I met Brian Bland just before Veterans Day.
Brian, a former Marine Corps corporal who served two deployments in Iraq, had been invited to Reynolds High School in Troutdale, just east of Portland. The school was hosting a Living History Day, a day devoted to recognizing area veterans and inviting them to share their stories with the student body.
All our modern wars were represented: WWII, Korea, Vietnam — each veteran sharing their story with the students. Brian, at 30 years old this month, took his place that day as a representative of our new generation of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his two tours to the Middle East earning him his seat.
In front of a class of about 15 students, Brian had at his flank three survivors of the war in Vietnam. And after one told his story of being at sea aboard the USS Oriskany the day a fire killed 44 of his shipmates in 1966, it was Brian’s turn to share his story.
He had joined the Marine Corps in mid-2001 and was in boot camp on 9/11. Trained as a combat engineer, he deployed to Kuwait in 2003 and his unit was among those to breach the Iraqi border for the invasion forces that March. Continue reading