Local vets reflect | ParkRecord.com

Local vets reflect

Alan Maguire, The Park Record

Veterans Day is Monday and Trailside Elementary School is holding its annual Veterans Day program on Tuesday, when its students will perform musical numbers for family members and guests. The school will also be hosting local veterans of the U.S. armed forces who they have invited to say a few words to the students.

Two of the veterans participating in the Trailside Elementary program spoke with The Park Record about Veterans Day and what it means to them.

Bob Griffith is a general manager at Pacific Steel in Salt Lake City, and has lived in Park City for 13 years. He served in the Marine Corps as an infantry squad leader from 1988 to 1994 and retired as a corporal. He said that he joined the Marines out of a combination of tradition and a desire to test himself.

"I have a long family history of military service, although none of them were in the Marines," Griffith said. "As a high schooler, I just thought I was tougher than I really was, and I went for the toughest thing."

He was active in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield for "6 months and 1 day" before "getting rerouted to Nuclear Biological Chemical Warfare School in North Carolina."

Mark Hopgood is a pilot for Delta Airlines. He is a veteran of the Navy where he served as a naval aviator for almost 25 years, retiring as a commander.

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"I flew off aircraft carriers," he said.

Like Griffith, Hopgood was active during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Hopgood flew missions off the U.S.S. Midway during the operations.

"We launched the first and second strikes of the war, so I was on the second strike, the second night of the war," Hopgood said. "And then we flew pretty much continuously in combat for the next 40 or 50 days."

"It was interesting. They were shooting at us," Hopgood dryly added.

Both Griffith and Hopgood agree that veterans returning home today face tough challenges.

"I think the people in the Marine Corps today have it a lot more difficult than I did," Griffith said. "There are record rates of depression and suicide and that’s very disturbing. I didn’t witness anybody that had to go through that. But what they have to deal with in today’s world, I just think it’s very, very difficult and I feel for them."

Hopgood has different concerns.

"I think the best thing we can do for our vets who are coming back is give them jobs," he said. "My understanding is the unemployment rate for vets is higher than in the private sector, which is baffling to me.

"Any time you see those kinds of events [in war] up close and personal, it’s going to affect you, and I think the best thing we can do is support them in any opportunities we can," Hopgood continued. "It’s tough out there and the job market is tough. These guys are coming back with skillsets that don’t necessarily translate, but my feeling is they’re people who are obviously responsible and able to be trained, so give them a chance."

Public support for veterans is very different today from what it was, said Griffith.

"I think people today are leaps and bounds more supportive, hugely more supportive of the military — veterans, active duty, retired — just of everybody that’s served in general," he said. "Obviously, we all hear stories about how it didn’t used to be that way. I’m glad it is now."

As for how veterans commemorate Veterans Day, it’s not exactly something that is celebrated, per se.

"Usually my friends that I served with, we give each other calls," said Hopgood. "It’s an interesting day for a vet, because you don’t say ‘Happy Veterans Day’ to a vet. I’m not sure what you say. It’s the same thing as Memorial Day."

"I’m glad that the country takes a day and reflects a little bit," he continued. "The people who suffer most in combat are the people actually engaged. I hope that, going forward, people can at least reflect on what’s gone on in the past — I think that’s the point — and then hopefully do better things in the future."

"It has a pretty deep meaning for me actually," Bob Griffith said about Veterans Day. "It’s not something I usually, you know, celebrate openly or anything like that or talk about at work, but I definitely have a deep feeling in my heart for it."

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