Smolinski said. "Maybe the Marines are a little different, but I have no regrets. I can never say I had a day I regretted it.

"Was it right? I don't know. All I know is that I did my duty."

That's the story of Veterans Day. Not everyone had to be in a major conflict. Not everyone had to be without reservations.

But they all, to a man and a woman, served their nation. And it is for this we honor them.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 933-4170.











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