Upstate military veterans speak about coming home

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Marine Corps veterans and CHP students Lou DeMarco (left) and Andrew Brown spoke at a ceremony Friday about their experiences in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, respectively, and about what it was like to return home. The event was held in Upstate’s Setnor Hall in advance of Veterans Day. (PHOTO BY DEBBIE REXINE)

For many veterans, it’s the little things that are important, both while in the service and after returning to civilian life.

Lou DeMarco, who is studying respiratory therapy in the Upstate College of Health Professions class of 2017, said when he served with the Marines in Iraq, “there’s nothing but sand and sticks and dirt, and there’s no cable, so you talk about what you know, and that’s home. So you talk about your favorite foods and what your kids are doing, the milestones you’re missing,” he said.

“Then you come home, and the things you didn’t think about much … now they’re all there: paying bills, now you’ve got to take out the garbage and mow the lawn, and these are things that just seem so petty … but they’re the things that are important in your life now,” he said during a ceremony Friday by the Upstate Veterans Association in Setnor Hall’s Eastwood Atrium in advance of Veterans Day, which is today.

“But it’s something you get back to, and the little things become important again: making sure the garbage is out on Monday and making sure that the dog is fed and that the lawn gets mowed. It just takes a little time. And the thing that makes those important again is your family. … They’re the ones that’ll bring you back to normal.”

Another Upstate Marine veteran added how he was helped in his return to everyday life by the healing he experienced in hospitals and the understanding he found in college.

Andrew Brown, a member of the CHP class of 2017 in radiation therapy, saw his military career cut short by leg injuries after a truck landed on him during his second deployment to Afghanistan.

“That time in the hospital, the care, doctors, nurses — that’s what initially made me want to get into health care,” said Brown, who noted that leaving the military life he loved was a “tough transition” for himself and others.

“I know college is what has changed me and helped me cope with things I couldn’t understand, through literature, my family,” he said, concluding with a brief passage about war’s contradictions and ambiguities from Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien’s book “The Things They Carried.”

In addition to the Setnor Hall ceremony, Upstate veterans took part in a parade Saturday at the State Fairgrounds.

Among the military veterans with ties to Upstate who took part in the Central New York Veterans Parade & Expo at the New York State Fairgrounds on Saturday are (from left, with their service branch): Andrew Brown (College of Health Professions, class of 2017, Marines); Kevin Jacobs (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry student who served in the Marines with Brown); Elton Garvin (CHP, Army); husband and wife Yetta (Sleep Center, Air Force) and Elliott J. Williams (Patient Access Services, Air Force); Ted Spadotto (Physical Plant, Army); Le’Nard Chisholm (Payroll, Army); T.J. Yount, (CHP class of 2009 alum, Army); Joseph Donovan (Physical Plant, not a veteran; he came to show support) and Willie White (Central Equipment, Army). (PHOTO BY SUSAN KEETER)

Among the military veterans with ties to Upstate who took part in the Central New York Veterans Parade & Expo at the New York State Fairgrounds on Saturday are (from left, with their service branch): Andrew Brown (College of Health Professions, class of 2017, Marines; also shown in top photo); Kevin Jacobs (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry student who served in the Marines with Brown); Elton Garvin (CHP, Army); husband and wife Yetta (Sleep Center, Air Force) and Elliott J. Williams (Patient Access Services, Air Force); Ted Spadotto (Physical Plant, Army); Le’Nard Chisholm (Payroll, Army); T.J. Yount, (CHP class of 2009, Army); Joseph Donovan (Physical Plant; not a veteran, he came to show support) and Willie White (Central Equipment, Army). (PHOTO BY SUSAN KEETER)

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