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    Marine recalls his service



    Story by Spc. Zachary Johnson 

    367th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    The veterans at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9473 all seem to know each other pretty well. Most of them have been coming there for years. The post, in Reynoldsburg, OH, sees all sorts of veterans come through its doors. All of their stories, backgrounds and experiences are uniquely different from one another. Different branches of service, different decades of service, and different military occupations all overlap in a friendly and respectful atmosphere. It’s quite the eclectic group.
    As Veteran’s Day comes around each year, this group, and others like it, have every right to feel a sense of pride for what they’ve accomplished, and what they’ve given to their country. It’s a day for Americans to honor the small percentage of people that have served their country. Strictly speaking, it’s a pretty exclusive club.
    But they don’t do that. The veterans at VFW 9473 don’t view Veterans Day as a day to celebrate themselves. Veterans like Sgt. Rock Gibson, a 44 year old former Marine that served from 1995-1999, see Veterans Day as a chance to honor those that came before them; in particular, his father.
    Gibson was the son of a Navy Sailor and Korean War veteran. He grew up around the VFW. From the time he was seven years old, he knew he wanted to join the military. Gibson enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1995.
    His intent was to be a Dragon gunner, or “tank killer” as he put it. By the time he graduated boot camp, that weapon system had been discontinued, and he needed to find a new job. His second choice was a TOW gun operator. That fell through as well, upon the discovery of color-blindness that would affect his ability to use the night vision sights. Gibson eventually landed on the job of mortarman, which he would go on to excel at.
    His job would take him to Okinawa, Japan, where he would spend months in the field during the rainy season. Later, he’d go on to sail the Mediterranean Sea, stopping into various port cities in Israel, Spain, Greece, and was on his way to Italy when his unit was rerouted to Kosovo.

    The conflict in Kosovo was heating up around this time, and Gibson’s unit was needed. Gibson had ascended to the rank of corporal, and had proven himself as trustworthy to his command at a young age. They put him in charge of the security element of the TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) team. Should a plane or helicopter crash or be shot down, Gibson’s team of 30 Marines would be tasked with finding the crash, securing the area, and recovering the pilots and sensitive materials.

    One cold fall night, as he watched the stealth bombers take off and return, Gibson received word that his team would be called into action. A stealth bomber had been shot down, and enemies could be inbound to pilfer the crash sight at any moment. His team needed to act fast. He set down his half-read copy of Sherlock Holmes, silently wondering if he’d ever get to finish it, and headed out.

    The bomber had crashed in a swamp. The swamp was lit only by the flames from the crash, as Gibson’s team moved in to secure the area. The primary goal was to find the black box from the plane, and prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Search parties circled the perimeter of the swamp, trying to find it and exfiltrate before any enemy forces showed up. Gibson had a hunch that the black box was actually in the swamp itself, and began to wade into the water. He was about chest-deep in the cold swamp water when he kicked it. His intuition paid off, and his team was able to save a massive amount of time. They redirected their focus to recovering the pilot, who had ejected in flight. The pilot had a tracking device on him that allowed the team to find him without too much trouble. Then Gibson got to do his favorite part; restrain the officer.

    Thankfully, that was the only time Gibson’s team had to move out and secure a crash site. His time in service came to end soon afterward. But Gibson will always carry the memories of his time as a Marine with him. These days he enjoys his time amongst friends and fellow veterans at his local VFW. But when Veterans Day comes around each year, he doesn’t think of his own adventures and sacrifices. He remembers his father, his inspiration for joining to begin with, and appreciates those that came before him.



    Date Taken: 11.09.2020
    Date Posted: 11.09.2020 10:52
    Story ID: 382641
    Location: REYNOLDSBURG, OH, US 
    Hometown: REYNOLDSBURG, OH, US

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