WASHINGTON — Servicemembers and veterans savor the friendships they make with comrades during wartime, said John Teetz, an Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Teetz served in the Army from 2001–2004. Now living in Philadelphia, Pa., Teetz said he originally looked to the service for guidance. College wasn’t giving him what he wanted, and he’d learned the merits of service from his family.
“I was in college, and I wanted something to do with my life,” Teetz said. “My father was ‘in,’ my grandfather was ‘in’ … Navy both of them. I’m not much on boats, and I wanted to do ground stuff, so I joined the Army.”
Teetz enlisted in August 2001 –- his tenth day of basic combat training was Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, he said, the attitude at basic training changed drastically. For him, it meant a new drive.
“It made me train harder,” Teetz said. “A lot of people got scared, a lot of people got more focused –- I guess I was one of the ones that got more focused.”
In 2003, Teetz deployed to Iraq to perform ground surveillance reconnaissance duties. It was in that dangerous, austere environment, he said, that he made some of his closest friends.
“When we finally got electricity up and running, everybody sent off for different things we wanted. I sent for an Xbox, my friend sent for a TV, and pretty soon we had a ‘Madden’ season going.”
But his tour wasn’t all fun and games. During his deployment, one of Teetz’s close friends was hit by an improvised explosive device.
“He had just had a kid, and it took a while to find out that he was okay. It was a scary time,” Teetz said.
After his Iraq deployment ended, Teetz was able to visit his friend in Germany.
“He was still limping around on crutches, but it was good to see him and ‘catch up,’ ” he said.
That camaraderie, Teetz said, is what made going to war worth it for him, noting he still keeps in touch with his battle buddies from Iraq using online networks like Facebook. Teetz said his military service benefited him in another way.
“The military made me the man I am today,” he said. “I’m more on point, more responsible. It basically changed my life.”
(Veterans’ Reflections is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm and present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veteran’s Day.)
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)