Veteran American soldier currently living his life in Budapest
Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Panama, and now, Budapest. The journalists of Szeretlek Magyarország talked to a veteran American soldier, Gordon, who really knows what it means to be alive, and who considers the Hungarian capital one of his homes.
Here you can read the interview with Gordon by Szeretlek Magyarország.
As Szeretlek Magyarország writes, the fourty-eight-year-old veteran soldier lives in Toronto, but he often visits Europe, mainly Germany, where he has a music studio, and Budapest which he considers one of his hometowns. According to the journalists, you could see from his look and feel from his speech that he got through things that ordinary people can just guess, and that he interprets friendship, life and the importance of human relations in quite a different way.
Why do you often visit Hungary?
I was sent here to work before: I trained Hungarian soldiers at Szolnok. At weekends, I came to Budapest to look around. I made friends and I grew to like this city, so I keep coming back.
What was your first impression about our capital?
After an 18-year residence in Germany, Budapest shocked me at the first time: it seemed a little-bit old-fashioned for me. However, I discovered it, and I became fond of it, just like other European cities, Berlin, London.
What do you like so much in major European cities?
The busy city life, that there is always something happening.
As I see it, journeys to Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq did not discourage you from travelling…
Not at all. Unfortunately, I have to return to the United States in a few days, so this was only a quick trip to Budapest. I am going to miss the city. I have been visiting Hungary for five years, and have made a lot of friends. Tears come to our eyes when we meet, friendly hugs, you know.
From 1988 until 2013 you were actively serving in the army. What happened after that?
I did a lot of things, but I, mostly, just lived my everyday life, in peace. I started playing music, I also launched a music studio in Stuttgart.
I sincerely tell you that I have never talked to a veteran soldier who went the round some of the war zones. I would have so many questions… Would you answer them?
There are so many things I am not allowed to speak about, but you might not be able to ask them just like that. I am alive. This is mainly what comes to my mind when I think back.
Do you often think back, think about real situations?
Of course, I do. I have experienced thousands of situations when I almost died.
I am lucky that I am alive.
Are you religious?
I am Catholic, but I do not believe that God saved me. It was the hard training and the decisions I made that saved me.
If you would happen to write a book about the past, your soldier life, how would you start it?
I would start with Panama. The twenty days I spent there, and the dictator’s, Noriega’s regime. These are my most interesting memories.
What would stand in the second place?
The “Desert Manoeuvre”. That was something. I saw an extremely interesting world there. It was a completely closed world with a lot of ancient stuff. You just walk there and suddenly notice something. “Can you see that? What could it be? Oh, just a ziggurat.”
Do you like dealing with the past?
If it is about a historic thing, then I do. When I first visited Europe, people were very proud of showing me fifty-year-old churches and other buildings. Of course, these are valuable, but then I discovered Ulme Münster in Germany. This is one of the highest churches, you know. And it is a thousand years old. A thousand!
It is really amazing. And what about your own past? Would you go through the same things if you could go back in time?
Well… I sometimes watch baseball players in Toronto who do not live a real sporty life, still, they earn millions of dollars, and I think to myself: “Oh well, I could have been a baseball player.”
But I regret nothing I have done. And yes, I would go through everything again. I am quite a lucky man.
What made you want to become a soldier?
I have wanted to become a soldier since I was school-aged.
So, you did not choose this career because of parental incentive?
No, I did not. It is true that my dad served in Vietnam, but he has never talked about it. My grandpa and my uncle also served in the army as pilots. So, when I was even smaller, I wanted to do the same. „Uncle Jack, I want to be a pilot, too.” But, later, as I was becoming more and more familiar with the topic, I discovered the soldiers, too. You know, wow, how cool they are! They carry the guns, their shoulders are wide, and things like these.
How long did your training last?
First I was an engineer at the parachute regiment, the invasion of Panama happened at that time. After came the selection, the so-called „21 days in hell”. You have to cover long distances carrying heavy burdens, then you get some more, you have to build idiotic things, and you have to carry them, too, with yourself.
How could you deal with it? Did you collapse?
I did not. Actually, I was quite good. But, you know, you do this when you are young. And I was familiar with the fields, I knew the maps thanks to my previous experience.
What did you feel when you first got to a real war area?
Can we talk about Budapest instead, please? :) Well, it has a feeling. After the many training when you use weapons and bombs under strict orders, you are suddenly given real bombs, real weapons and cartridges. Everything is louder, everything is flying over your head.
How often did you feel fear?
All the time. You feel fear there all the time.
What it felt like to kill someone for the first time?
Do not ask this.
Is it forbidden, or do you not want to talk about it?
I do not want to.
OK. How could you cope later with what you went through?
Work, work and work. I needed much self-cure. And beer, of course. When I came here to Budapest five and a half year ago, and met the locals who became my friends, then I was still curing myself. But I have not talked about it to anyone.
Was it a good idea not to talk about it?
Everyone has their own way. This one worked for me, more or less. There are many people in here, by the way, who also go through things like these, they only do not talk about it.
What was the best thing the army gave you?
Well, first, I could save a lot of money. Moreover, the friends I made. I could meet you, now. And, of course, I am alive.
Do you keep in touch with you colleagues?
I do. We are there for one other in a chat group on Facebook. We talk every day, and if one of us needs help, we help
Do you think you see the world, life in a different way?
I do. For example, I have four homes: Toronto, Buffalo, Stuttgart and Budapest. And here we have this Republican-stuff: Since Trump was elected, I have been pecked, too, because I am a Republican, too. You have to know that the major part of the army is Republican. And yes, we saw how the people in the war zone grew used to the fact that someone dies among them every day. At the beginning they were like “Oh my God, someone was shot.” Later, twenty was shot one day, and they did not care. I saw, in Iraq, how people went shopping, being completely calm when a bomb exploded.
What other things would you talk about?
About Budapest, of course. I am here because of Budapest. By the way, I can see what is going on here: “The other is better off.” People keep on yammering: what will happen tomorrow, what will the future bring? Everything will be OK with Budapest. It develops slowly, but it will be OK, it is developing.
What do you think about the Hungarians?
They undervalue themselves, and I can see that national pride is missing a little bit. You are not like the Germans. But, when there is a swimming competition, for example, and if one of the competitors is a Hungarian, it attracts the attention, and cranes their neck. Hungary could take far more pride inkább herself.
Copy editor: bm