Old Guys…

Picture of Selco


I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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My great uncle was a drinking man, he would drink heavily from the moment when he woke up until the moment he went to bed, but I do not remember ever seeing him stumbling, walking funny or having problems with his speech.

When he was at home his favorite spot was on the couch in the corner of the room, just next to the wood stove which was running always except on really hot days.

He drank from very small glasses (shot glasses), bottle was never visible (he kept bottle behind the couch) on the table there was silver box for cigarettes, with tobacco and papers for cigarette rolling inside, and his shot glass.

Table was old type table with a glass plate on top of it, and under that glass he kept paper that says that government and state recognizes him as a member and organizer  of the early resistance movement against the German and Italian occupation (WW2).

Table, his cigarette box, his rakija and everything else in his room was off limits for us kids. He lived with my grand parents, he never married, no kids.

Actually now when I remember he himself was pretty much off limits for us kids, only person who ever had some influence over him was my grandmother-his sister, she was the only one who could tell him sometimes that he need to do something.

He was one tough and dangerous old dude, sitting in the room. Drinking and staring in the spot where the wall connects with ceiling.

Sometimes we kids sneak in the room, seeking for stories, or money from him, in return we would bring firewood from shed for his never-ending stove fire.

He would gave us money often from his big “veteran warrior” pension, stories were rare.

Often kids just sat there, talking something, he would occasionally say “uhm” or “ahm” and stare in empty.

He did not go out very much, except his regular chess meetings in the local community hall.

It  was something like community hall, war veteran organization and heavy drinking joint place in one.

People call it “half leg” because several handicapped folks who were there all the time.

And I was a kid who often went with him there, my grandmother often would tell me “go with him there and wait for him”, I guess she simply was worried for him.

Place was big hall with old tables with games like chess and checkers on them,  great uncle would sat down usually with same folks there, his old war comrades.

They would play chess, drink heavy booze and over the time they would usually forgot that I am even there.

In that time I was taught in the school that we are living in great socialistic and communistic society, where all people are equal, and that we got to that point through the heroic and noble fighting of working class in WW2.

War and fights were something noble, heroic and full of sacrifice. Our war vets were ‘clean’; they were people who sacrifice themselves for our motherland – for socialistic society.

I was taught like that, in my young mind all was black and white.

Over the time I realized that folks on that table together with my great uncle had a bit different picture about war and fighting and honor.

They talked about everything, but with heavy slang  and in what looked to me in that time in ‘codes’, and lot of “remember the Mora(mountain) and how we eat shoes”? and answer would be “yeah, fuck it, and how many bodies there”

Lot of that was not understandable for me, lot of head nodding,

One of those chess games stayed in my mind over several decades of the time since I heard it on that table:

Man who played chess with my great uncle had a pieces of shell in his body, I think it was not option to remove it so he grow old with that in his body, he had couple of pieces in his arm and fingers, and while he was thinking about his next chess move he would squeeze his fist and fingers and pieces of shell in his fingers were producing the sound like something is chewing inside his hand.

It was fascinating for me in that time.

What I understand from their story was this:

He and my great uncle were find themselves in some heavy fighting during the ww2 .

Their unit was carrying a lot of heavily wounded together with lot of civilians who were running from German forces.

Sudden attack of Germans made chaos and they together with couple of guys got separated from the unit.

They manage to break out from the encirclement, then they hide inside some cave for couple of days.

They ate tree bark.

Days later they went out and wandered through woods trying to go to the safe territory.

And then they stumble members of their unit.

Actually a pile of it.

On one small clear place in the woods, there were hundreds of bodies in a big pile, and man with the “chewing” in his fist said he never before or later saw anything like that.

Soldiers and civilians were shot and put on big pile of bodies in the middle of nowhere, and he said that lot of them were heavily wounded but still alive actually, they were put there intentionally still alive, to suffer more before they die.

They found couple of woman tied to the trees… Dead.

They quickly move away from there, scared.

Later that night while they were resting they heard noises, quietly went to check and find out German soldier sitting down and bandaging wound on his leg, probably lost and separated from his unit.

They killed him with bayonet, and as I understand they killed him slowly.

That story terrified me to the bones, and I think I heard it only because they were pretty drunk and not even realized I was with them.

My great uncle died long time ago, he was heavy drinker too to the last breath.

On his funeral there were flags, and speech about honor and sacrifice, even his medals.

We never found his wartime machine gun “smajser” (mp 40) that he hid somewhere after the war never giving up to no one where it is, and as I am older I feel sorry I did not hear more about his experiences.

I am sure he cared a lot more for that machine gun than for speeches flags and medals.

I do not remember him as an war hero, and I am sure he did not think about himself as an war hero.

He was scared often while he was in survival situation, he often did things that he did not like, he was not invincible, and he was ready for trouble again all the time.

He was a survivalist.


Point of this article is (just like lot of my article) is memory of something, in this case memory of my great uncle.

And there is one more point, for you more important:

Talk with old folks, with veterans, old or young, there is nothing like real life experience.

Be patient, best (or worst) stories are hardest to get, but it is precious knowledge.

It is better prepper investment to hear how (and what) tree bark to eat then to buy 10 MREs.

Many years after my great uncle experiences and events I experienced similar things, hunger, fightings, piles of bodies…

It is in human nature, things like this are happening and will happen again…








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21 Responses

  1. Selco

    I have listened to stories from the Spanish Civil War from my grandparents paying great attention, I learned a lot about what they did to survive. One of the things that strike me most is that they managed to keep a high standard of humanity in the worst of times, I often hear how they gave food, helped someone in need or fugitive. THAT is heroism to me.

    thank you man.

  2. two cents (Wheat Pennies of course),

    Relax.. enjoy your life.. go fishing, spend time outdoors.. Eat only Clean food and Water (Uncontaminated by GMOs, Chlorine/Florine.. If you must eat less.. eat less but eat quality foods.. Find a quality Liquid Vitamin to take and take it. Nascent (Primitive) Iodine.. Take care of your health , your body,,, do not mistreat it.. Strong and Healthy must be your goal.

    If you are single.. do not settle for any women who is less aware than you of the world as it is.. The worthless kind they are a dime a dozen and only bring misery. If you can live without until you are settled all the better. Still knowing a few will not hurt. Just do not get wrapped around the axle.

    Save 10% of all you earn store it in silver or gold.. (this assumes you will be spending other money on your preps).

    Move to a rural place or at minimum acquire and pay off a rural property…..with water and good weather where you can subsistence farm raise small farm animals,

    Use due diligence to select the location.

    Have a few guns, common types the less complex the better.. but plenty of common ammunition.. If you win a fight you may have more guns but ammunition will be an increasingly valuable and scarce commodity.

    Remember you can’t always avoid a fight but you can never lose a fight you avoid.. survival is about avoiding danger..Keep that mindset. If you must fight.. do not hold back.. fight and win.

    Acquire two of each types of common hand tools and learn how to use them.

    Decide where you want to live and how.. then set about doing just that.. Be slow to make friends.. but make good ones and be a good one.

    Buy Bulk Beans and Rice and some Spices to fix them with.. (This is better than all the MREs in the world) 3/4s of all the people in the America’s make this part of their Staple diet.. Make it part of yours.

    Realize if you are a young man .. you are for the most part going to be on your own for the rest of your life and there will likely be no one to help pick up the pieces from any wrecks….. Plan and act accordingly,

    I told one of my Grandsons.. “Life is a Minefield” ….a little while letter he gave me a Drawing of a Soldier (me I gather) and below it read.. ” Life is a Mind Field” …indeed.

    Read the Bible, Christ assuredly was a Prepper in his own way, read about him as The good Sheppard” .. there is nothing inconsistent or weak about him … That is only propaganda put out by Women, Priests and Governments.

    Whenever there is the opportunity to consider your actions do so with deliberation …..Think, Think again… Then Act..

    You are really the next in line from 100,000 some years of being around here.You carry that experience and knowledge inside even if you cannot yet get in touch with it… You know much more and are capable of much more than you think if you open yourself to the knowledge and understanding that is hidden inside. That is a big part of learning to go with your gut..

    It really is mystical/magical.. a part of you but a few vaguely know exist ..even fewer can consciously get in contact with, call on, put to work for them… learn to trust..

    Softly Softly.. Sure and Steady is the way.

  3. My grandfather went through the Great Depression in northern Mississippi. He didn’t experience any violence on the level described in the article, but he was always hungry. My brother and I always talked with him about the different animals and things he and the family ate. There were very few things not on that list…

  4. I suppose old folks in every generation have lamented the decline they see in the younger generation. I share that concern as I’m in my late fifties. Do the younger people know enough to value humanity as they should? Or have they been dumbed down too much? Have they become too enslaved to technology to the point of not knowing how to use their own brains? I suppose time will tell. But you’re right to encourage all of us to learn from those who are older and (hopefully) wiser.

  5. You’ve described classic PTSD behavior.

    This should be a sobering insight for us all: if tough guys like your uncle, who grew up in a far rougher era than us, could be shocked into such depression, we had better do what’s necessary right now to prepare our minds to lessen PTSD effects later. Preparation of the mind is more important than physical preps, which is why we listen to Selco in the first place.

    IMO, Lt Col Dave Grossman’s “On Combat” online training course (http://www.grossmanacademy.com/courses/on-combat) is an excellent start (I have no financial interest in that program). His “On Combat” book is also good, but I got more out of the online course than the book because of deeper immersion. I’ve also taken his more recent “On Killing” online course (based on his “On Killing” book) but found the “On Combat” course *far* more useful.

    I recommend reading “On Killing” in book form but take his “On Combat” online course, which is only $79. Again, I have no financial interest in any of Grossman’s activities.

  6. Selco, so true about old guy’s wisdom!
    My father lived through the Depression on a farm.My mother survived WW2 in the jungles of the Philippines. My Mom taught us we can eat anything we see the animals eat. My Dad taught me to always have a backup plan(s) – in his bomb truck during the Korean War, he had an M3 Carbine, M3 submachine gun (which he picked off a pile of stuff they were burning during the big Bugout), A Russian Ppsh-41 subgun, and a Moisin Nagant rifle. He also taught me to respect the enemy. When I laughed about the Russian Yak-1 fighter being fabric covered he told me straight up “Those guys make some d^&m good aircraft -don’t laugh”. Years later I found out he did the enemy equipment briefings, so he would know. A few years ago I saw a real Yak fighter do a 360 degree turn in under 7 seconds!
    A few weeks ago, I was at a trade show and a local museum had a firearms display of WW2 stuff. I was talking about the BAR with the display curator and ended up talking with an older guy who seemed to know an AWFUL lot about it. We chatted about pluses and minuses, etc, then started talking about other weapons we both knew of or had carried. Eventually I realized (though he didn’t say it, which makes me feel he was real) that this guy was a SEAL in Vietnam. We talked BAR vs M14, Tommy gun vs shotgun, M240 vs M60, etc etc. We both knew the horizontal tracking trick. Main thing I learned from this guy was practice, practice, practice; because it’s not the weapon – it’s the man.
    My Uncle Joe was in the Pacific. One night he and a buddy watched one of the other guys head out into the jungle for a No2, right on schedule. They snuck up behind him with a GI folding shovel and caught it all, then snuck away. When the victim finished, he got up, did up his trousers, then turned to look, -the way guys do- and realized there was nothing there! He looked around, checked his trousers, under his boots EVERYWHERE. Nothing. My Uncle and his co-conspirator were in the bush, trying not to laugh out loud. Then they headed back to camp before the victim got there. The look on his face was priceless, apparently. So you can hear some funny stuff, as well.

  7. I’m a retired US Army Medical Command Physician. I spent many hours listening to the war stories of veterans at Military and VA Hospitals and in VA Clinics. Selco is exactly right about what one can learn from their experiences. Much excellent survival info. But also, learned much about the true nature of man that I was not taught in undergrad psych courses and in residency training in medicine, neurology and psychiatry. Man is civilized as long as he/she is fed, has warm comfortable housing, and has hope for the future. When any one of these is lost, chaos can emerge along with bestial savage behavior. When all are lost, as is typical in warfare situations, humans become the most dangerous of all animals. All spiritual and moral lessons and guidelines are trashed or ignored, and their focus becomes to get food, water, shelter, and sometime sexual satisfaction (hence all the rapes during war, leaving scared women in the droves). I learned that good people are often victimized by the psychopaths that emerge in wartimes, and by the desperate formerly normals that loose hope along with the promise of shelter and food. I also learned that the history of man is the history of war, and that war is as likely as death itself, if not quite as regular and predictable. War is coming to America and Europe. Best prepare.

  8. “Scared women” being left in droves…not if they have firearms and have the training and mindset to use them. I do not intend to be left behind “among the droves.” Scared maybe, but rational and taking action to defend myself.

    Yes, I am one of the old ones, not having been through war, but through a few forms of lesser hells. I know what bark to eat and have eaten grubs from under the bark. Old age and treachery…LOL But very few younger ones care to listen and learn.

    Thank you, Selco, for constantly bringing us face to face with reality. Especially agree with all the lessons, and the comments, which tell the truth about the thin veneer of civilization that erodes in a few minutes–once it is obvious food and comfort and rule of law have evaporated. The human heart is desperately wicked.

  9. Selco,

    It is good to record your memories of your uncle. I did the same with two of my uncles. I enjoyed reading your uncles story. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  10. Before my mother died, my oldest brother sat down with her and recorded her reminiscences of going through the Great Depression. What the old have to tell is worth more than gold, and once they’re gone, their stories are gone.

  11. Hello Selco,

    Thank you for your website. The ” Old Man” story reminds me of the stories my mother told me of ‘Yugoslavia’ during WWII.
    The most vivid is what I call the “Blieburg” story. As Tito’s Partisans advanced northward at the war’s end, hundreds of thousands of civilians, soldiers, fled into Austria. Montgomery’s generals told them the Partisans were our friends and send them back on trains. My mother jumped off and a few hours later ten thousand people were dead.
    Less grim was when a Socialistic Partisan not familiar with a tiolet washed his food in it and got so angry when he accidentally flushed the food he machinegunned the tiolet.
    Another story that could believed or not my mother told was she could predict ahead of time what house was bombed the next day. After awhile she keep that to herself as people weren’t amused. But this illustrates people’s instincts are sharpened almost to the sixth sense so that at times its best to go with your hutches in a day to day crises.
    My father when asked about the war said he didn’t want to talk about it. He also slipped lemon aid from a container. Later I realized it wasn’t lemon aid.
    Thank you again Selco for your blog. It is one of the few level headed sites on the web.


  12. Addendum,

    Sorry but in hindsight I would like to add another ‘lesson’ or moral story my Mother told me. You need to believe in something to help you get though any war. When the Germans came the first action they took was to shoot the “fifth column” people who had informed them who was who amongst their neighbors. Their reasoning was if you could not be trusted by your own people, we (the Germans) could not trust you.
    The second class of people not to make it were the “intellectuals” who could not get over what had just happened.
    And so on for other groups as time went on.
    More than not people who had something to believe in somehow survived. It doesn’t mean they were not affected by the war but could tell their stories if anyone would listen or comprehend somewhat what had happened. It didn’t even begin to sink in for me until 1991 listening to the news, as filtered as it was. My mother didn’t comment on what was reoccurring, she cried once and then was sad for awhile.

  13. Dober dan Selco,

    I see my comments were posted, thank you as they bought up memories of my parents (trans-generational anxiety transfer may be more than a fancy term).
    One idea that occured to me rereading the posts was about a question you asked awhile back in your story of spending the better part of a day behind a metal container out of sight of a sniper. There was another person with a radio which brought up the question did the world know that Sarajevo was under seige?
    By now I guess you know the answer. From my perspective in the US at the time people were not being told the whole story in the media plus they could not comprend even if it was.
    When Slovenia broke away from the Federation there was only a single image of a Serbian MIG dropping a bomb in an empty town square. So for the rest of the war Slovenia had nothing to do with that period. When one says Slovenian people think of Czechoslovakia. Only one columnist George Will, that I know of, compared the Secession to the American Revolution against unfair taxation. Basically that was it for the newspaper coverage. If someone mentioned Slovenia on a television talkshow after the commerical break that person was nowhere to be seen.
    So that was the coverage of the war till 1995 and after. No reason was given except that’s what those people do over there. Forget the Sarajevo Olympics or how various groups did live together. Roger Waters of the musical band “Pink Floyd” mentioned the conflict was like a simple bar fight until gasoline was thrown into the mix. No mention was made where the petro came from or how artificial boundaries were imposed in the 1920’s. At the first year it was reported the body count was around a quarter of a million where it stayed for the rest of the war even after Srebrenica where two unarmed Dutch troops guarded over five thousand people. By the way the New York Times newspaper reported in the US the massacre was part of a civil war so it didn’t matter.
    Sorry, I’m ranting and raving but my point is I believe at the time you were listening to the radio basically there was no real coverage in the US. Yes there were the same images repeated over and over but no explanation for the reasons for them which is unfortunate since that leaves the possibility of history repeating itself.

    No need to post this.

    1. Dobar dan John!
      Thanks for commenting here.

      I am sure that bad things happening around the world right now (worst then happened in my case) and i do not know anything about it.
      It is way how world is functioning today, media is there for their own reasons mostly, and not because truth.
      There are other reasons too, Stalin said “”The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.”However wrong it is-actually it is like that in modern world.

      Being on the ground in the middle event is completely different, and it is not definitely about statistic.

      One more important thing here is fact that history is written by winners, and usually because hidden reasons.

      Important things can be found out and learned listening to the “common man” stories.
      Usually much more important then from official history.

      Stay safe.

  14. Greetings, Selco.

    This will be off-topic, but I want to say hello, and tell you of my visit to your country long ago.

    First, thank you for this fascinating blog. I read it from end to end. Kudos to you for finding a way to make an honest living out of a deep tragedy. Amazing.

    Where to start? Well first, I will tell you that I traveled through your city and region nearly 40 years ago, 1978, I believe. It was a very mixed experience, and at the time I had absolutely no idea about the unique history and circumstances of your region. I was hitchhiking through Europe and the Middle East and swung through your area briefly on my way back to the U.S. from Isreal. I had just thumbed through Jordan, Syria, and a Turkey (This would be suicide to do today!). and after about a week in what was then Yugoslavia, I continued on into western Europe and back home to America.

    One thing I clearly remember about your area was the natural beauty of the countryside along the Mediterranean. Maybe the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen anywhere. I was picked up on the main highway by two young university students. The driver spoke a little English, and he invited me to come to his home in the countryside just outside of Skopje. I accepted because I rarely turn down a chance to see the culture of a new place from the viewpoint of the regular people. He was very kind to me. After we arrived at his home I was struck by how simple, yet comfortably they lived. The home was small, with no running water, simple, but clean and warm. They invited me to go drinking and chasing women with them, but I declined. He took no offense and left me in the care of his elderly mother for the evening.

    The next day I told them that I needed to change money and the young man dropped me off at a bank in the city. My strongest impression was about how rude and unfriendly the people were there in the city. I’ve never seen anything like it. There were maybe 20 people waiting in line on the sidewalk for the bank to open. Every last one of them were frowning and very sullen. They hardly spoke a word except to grunt at one another. When they started to unlock the bank doors the crowd tightened up and actually began to push and shove one another (and me!) in the rudest way I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. It was shocking, and it was very clear to me that this country was not a happy place at that time.

    I mentioned the experience to my hosts and they apologized. Little did I know that the tensions I was seeing in that crowd was a symptom of a much larger problem, and that region would soon explode in the orgy of murder and mayhem that you have so clearly described. I’m so sad for your people. I now know that the unique historical and cultural circumstances of your region have conspired to make it a never ending powder keg of tension and hatred.

    I do not wish to treat the tragic circumstances of you and your people lightly. I am so sad for them. Your friend, the one you spoke about who turned to Jesus Christ, has the right idea. I suspect that down deep, you know this is true. As you know, the root problem is in the hearts of people. Only Jesus has the power to turn deep hatred into love and bring the forgiveness and reconciliation that your people desperately need. Without that change, you are correct in saying that the pattern will repeat over and over and over. It takes time, but it can change. One heart at a time.

    I am not saying that you should not be prepping. I am prepping here to some degree. I will defend myself, my family, and hopefully others if it becomes necessary. But the best thing is if we don’t have to use those preparations. Hook up with your Jesus friend. Maybe at the very least you can find peace, and in the process maybe help create a small pocket of goodness in a sea of ugly darkness. A small pocket of goodness and love can become contagious just like hatred can be contagious. I hope you’ll think about it.

    Thanks again.

  15. Selco-Re: the recent riot in Charlottsville, USA-was this type of thing common in your area, before things really collapsed? Or even after things collapsed?

    1. Yes, it was completely same (with slight difference between reasons), polarization was big thing prior everything collapsed and hate was used to start things in motion.

      Hate (whatever reasons were) were there all the time, just folks slightly moved down to more “earthly” things as collapse continued (food, security…)

  16. Selco,
    I understand and respect your experience and assessment; however, my perspective differs slightly and I may come off a little mean-spirited. I apologize in advance.
    I had a college professor who enjoyed the quote, “growing old is mandatory, growing wise is optional”. I’m not sure where he originally heard this, so I’ll credit him. In the antique dealer and collector circles there is also the saying, “just because something is old, does not mean it’s valuable.” These cautionary references were of little value to me until I realized much on my own. I’ll explain.*
    When I was a young soldier, my battle buddies and I would go to a local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) when we were off duty to indulge in cheap drinks and free food. Even though were weren’t veterans at that time (it was the late 1990’s), we were guests of the membership. We were treated like rock stars and, in return, we spent generously in their establishment. We drank alongside people who had been there/done that and soaked in all the knowledge they had to offer. Many of them were Vietnam veterans and used to complain about how they were mistreated by prior war veterans.
    Now fast forward to 2004:
    The first waves of new veterans started to return to the U.S. from Afghanistan and Iraq (in my case, Iraq). A few of us who remembered the kindness, support, and guidance given to us by the members of the local VFW could not wait to become members. I joined a local Post (not the one mentioned previously) and was given a hero’s welcome, which always made me uncomfortable, but I digress. The membership strongly urged us to become more involved, so we did. A couple of us became Post officers and tended bar and really poured our hearts and souls into bringing in newer and younger veterans to become part of the “family”. Then something strange started to happen. The older membership started to become less enthusiastic about our activities. Yes, we enjoyed drinking, cursing, carrying on, and partying and playing our loud newer music until 3AM, but most of the older members left by 8:00PM. We may have been more rowdy than they were used to, but we were ALWAYS respectful. As the weeks continued the relationship between the “Old Guard” and new guys not only deteriorated, but became toxic. For me, the end came when I recruited a veteran friend of mine who I served side by side with all throughout my first tour in Iraq. He happened to NOT be Caucasian. As a result, one of the senior members protested, “We don’t want any [EXPLICATIVE] in our Post!” It was then that I lost all respect and proceeded to get more verbally confrontational than I felt comfortable with concerning a senior citizen. That was the last time I set foot in that VFW. I joined an American Legion soon after and a different VFW many years later, but started to notice a trend with many older veterans and senior citizens:
    1) Many of them claim to want us there; however, only to carry on the status quo of the establishment to which they felt comfortable (No “new” music, no loud noises, no “new” ideas to modernize)
    2) Many of them seem to resent our relative youth and are often bitter about our generation (I’m GenX)
    3) I often got the impression that many “Old Guard” veterans felt threatened by the new veterans and did everything possible to passively, and not so passively at times, push us away and jealously guard their legacy (the “our war was harder than yours” mentality)
    3) I consider myself deeply conservative in many ways; however, some of the ideas expressed by some of the elders were deeply disturbing in regards to race, ethnicity, and gender
    4) Perhaps the most troubling discovery I’ve made time and time again is how much I’ve been lied to. In the Information Age, many of these people don’t seem to understand that many of their claims can be verified. Also, if you have a passion for history and research, you can vet some info independently. Lately “STOLEN VALOR” has been on the rise, even amongst seniors. There are a few sites dedicated to outing these liars and I recommend people reference them. TK556 mentioned in his comment above that the veteran he encountered claimed to be a Navy SEAL. That’s common in many Stolen Valor’s as they often make the wildest assertions. In my life I think I’ve met more Navy SEALS, Airborne Rangers, Special Forces, and “Black Ops” veterans than the government has record of.
    Despite my many negative experiences concerning older veterans and senior citizens, I by no means am saying to dismiss what they have to say. I have met precious few elders who have given me gems of wisdom. You just have to know when it’s being offered and when you’re being deceived.

    *Individual experiences may vary.

  17. Inshala, with all due respect (and it’s truly there, just in case it doesn’t come through adequately), I wonder if you’re unknowingly doing some of what you’re rightfully criticizing – singling out whole groups of people because of a few individuals. Of course some of the “old guys” have attitudes you and I may not appreciate, where they want to reject an entire group because of stereotypes. But I suspect even they’d acknowledge that some of the non-Caucasians occasionally have some wisdom to offer, even if they don’t want to be around them. It seems you and your buddies started off very welcome in the beginning, while you were active duty, but after you came back something happened to change things. I’m making no predictions or inferring blame, just wondering IF they’d identify something in your behaviors that goes beyond type of music, or how late you stayed, etc., and that they perhaps felt a take-over happening, and that they were being pushed aside (and out). After all, why do many vets spend time at VFW posts, or the American Legion? Because they are comfortable around people that understand them – and most of the civilian world does not.

    You made a statement that you “have met previous few elders who have given [you] gems of wisdom.” That was exactly one of Selco’s points – they aren’t going to “give” you gems of wisdom. In fact, they’re not going to give you much of anything about the sometimes life-saving knowledge they learned in ways that go far beyond “the hard way.” The “old guys” may be leaving at 8pm not just because they’re tired (it comes with age), but also because they’re not there at the VFW to loudly curse, party, and carry on until 0300. There is understanding there that isn’t evident to anyone just merely observing – only those that have been there a long time understand it, and they’re not talking about it – even among themselves verbally. But it’s a common understanding. Perhaps THEY made the mistake of presuming you were coming into the organization with many of the same “understandings” they have, and initially were excited about your enthusiasm, but then began to feel uncomfortable themselves with the new group that they couldn’t relate to? (Yes, that’s a question, and one you personally can’t answer, because you didn’t do what it took to find out.)

    Locally, we’ve got two VFW posts, to the best of my knowledge. And the membership is pretty much along racial lines. I find that sad in some respects, but also recognize that “old guys” don’t change attitudes easily. And it’s not just a Caucasian thing that Caucasians might feel most comfortable around other Caucasians. It’s called customs, culture, etc., and it holds true for ANY group, generally – we hang around those that we perceive to be the most like us in most cases. Only some make that toxic. But if wanting to keep a VFW post “racially pure” is distasteful to you, great! I agree. The solution is not to try to get a bunch of “old guys” to change to meet the expectations of the “new guys.” It sounds good in theory, but it just ain’t gonna work in practice.

    What Selco described was not just knowing who his great uncle was, or even asking him questions he never really answered. What Selco described was observing, appreciating, and learning through experience – not dialog back and forth – and occasionally being rewarded immensely with a gem of wisdom in the process of patiently trying to really get to know someone by observation, NOT by outright asking them countless historical or philosophical questions. Forget the “stolen valor” guys. They don’t matter, in the end. If you out one, great – report him. But otherwise don’t worry about it. Find ONE or maybe two individuals that don’t say a lot but are just there. They MAY be too far gone to be of any value to anyone else, but in a sense, that’s just the point – let them become valuable anyway. And maybe, just maybe, you may be rewarded, when you least expect it, with the gem. It’s very often NOT what they simply say, but what they “really” say that only those they trust already know and understand while everyone else sits around and misses it entirely. Note Selco’s discussion of a lot of nodding, and talking in “code.” Those are the people in whom the wisdom resides. And even if you never find out their particular gems of wisdom, they deserve to be honored simply be being allowed to keep living as they choose – in a generally very private (and therefore safe) world.

    Go back and re-read about Selco’s great uncle – maybe two or three or more times. He wasn’t a person most people wanted to be around, not did he really want to be around anyone else – just those at the “chess club”. And only a fortunate few ever figure out just how valuable old guys are. (By the way – when 2004 rolled around, I’d already been “out” for nearly three decades. I guess I’m an “old guy” for what it’s worth.)

  18. Selco,
    Reading this text I remembered that for some years and moments I came to witness for 03 times, an annual meeting of a group of Brazilian veterans of World War II called “pracinhas”. Also like you Selco, older, I regret not having heard your experiences. He thought it was boring and he wanted it to end soon.
    Today, being in the surviving universe, would I ask them how it was to endure the cold and the hunger in unknown territory counting with only courage and love the homeland? Would they really take pride in the battles of Montese and Monte Castelo? What did they do in times of boredom and fear?
    Unanswered questions, as it is striking not to have known of the feats of this men, rich and real experiences. Too bad you can not go back in time.

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