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Famous veterans

George Carlin

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Among the millions of Americans who spent time in US Military, there are men that become publicly known by another thing. Singers, writers, actors… the list is so long. But, the central figure of this article is exactly one of such persons…

Controversial, outspoken and above all funny, George Carlin stands as one of the comedy greats, but given his well-known anti-establishment perspective, it might come as a surprise that he is an also a veteran.

George Carlin (George Denis Patrick Carlin) was born in Manhattan to a national advertising manager for the New York Sun and a secretary. His mother, Mary Beary, left her husband when Carlin was still an infant. She had a tumultuous relationship with her son, and he frequently ran from home. Carlin attended Corpus Christi, a Roman Catholic school in his neighborhood of Morningside Heights, where many of his negative attitudes toward religion were born.

After dropping out of high school in 1954, Carlin joined the Air Force to use the GI Bill to cover the costs of broadcasting school. He was trained as a radar technician and was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana.

“So I do have this ambivalence. Obviously I’m against militaries, because of what militaries do. In many ways though, the Air Force was unmilitary-like. They dropped bombs on people, but…they had a golf course.” 

Looking back on his service, Carlin was proud to have been generally discharged instead of dishonorably discharged. He was deemed an unproductive Airman and court martialed three times. As a more constructive outlet for his biting comedy, he worked as a disc jockey for the KJOE radio station while on active duty. Despite his troubles in the service, his work at KJOE helped him jump to other opportunities in the entertainment industry.

After working in broadcast for a short while, he moved to California where he found success in television on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show” and later, enduring fame as a cutting-edge comedian. One of the more memorable bits from his later career concerned PTSD, as he decried how the military had taken a simple, succinct term (shell shock) and over time had sanitized it into its current form (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Carlin died on June 22, 2008 at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, of heart failure. He was 71 years old. His death occurred one week after his last performance at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

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Famous veterans

The truth behind the ‘Marlboro Marine’ and that famous photo

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Back in 2004, during the furious Second Battle of Fallujah, United States Marine James Blake Miller was simply doing his job, fighting to stay alive and protect his fellow leathernecks — when the scanning lens of Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco caught his gaze.

It was a moment that changed his life, and rattled the emotions of millions of Americans.

It ran in more than 150 newspapers worldwide. Dan Rather highlighted the image, and Miller himself, on the CBS Evening News.

And all these years later the picture is still bounding about the internet, popping up here and there. Sarah Palin posted it to her Facebook page to protest college students protesting tuition hikes. Memes both honorable and nefarious frame Miller, sadly without any context, and with no say from the man himself.

Here are his own words, on what was going on when Sinco’s flashbulb gleamed.

“My nerves were so shook up. I felt like I was in some kind of catatonic state — like I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think. I couldn’t blink. I couldn’t show no facial expression.”

This was the lede to piece published by the photographer in the Los Angeles Times back in 2007:

The young Marine lighted a cigarette and let it dangle. White smoke wafted around his helmet. His face was smeared with war paint. Blood trickled from his right ear and the bridge of his nose.

Momentarily deafened by cannon blasts, he didn’t know the shooting had stopped. He stared at the sunrise.

His expression caught my eye. To me, it said: terrified, exhausted and glad just to be alive. I recognized that look because that’s how I felt too.

He went on to describe the tough road Miller faced a few years after he’d returned from his deployment. Severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) began interfering with his life, and his career (his USMC career abruptly ended in 2005).

He also, however, included this very telling story that took place during the height of the photograph’s fame — when Miller’s face had become almost an official emblem for the Iraq War. It’s a shame it can’t be permanently attached to the anecdote, a caption to the image that can’t be torn away, no matter what:

“Miller get your ass up here,” a first sergeant barked on the radio.

Miller had no idea what was going on as he ran through the rubble. He snapped to attention when he saw the general.

Natonski shook Miller’s hand. Americans had “connected” with his photo, the general said, and nobody wanted to see him wounded or dead.

“We can have you home tomorrow,” he said.

Miller hesitated, then shook his head. He did not want to leave his buddies behind. “It just wasn’t right,” he told me later.

The tall, lanky general towered over the grunt. “Your father raised one hell of a young man,” he said, looking Miller in the eye. They said goodbye, and Natonski scrambled back to the command post.

For his loyalty, Miller was rewarded with horror. The assault on Fallujah raged on, leaving nearly 100 Americans dead and 450 wounded. The bodies of some 1,200 insurgents littered the streets.”

According to CNN, in 2013 — thanks to the help of the cameraman who made him famous — Miller reunited with his wife (they had split a year into their marriage after his medical discharge and return to Kentucky, in 2006) and was receiving proper treatment for his PTSD.

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Famous veterans

Roger Staubach

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Roger Staubach, better know by his nicknames Captain America and Captian Comeback is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL).  It’s interesting that during his junior year at the Naval Academy, Staubach’s color-blindness was detected. He was permitted to become the Naval Academy’s first graduate to be commissioned directly into the Supply Corps, which did not necessitate being able to tell the difference between red (port) and green (starboard) lights or to discern the color differences in electrical circuitry.

He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1965 and immediately started serving his four-year commitment to the Navy, before joining the Dallas Cowboys in 1969. Staubach served one year in Vietnam as a supply officer at the Chu Lai base/port (a secondary air base providing relief for Da Nang Air Base approximately 50 miles (80 km) to the northwest) until 1967. He had 41 enlisted men under his command. Staubach considered staying in the military full-time but found himself missing football.

Roger Staubach in 1976

Roger Staubach in 1976

In September 1967, he comes back from Vietnam and spent the rest of his naval career in the United States. He played football on various service teams to prepare for his future career in the National Football League.

Profession: American football player
Age: February 5, 1942 (aged 73)
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America
Schools: New Mexico Military Institute, Purcell Marian High School, United States Naval Academy

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