Gordon

In the last of this series, NEXTpittsburgh, in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh, honors veterans with an initiative called Homefront Pittsburgh. This social media campaign for Military Appreciation Month launches with thoughtful reflections from veterans featured here. 

Follow the campaign on NEXTpittsburgh, Facebook and Twitter and look for the hashtag #IamPGH. And help spread the word!

Gordon (pictured above)

I have great respect for those who are not here. Anytime I have the opportunity to tell their story, I’ll do that. When I was a really young boy growing up in Hawaii, my dad used to take me fishing at this place; you could see the flagpole of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. My dad used to always point to the flag and say, ‘that is an important place and an important time. You must always remember.’ That’s all he said. #IamPGH #MemorialDay

Philip

Philip

I was in Fort Hood hearing a commander standing in front of me say: ‘We’re being deployed to war.’ It was a paramount moment in my life and it dawned on me that I had a great deal of responsibility to the men who were standing behind me. By that time, I had achieved a rank of a Captain so I knew I had to prepare my men to take them to what I really didn’t understand—war and everything that goes about it. But that’s what we did. We geared up for war, trained and took our men to war. #IamPGH

Rob

Rob

I was in Oklahoma at the time 9/11 happened. That was a shock . . . Nobody knew what had happened or if there was going to be another attack. We considered ourselves a target because we were a military installation.

Afterwards I think it strengthened everybody’s resolve. Nobody was going to run or leave the military at that point. For me it factored into my decision to stay in and go to Korea and do something more. Somalia was the first time it ever occurred to me the U.S. military could be vulnerable. And the second time was 9/11. #IamPGH

Rory

Rory 

“I predict that one of our post 9/11 veterans will be a mayor within the next 10 years. They’ll take more seats at the County Council and City Council. I think they’ll take those lessons they learned of selfless service from the military and apply them to make their own communities better.” #IamPGH #MilitaryMondays

Kevin

Kevin 

“If I could change one thing, it would be the amount of gun violence in the city and just violence in general. I think the way it affects children is unbearable. They’re starting to compare the stress and trauma that children experience in some of these neighborhoods to post-traumatic stress that veterans experience in combat . . . seeing how that affects adults when untreated, it makes me wonder how much more devastating it must be for a child.” #IamPGH

Julia, a veteran from Pittsburgh

Julia 

“I think it’s really important for veterans to have a network and other people who can understand their experiences. When my husband is talking to civilian friends, they’re great but I’ve noticed a special connection with his military friends because of the experiences they’ve shared together. That particular bond is hard to find otherwise.

My husband is currently deployed to Kosovo, and we’re sort of out on our own . . . Pittsburghers are friendly, in general, so a lot of people just ask, ‘hey, how are you doing with your husband away,’ and I think that simple question means so much to me. You thought about me today. Thank you for that.” #IamPGH 

Dwight

Dwight

The Strip District is my favorite place. When I was in Iraq, there were a lot of outdoor markets. I liked the natural outdoor markets; something about helping mom and pop [businesses], and it’s all done with love. I like to go down and see the people, and all the wares, and the fresh produce. I really like the Strip District, I wish we had more in Pittsburgh.” #IamPGH #MilitaryMonday

James

James

My big idea is: I want to challenge every CEO in the City of Pittsburgh to bring their HR agents to a service project one day. Have them all meet each other plus meet veterans and work alongside them and use that positive energy to—maybe quarterly—meet and discuss how companies could improve their HR practices towards hiring veterans. #IamPGH

Joseph

Joseph

I walk down the street and see people of all different backgrounds and origins. It’s a wonderful feeling. More and more, I see young LGBT members of our community holding hands in the middle of Downtown—that makes me happy. As I travel about the city, I hear different languages now besides English. Pittsburgh is growing. We are becoming a diverse city. I think that we’re doing everything in our power to ensure that everyone belongs to our great city. So, I am proud to be part of Pittsburgh. #IamPGH #MilitaryMonday

Howard

Howard

All you can do is fight. I went to 9 or 10 different rehabs; it’s not a “go to rehab and that’s it.” Every addict is different. I got to the point using that I ended up living underneath the bridge, listening to the traffic at night. It’s a pretty hopeless place to be, but somehow I had a guitar and I just started messing around with it and this song came to me.

It took me 27 years . . . You don’t get it ’till you get it. I wish everybody could get it the first time around, but the truth of the matter is that everybody isn’t going to get it the first time around. #IamPGH #MilitaryMonday

Bart

Bart

I’ve lived a lot of places in my military career, but I’ve never been welcomed to a place like I had been coming here. It’s been a heck of a ride. I think the community has been fantastic. I couldn’t help but want to move here. I spent a lot of time in the Cultural District, flirted with the idea of moving Downtown. It has a big town feel but it’s small and you can get around and you run into people you’ve met quite often.” #IamPGH

Stephanie

Stephanie

For me, as a [military] spouse, the real hard stuff came when he came home. I was then dealing with somebody who had changed, some for the good and some for the not so good, and trying to reestablish our roles. I had done everything on my own, and letting him back into the family unit was tough. The transition out was the toughest . . . he was battling redesigning who he is and who we are as a family.” #IamPGH

Michael

Michael

“What does your military experience really mean? You are impacted, you are not going to contain that and put it away somewhere. It is going to influence every single thing you do. I don’t care whether you were filing paperwork, firing a machine gun on the front lines, or in a submarine, it did something to you. The faster you learn what that is, the better your life is going to be. My life has greatly improved since then in every facet.” #IamPGH #MilitaryMonday

Michael

Michael

“When I got to boot camp at Parris Island, almost half of my platoon were from the southern states, most of which were highly racist. There were fights based on race, but when it came time to get the job done, it didn’t matter. If we have a common enemy, we become brothers all the sudden. All that tension goes away.

For example, I was overseas with a white guy. We spent six months together and watched each other’s back. We flew back to the U.S. together, and we sat on a plane and talked and joked for a 13-hour flight from Tokyo to Charleston, South Carolina. When we got over land he said, ‘well, I’ll talk to you later, man,’ and he sat in another seat. He wouldn’t get off that plane sitting next to me. That speaks to how stupid racism is in America.” #IamPGH

Joel

Joel 

“I served in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . Probably the most influential period of my life were the things I learned during that combat environment. I had a bunch of experiences that I gained from the military and I didn’t feel like I was using them to the greatest of my ability in my work. I started looking for other outlets where I could have a greater purpose like you typically have in the military—a second oath, in a sense. You signed up originally to write a blank check to the government. It is payable up to anything, including your life. So being able to fill that void is very important for me.” #IamPGH

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.