Old vets offer sage advice to the ‘new breed’

Compiled by Elizabeth M. Collins, Soldiers
From left to right, former Cpl. Robert Webb, retired Sgt. 1st Class Roger Polhemus and retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 William Opferman have a few words of wisdom for 21st century Soldiers. (Photo compilation. Original DOD images by U.S. Army Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr. Soldiers, Defense Media Activity)

From left to right, former Cpl. Robert Webb, retired Sgt. 1st Class Roger Polhemus and retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 William Opferman have a few words of wisdom for 21st century Soldiers. (Photo compilation. Original DOD images by U.S. Army Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr. Soldiers, Defense Media Activity)

 

When it comes to experience, it’s hard to top the veterans who reside at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. Combined, they have centuries worth of service, and many have seen combat in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Some did tours in all three wars. They’ve seen and done everything. A few recently shared their wisdom, advising young Soldiers how to make the most out of their careers and their lives.

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Have a good feeling for what you are doing. Participate. Volunteer (even if it’s a dirty job). Anything that comes up, be the first to volunteer. That’s the way you learn and that’s experience. Don’t sit back and let other people do everything. Get into it. Participate.”

– Former Cpl. Robert M. Webb

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“When I was in the Philippines (during World War II) a man came up to me and said, ‘I’m not going to do a damned thing. I says, ‘fine. Can you sit down?’ ‘Oh, yeah, I can sit down.’ There was a folding chair. I said, ‘Grab that chair and follow me. Step where I step.’ … We got out in the middle of this huge field and I set the chair down and I said, ‘Sit. Don’t try to get up. Don’t move around at all. Just sit right there.’ He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘You told me you weren’t going to do anything. I want to make sure that you’re not going to do anything.

“So in 12 hours, he was begging. He’d do anything. I let him stay out there for 16 hours and he was crying by this time. After he got off the minefield and thanked me – he was the best Soldier I had, by the way – he says, ‘I don’t believe that’s a minefield.’ I took my carbine and aimed it to the corner of this big field and pulled the trigger and ‘Boom.’ He said, ‘by God, it was a minefield.’ I said, ‘Oh, sure.’

“That was a lesson for him: You don’t get anything if you don’t give anything.”

– Retired Sgt. 1st Class Roger Polhemus

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“The first thing I do is I commend them on an excellent choice of a career. My advice is I hope that they have chosen a duty that they’re best suited for and could contribute to and would most enjoy. I advised my grandson, who’s a Marine. I wrote him a letter – he was just ready to go to boot camp – and I said, ‘Do not let the drill instructors believe that they are tougher than you are. Just go along with the program and the key word is cool.’”

– Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 William J. Opferman

 

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