Growing up, Doris Robinette always admired her big brother. She admired him so much that when he was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, she decided to sign up as well.
“I was just a kid sister that looked up to her brother,” Robinette said. “I thought whatever he did, I had to do.”
Like most military women at that time, she did not serve in direct combat, but her service was instrumental to the war effort nonetheless. She was a jet engine mechanic, tasked with caring for the vehicles that would carry other soldiers into the fray.
Today, she continues to serve her community, but in a very different venue. She is a claims processor at Southern Ohio Medical Center, and she is not the only military veteran that now sets up camp at SOMC.
Over the years, SOMC has provided employment to many Americans transitioning out of the armed forces. Their positions range from housekeepers to physicians, and their military service ranges from the Vietnam era to modern wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are common threads that bind them, however. All chose to serve, in part, because they believed in serving a cause larger than themselves. They also believe it is important to show gratitude to others who have risked their lives to serve their country.
Gary Curtis, SOMC’s financial accounting manager, served in the military during the Vietnam era. For him, the decision to enlist was an easy one to make.
“I was brought up to believe that everyone should step up and take their turn serving this country,” Curtis said. “Back then, politicians actually said things like ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’”
For both Curtis and Robinette, their military service is a source of great pride. Veterans Day is an outlet for that pride, but it also gives them an opportunity to reflect on others who placed the country’s needs above their own.
“Veterans Day makes me think about those that came back wounded, or didn’t come back at all,” Curtis said.
“I don’t think about myself. I think about the ones before me,” Robinette added. “My dad was in the Navy, my brother was in the Army, I had a nephew in the Marines and I went in the Air Force. I’ve always had a sense of pride for our flag, and whenever I hear the National Anthem it has always made me cry.”
For SOMC Managed Care Reimbursement Manager James Bussa, Veterans Day isn’t just emotional – it’s arguably the important holiday of the year.
“Having been a veteran myself, and considering that 90 percent of my friends are active duty vets or retired vets, it’s definitely my favorite holiday,” Bussa said. “It almost trumps Christmas.”
Bussa’s service began in 1989 and continued through two wars in Iraq. It included stints in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Qatar. In 2005, he served as an instructor for the Iraqi military.
“The Iraqis that were in the program treated us very well,” Bussa said. “They all took great risks being in the program, from death threats to their families to actually threats to themselves.”
As the son of a Vietnam veteran, however, he understands that military appreciation is not something to be taken for granted. Although he only has the tales of his father to go by, he’s heard stories of soldiers returning from Indochina to meet protestors who offered less than warm welcomes.
Veterans Day is important because it’s an opportunity to make sure today’s heroes receive a warmer reception. That support from home is very important to those serving overseas.
“The amount of support we received during every trip I made to that part of the world, whether it was care packages or letters from kids at schools that had never met us, all made a difference,” Bussa said. “It made it bearable.”
Andrew DeCamp, a unit clerk in the SOMC Heart Care Unit, can attest to that. As a United States Navy Corpsman who is currently in Afghanistan, he knows the power of a kind word from home.
“I’m currently serving and deployed in Afghanistan with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133,” Andrew DeCamp said. “When members here get to call home or get a letter or package, our morale shoots through the roof.”
His mother, SOMC Director of Nursing Valerie DeCamp, does her part to keep his morale up by mailing him a care package every week.
On Veterans Day, Valerie will be far from alone in expressing gratitude for those who currently serve, just as Andrew will not be the only one thankful for those who served before.
“Veterans Day is a day to remember and honor veterans all over the United States, from all branches of the military,” Andrew DeCamp said. “Almost every family in the United States has a member who is a Veteran or in the Armed Forces. I have the honor of having uncles, cousins, and a grandfather who all served and I have the honor and privilege to follow in their footsteps.
“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to every one of them.”