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Tuesday, November 11, 2014




A couple years ago I asked my friend, Kathy and her brother, Dennis, if I could post an interview with them about their military service and they agreed.

Dennis served in Vietnam and Kathy has served in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have both paid a price for their service and I want to honor them, and other men and women who gallantly serve our country by reposting that interview. And here it is.

Col. Kathy Groce: Recently retired from the United States Air Force. She served several tours in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan as an RN in Medical Evacuation.

1. (In answer to what she would like American citizens to know.) I would like the American people to know that each war experience is different and each person responds to it differently. Perhaps you can lump generalities together from each war but, no matter what, those who go to war are changed by it in some way. Sometimes the changes are almost undetectable...sometimes they overwhelm. Veterans have faced their own fears and for the most part have put service to our country above their own comfort and safety. For the most part, they have dealt with situations and decisions that the everyday American will never consider. So we come back home from a war and try to fit back in to the times, changes, feelings...and it is hard sometimes.

2. Would I join the service if I had a do over? Yes, I would. The military is a way of life, and though I don't agree with all of it, I like it nonetheless. I learned skills and had experiences that I would never have learned or gotten otherwise.

3. My specific branch of service - Air Force - was pretty good to us. I have no real complaints. They have taken care of me.

4. The most significant thing I learned in the service is that everyone has a responsibility to speak up and to listen up in order to make positive changes. I always thought that those in higher ranks or whoever was in charge knew better ways of doing things than I did...not always true. Some good changes have occurred because someone took the risk of challenging the status quo. The key is learning the proper way to challenge the system.

5. I know that going to war with people makes bonds with them that are hard to break. There is a place in my heart for the folks I deployed with... I know what sacrifices they made and I know how hard we all worked to do our jobs. It is a camaraderie bonus.

Kathy’s outfit were allowed to ask a civilian to join them on a C130 and talk to their civials about the way they go about their job. I’m terrified of flying and I was scheduled to work that day, but my nephew convinced me it was a once in a lifetime offer and I would regret it for all time if I didn’t go. I pushed back fear and went. It really was an experience I’ll never forget and I learned so much about what it takes to be an Air Force nurse. As much as I have spent my nursing career in Acute Care, so many things are different when it’s all done thousands of feet in the air. I never thought about bleeding in a pressurized cabin, or that water wasn’t available. It’s very different…and everything takes place while dodging bullets. I learned so much about the planes, too. That cargo bay is not only huge, but it can be changed into racks of bunks for the injured, or cleared for armored tanks and other land vehicles. As big as they are, I understand from my talk with the pilot that they are extremely maneuverable and made to land on battlefields. I was so impressed by the equipment and they dedicated military who operated it all. I felt so honored to have been invited and to speak with this magnificent soldiers. I even got to talk to a female general on the flight.

Dennis Groce: Served in the War in Vietnam

1. ALL Americans should be very grateful to ALL service members, male and female. Active or retired. For doing their duty for their country! There should be more recognition and less finger pointing, realizing that in order for peace, sacrifices must be made!

2. Age and health permitting, yes I would serve again.

3. Pay for military should be increased and benefits should reflect the difficult training to prepare for a “government" job!

4. I learned life survival skills which should be taught to all citizens. Maybe then, the spaces would begin to fill in!

5. My service was mandatory as I was drafted for service in Vietnam. Every physical exercise was in preparation to either kill or be killed!

It was a Real Change from high school!

A solid mental focus became a natural occurrence when you realize

“I’m not in Kansas anymore“! Overall. I enjoyed the Brotherhood

which developed at all my duty stations. Thanks for your interest in Veterans! God Bless! 

Dennis had health issues due to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. He died in his sleep suddenly this past summer. He was a big Panthers fan, a great dad and husband, and a Mason. He was one of the happiest and kindest people I ever met.

I want to thank Kathy Groce and her brother, Dennis for sharing their thoughts and feelings with me about their service to their country. It is such a privilege for me to know both of them.



For more than just for today, I hope that you will honor the Veterans of our country and their families for the sacrifices they have made for us. If you know someone who is a veteran, I hope you call him or her, tell them you care about them and thank them for putting their life on the line for the rest of us. Not every soldier got to come home. Some soldiers’ lives have been forever altered by physical or emotional wounds. If you have the privilege of seeing a veteran today or any day please honor them, thank them and tell them, “Welcome home.”

written by Sarah J. McNeal
Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of time travel, paranormal, western, contemporary and historical fiction. Her stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Prairie Rose Publications. Her website: http://www.sarahmcneal.com   


  1. Sarah, this is one of the very best, maybe the best, blog I have ever read. It touched my heart and I want to thank you for this wonderful tribute to all those unsung heroes like these two who did thier jobs so that we might enjoy the freedom that we have and often don't appreciate. Thank you.

  2. Linda, since know these two veterans personally, their service is particularly inspiring to me. Kathy and I worked together in 1980's in Coronary Care and we've been close friends ever since. She is one dedicated person and approaches life from somewhere deep in her spirit. Her brother was like her in many ways, dedicated, loving, and strong. He will be so missed.
    Thank you so much for reading this blog dedicated to our veterans. I appreciate your kindness in commenting.

  3. Nice interview, Sarah. My hat is off to all the members of our military, both past and present. Sad about Dennis, though. Many veterans spend so much time trying to get medical benefits from such exposures, only to hear that they have no problem so don't bother us.

  4. JD, I so agree with you about veterans' benefits. It seems those who deserve the most, get the least. It's such a shameful situation and needs to be righted immediately.
    Thank you so much for your comment.

  5. Sarah--what a wonderful tribute you have created here to honor service men and women. Your first hand knowledge is invaluable, and yes, you would have regretted the offer to fly with them forever, if you had said no. Knowing your fears, as you've describe, I admire you even more for doing this.
    The interviews were not only informative, they were touching and personal. Thank you for this today, on Veteran's Day.

  6. Celia, it means so much to me to honor those who deserve it so much. I remember how despicably Vietnam vets were treated back in the 60's and 70's when Americans were protesting the war. Those brave soldiers were drafted and did the honorable thing to answer the call from their country, but they were treated like villains. I hope we never make that mistake again.
    I was terrified to go on that flight, but you know, I had to do it or face regrets forever. I skipped out of work that day--a thing I never did to take that flight.
    Thank you so much for your kind comments and for your unwavering support.

  7. Thank you, Sarah! A fantastic tribute to such special people and to all our Veterans. I always think of my grandfather, my uncles, and my cousins who served in the various wars and conflicts. They all came back changed, had their personal lives forever affected, and some were physically or mentally impaired as a result. We owe them our gratitude for our freedom and we owe them better benefits and care than most of them ever receive. No Veteran should be homeless, go without food or shelter, or suffer for lack of medical care. There has to be a better way to show our appreciation for their sacrifices!

    1. Rebecca, I saw many homeless and afflicted vets, mostly Vietnam vets, when I worked the ER. It's as if they were just lost. How do we thank them for all the suffering? The VA really needs to get its act together and offer them physical and emotional help as well as some kind of social services to help them find homes and jobs, if they're able to work.
      Thank you for coming by and commenting. I know how busy you are, so it's much appreciated.

  8. Outstanding, Sarah. Many thanks for this important post, and I'm sharing!

    1. Lorrie, thank for the share. It's wonderful to have you send out the love, thanks and appreciation to our veterans. This post is the least I can do for them. I thank you for coming by and commenting.

  9. Sarah, I'm still wiping my eyes. What a lovely tribute you've done for all those in the military and the veterans. And thanks for taking the time to let them know just much they are appreciated and loved. My hat is off to you for caring and sharing. A wonderful post.

  10. Beverly, thank you for all your kind words. This post is the least I could do for all those brave men and women serving on our behalf and their families who, in my opinion, serve along with them. Thank you so very much for your comment.


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