Camaraderie and pulling together as a unit to get the job done were cited by veterans as dominant experiences of their time in the military.
Four veterans were a panel for the Rotary Club of Hall County on Tuesday for the Flag Day program.
Rotarian Jerry Stedman organized and was the emcee for the program.
He said the panel was an effort to bring a different view of Flag Day to the club.
Contributing to the program were Chuck Adams, World War II; Jerry Stedman, father of the organizer, Korea; Greg Schreffler, Afghanistan; and Don Patterson, Vietnam-era vet of the Navy and Naval Academy graduate.
Adams and Schreffler were in the Army. Stedman and Patterson were in the Navy. Patterson was the only officer.
“You took a lot of pride in doing your job under those conditions,” the elder Stedman said.
Stedman and Schreffler cited the different people who were thrown together in service.
Schreffler described as “cool” how “all walks of life” were involved in the military. “All the differences we had were not something we argued about,” he said.
“It’s really hard to explain,” Schreffler said, grasping for how to talk about a unit coming together. He said members of a unit are together more than a family — “24/7.” Under those conditions, he said, “you work through a lot of stuff.”
Troops “really just get woven into each other,” he said. “None (of the differences) matter when you go outside the wire.”
Patterson called it “a whole different world.” He said the Navy “had to strip us down to nothing” and then build individuals into a team.
Patterson and Schreffler touted the military as valuable experience. Patterson said he had a daughter “who was Goth, who had fluorescent orange hair” and she has now been accepted to become an officer in the Air Force. He called the military “a golden opportunity of youth.”
Schreffler also said serving would be valuable, and he added it would be better for young people. He was 37 when he joined, he said. He said his son is about to join at 18.
He explained after the meeting that he got out of high school, went to college, got married, had children — and just never had time to join.
But he always wanted to be in the military, he said. “I would rather have served and hated it,” he said, “than never have tried it.” Schreffler was in the Army six years.
Both Patterson and Schreffler also said being in the military had a “major impact” on families.
“Leaving your loved ones is one of the reasons I got out,” Patterson said.
He pointed out the good and bad. He left largely because of his family, Patterson said, but the Air Force has been very good for his daughter.
All four men said they have a “good feeling” about the flag — as the elder Stedman said.
He added, “I still get a lot of pride out of the Star Spangled Banner.”
Schreffler said he has “such a huge respect for the flag.”
Patterson agreed. “I never had bullets thrown at me,” he said, but the military exists to protect the free speech of Americans.
Adams, the only one of the four who was drafted, said he was told once he was wanted in Wiesbaden, Germany, which was the site for the forerunner of the CIA. He said, “I told ’em I wanted to go home and play baseball.”
“I learned to get along,” the elder Stedman said. He added that the GI Bill allowed him to go to college and earn a living. “I’m so thankful for that.”
He had been out of high school for eight years by the time he went to college, he said. “It forced me to work hard,” he said.