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Day 1/365 – Honoring John A. Robinson

January 2, 2012

I graduated from college on May 9, 1971, and was in Navy boot camp in Orlando, FL, on June 1.  At that time it was not an “All Volunteer Military”—every able-bodied man was given a number in the draft “lottery.”  If you ended up with a high number, you could feel fairly safe that you wouldn’t be drafted and could continue to make school/career plans.  If you had a low number, you could expect to end up in the infantry in Vietnam.  Some men enlisted because they wanted to serve in the war.

Navy and Now

Then & Now - John Robinson

I had a “medium” number, which left me in limbo, so I decided to enlist in the U.S. Naval Reserves, which would require me to spend two years on a ship followed by three years of Reserve training, one weekend a month.  In order to get into the Reserves I had to choose between training to be a “Boilerman” or a “Torpedoman”—their currently needed skills.  I chose to be a Torpedoman (quite possibly the only one in the entire fleet who had a B.A. in English).

Although my ship ended up going to Vietnam, and our ship was occasionally fired upon as we shelled the coast, I use the title “Vietnam Vet” with some reservations, because I believe that the guys who earned that distinction were the ones on the ground dodging bullets.  My “war stories” come from life aboard the relative safety of an old WWII-class destroyer.  (Torpedoes are fired from tubes up on the bow of a destroyer, not underwater).

When the war officially ended for the U.S. by the Paris Peace Treaty on January 27, 1973, my ship was sent home a month early.  (The South Vietnamese didn’t lose the war until Saigon fell on April 30, 1975.)

Although I didn’t experience the abuse personally, the way Americans treated returning Vietnam veterans remains a national disgrace that deeply wounded those who risked their lives in the war.  People in the Anti-War Movement labeled anyone who served in the war a “baby killer.”  The threat of harm to us was so bad that the admiral in charge of the Navy ordered us not to travel in uniform while in the states.   We had to travel in civilian clothes.

Every time I see how the current vets returning from the two wars are greeted at the airport by crowds of total strangers (even in the middle of the night) I have to hold back tears (1) because the country finally got it right, and (2) because this was the way returning Vietnam vets should have been treated.

I can’t honestly say that I am proud that I served in the Vietnam War.  It didn’t seem to me that our country “was in it to win it.”  Ironically, I am proud that I served my country (by not dodging the draft).   The many ports I visited as a sailor were an eye-opener for a small-town boy who had seldom traveled beyond the borders of his state.

John A. Robinson

39 Comments leave one →
  1. --Rick permalink
    January 26, 2012 6:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Let's Get Political and commented:
    365 Veterans is a fabulous blog that focuses on those serving or who have served our country in uniform. They have many wonderful stories to share, but I chose to reblog this one because the subject’s experience, I think, is typical in that I’ve heard many former shipmates tell a similar story.

    I was one of those who had a high draft number and had little chance of being called in the draft. However, a close friend of mine was killed in country and I enlisted more out of a sense of anger than duty. The irony is that for all my intentions, the closest I got to Vietnam was being pulled off of a flight to Da Nang an hour before departure because the Battalion Aid Station at Kaneohe Bay Marine Air Station needed someone qualified to perform X-Ray exams.

    I suppose that this was just my destiny from the beginning because the transport never made it to Da Nang. Instead, it was rerouted in flight to Iwakuni, Japan where my replacement bought, and on his return, sold Teak reel to reel tape recorders for a significant profit. Of course, I had to buy one out of a sense of duty because of what might have been for him.

    Please take a moment or two or three and visit this website. Also, if you see a veteran in your day to day life, please, pause just long enough to extend a hand and to say thank you. They’ve all earned that much.

    • January 26, 2012 7:03 pm

      Thank you for your kind words and the reblog. Thank you also for your service, and sharing a bit of your own story.

      • --Rick permalink
        January 26, 2012 10:46 pm

        The pleasure was all mine. It’s a different world for the military returning from war than it was a few decades ago. Thanks to people like you it is a much better world they are coming home to the hugs of wives, children, moms, dads and siblings. So, thank you! (hand salute!)

  2. January 21, 2012 11:27 pm

    I do want to say that not every long haired hippy – I was one – abused vets. I and my friends made a point to pick servicemen we saw hitching, put them up for the night, and yes maybe offer them wine and a joint – this was pre drug test – because we knew there but for the grace of god…

    This is a wonderful site.

  3. January 16, 2012 12:13 am

    What a sorry reaction to attack those who were brave enough to serve. I am grateful to have been too young for Vietnam, and too old for anything else; I would have made a lousy soldier. It takes a real man to fight for no reason other than a sense of duty.

    • January 16, 2012 9:20 am

      Rich I am a little confused by your comment? I don’t see where anyone is attacking those who served? Am I missing something?

      • January 16, 2012 12:34 pm

        I took it to mean that Rich was commenting on the sorry treatment the Vietnam vets got upon returning home. –John

        • January 16, 2012 12:41 pm

          John, You are right. I see that now. My apologies to Rich. I really should have a couple of cups of coffee and make sure my brain is working before I start rattling off on here. =)

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 16, 2012 12:31 pm

      Thanks, Rich! –J.A.R.

  4. January 15, 2012 6:21 pm

    John, thank you from this Canadian who appreciates the direct benefit of freedom that we experience because of your courage and loyalty to your country, my neighbour.

    I’m well aware that courageous could not have been how the men and women felt while there. But you suited up and lived with fear 24/7 anyway! No need to measure it – fear is fear no matter the degree.

    During the Viet Nam war, as a teen, I didn’t know what or who to believe about whether it should be happening. I would meet Americans who came into Canada to avoid the draft. I listened to them and knew it was not for me to judge. They caused me to wonder what I would do if I were faced with such an order: “Go to War, Young Person. Do it for your Country!”

    What gesture of Love, Tina and Jennifer. This shows what WE can do that no government agency would ever manage without it costing millions. This wonderful blog is putting salve on a wound that needs to know it can heal. It no longer has to weep.

    A warm hug to you, Sir…Mr. John A. Robinson.

  5. January 14, 2012 7:40 am

    Mike, Joyanna, and Chaplain Jones,

    The fact that people keep posting thanks for my service (after the extreme stories of sacrifice that followed mine) just blows me away. I not only feel better about claiming my Vietnam service, I feel GREAT about it. Thank you all for your comments.

    This blog is doing a much needed service by showcasing the stories of individual veterans. With Tina’s permission I downsized the logo for this blog to create a link on my photoblog to direct people here. I encourage bloggers everywhere to borrow the miniaturized “365 Veterans” logo from my site and create a similar link back here:

    –John Robinson:

    • January 14, 2012 8:56 am

      Thank you John. We appreciate all of your support and efforts to help us get the word out about the blog.

      I am so pleased that you are feeling better about claiming your Vietnam veterans title. I knew that most people would feel the same way that I do about your service, all who served are heroes in my eyes.

      We are working on some banners and graphics to add to the site for people to use on their sites, in the mean time I appreciate you offering the one that you created to people. Thanks John.


  6. January 13, 2012 9:09 pm


    Thank you for your service.


    Thank you for this post. We all appreciate when one of our brothers and sisters at arms receive any recognition. Keep up the good work.

    Ancil Jones
    HMC(AW/FMF/IDC), USN(ret)

    Sr. Vice Commander/Service Officer
    DAV Ch 26 Havelock, NC

    VFW Post 7315 Havelock, NC

    Thank you again and God bless.

    • January 13, 2012 9:18 pm

      Ancil thank you for your service, and all that you do for our veterans.

  7. January 13, 2012 8:28 pm

    I remember…John, you signed up to defend your country. I had a boyfriend at the time, that was …delicate and spoiled, His father had served in WWII< but he wanted no part of Vietnam. He was a college student. He moved to Canada. You are the better man.

    Needless to say: We broke up. I didn't think much of him then, and I still don't.

    Vietnam…was when our country was taken over by the "left". They introduced "drugs" and "free sex" and tried to get all the kids mixed up. While we were fighting communism over there, they put in their agenda over here.

    I knew so many boys who came back so messed up from Vietnam. It was painful to watch. I would sit and listen to them for hours. Some of them died of drug overdoses.

    Our poor parents didn't know what to do.

    We hated war, we hated the "corporations" and now, those same people run our country. They is nothing more noble than what you did. Even if you didn't see much hard bullets or war, you were there in support.

    God bless you and your family always.

    Come and visit my blog anytime..I would be honored.

  8. January 7, 2012 9:33 pm

    Thank you for your service, John, and for this great post. It is a downright disgrace how Vietnam vets were treated when they came home.

    • January 7, 2012 11:05 pm

      So true, it is shameful how these men were treated upon their return, definitely one of the dark spots in our history.

  9. January 6, 2012 2:38 am

    The subject matter you have chosen for your project 365 is a very courageous one, well done for getting out there and presenting it. And best wishes also for the veterans telling their stories.
    Thank you also for liking a post on my blog.

    • January 6, 2012 7:22 am

      Thank you for supporting our efforts and for you kind words. You are welcome. I am really enjoying all of the blogs I have discovered since starting my own.

  10. January 5, 2012 6:55 am

    A big THANK YOU to everyone who commented on my story! (I thanked my two friends/coworkers–Becky and Lori–personally.)


  11. January 3, 2012 10:19 pm

    Truly interesting. You strike me as a modest and realistic man recognising that you were caught up in something that was much bigger than you were.

    How life would have been for you had you been allotted a ‘high’ number.

    I see no reason for you to bear the weight of all the things that happened in that war.

    • tshang permalink
      January 3, 2012 10:35 pm

      David thank you for your comment and for following the blog. We are proud to feature John as our first veteran in this project. John tells us that the comments here in response to his post have helped him resolve some issues that have plagued him for the last forty years. I cannot tell you how happy that makes us, we hope that this project will not only raise awareness and promote change, but also be a healing experience for those involved. I know that a lot of men who served in the military who were in during a time of peace or saw no battle during wartime feel the same way that John feels. While it is fair to say that perhaps their sacrifices were not as great, nor their wounds as deep, it is unfair to consider them anything less than soldiers and heroes. Anyone who serves their country is a hero in our eyes.

  12. Lauren Young permalink
    January 3, 2012 9:04 pm

    John, I am proud to know you. I work in the same department at Ohio University with John and learned about his service by this website. It was a shame that the soldiers returning from Vietnam were treated so poorly. I had numerous friends who served and sadly some who died in Vietnam. I was raised by a father who was in WWII , 82nd Airborne and also served in Korea. I am extremely proud of all of our Vets!! Again, I am proud to know you, John!!!


    • tshang permalink
      January 3, 2012 10:30 pm

      Lori we are so proud to feature John as the first veteran in this project. Thank you for your comments.

  13. Jennifer permalink
    January 3, 2012 5:24 pm

    Thank you, John, for serving your country and for sharing a small part of your story here with us. You earned the title Vietnam Vet, you should wear it proudly! 🙂 I hope you are right in that our generation is getting it!

  14. Becky permalink
    January 3, 2012 2:30 pm

    John, thank you for your service! I am proud to have you for a friend and you are just as important as the ones that fought in battle. Every job is important in the military and it’s what makes a team. As you know my husband was in the Navy, our son is in the Marines and other family members cover all the branches of service. I am proud of all our military men/women in the past, present and future. You all have my deepest gratitude for the sacrifices you and your families have given for our country. I think this site is a wonderful idea and will follow it daily. Thank you!

  15. January 3, 2012 6:54 am

    This is such a beautiful story and such a beautiful tribute to veterans. I can’t wait to read more on this project.

  16. Jackie Paulson permalink
    January 3, 2012 4:33 am

    I added you to my blog roll at
    please stop by and thank you for honoring vets! It’s an honor to know you and all you do for others. ~Jackie Paulson (dad was in Army)

    • tshang permalink
      January 3, 2012 5:04 am

      Thank you Jackie. I will add your site to our blogroll as well, we appreciate the support.

  17. January 3, 2012 2:41 am

    It’s amazing that after almost 40 years it has taken the comments you all have made above for me to feel comfortable about claiming to be a Vietnam Vet. I just have such tremendous respect for the grunts who went through hell in that war and who got so little respect at home.

    THANK YOU for your comments!

    –John R.

    • tshang permalink
      January 3, 2012 3:18 am

      John you are a Vietnam Vet and a Hero. You should be comfortable with both.

  18. irishroverpei permalink
    January 2, 2012 10:55 pm

    Great story, and you are a veteran regardless of where or how you served. You served that’s what counts.

  19. January 2, 2012 10:07 pm

    Thanks for your service, John. And you shouldn’t have any reservations about using “Vietnam Vet” … if you were there, ashore or not, you were at risk.

    Bob Mack, U.S. Army, 1st Sig. Bde., RVN, 1967-68

  20. tshang permalink
    January 2, 2012 10:02 pm

    John says he has some reservations about using the term “Vietnam Vet” to refer to himself. He should not feel that way, he served his country with honor. He did his duty, and could not have possibly known whether or not he would come out of the war unscathed or even alive. I am proud to have John as the first veteran featured on this site, he deserves to be honored alongside his brothers and sisters.

    John I know that public sentiment at the time you returned home from Vietnam was not a positive one for soldiers. I hope that we can use this project to properly welcome home and honor our Vietnam veterans when they are featured here. You have my respect and gratitude for your service, and for your continued support of all of the individuals who have and are currently serving their country.

    I am honored to share your story here. Thank you.

    You can learn more about John by visiting him on his blog The Daily Graff.



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