Whenever a group of veterans gather together, they will, inevitably, get loud. You may have noticed. Get a bunch of vets together for a game of Spades (cards), it will get loud. Some vets also like to play Bones (Dominoes) . They will absolutely get loud. It doesn’t matter if a topic is being discussed in the most serene setting imaginable. Once a point of contention is reached, a voice or two will rise in volume. Yes, the amount of cuss words, profanity, etc. might increase in frequency and/or vulgarity, but that doesn’t always mean anyone is losing their cool; it doesn’t mean anyone is becoming angry. No, quite the contrary. If anything, louder voices signify an even more enjoyable interaction between all conversationalists.
Now, you might think based on the branch of service they served with, there would be an overall slight difference in the hearing ability of a veteran. If you thought that, you would be wrong. I’m sure there are various reasons for the other branch vets. Since I only served in the Army, in the Field Artillery, I feel confident enough to address this group of vets.
From the first day of Basic Training, we were issued/given a set of silicone ear plugs. Depending on the size of your ear canal, you receive a set in a certain color. Mine were blue. If you lost your “issued” set, there were generic, yellow foam rubber plugs. If the drill sergeants deemed you were worthy enough after the fact you lost your “issued” plugs, you might receive a pair of the generic yellow ones. If you were denied, you were instructed to find a couple cigarette butts, tear off the filters, and use the filters as ear plugs. Good times, good times.
The Field Artillery is known for BIG guns. These guns can be loud. Very loud. I will reference running a Fire Direction Center, calibrating M109A3, 155mm, self-propelled howitzers, with Charge 8 White Bag, in Grafenwoehr Germany, in the mid-90s. My tracked, armored vehicle was a couple hundred yards behind the guns. Yet every time a Charge 8 round was fired, the top hatch (1½-inch thick aluminum plate) of our vehicle would slam tighter and ring like a bell. Though we wore our ear plugs inside the vehicle, it was still LOUD! I believe this is where I got my 10%, V.A. rated, hearing loss.
I would often learn some gun crew members didn’t wear ear plugs as they interfered with their ability to hear verbal orders being shouted inside the howitzer. These crew members are now vets who don’t hear very well.
Way too many people casually walking by a group of vets might just think they need to invest in or turn up their hearing aids. If anything, I’d like to vouch for the therapeutic principles of “getting loud.” Getting loud, in friendly conversation, is the equivalent of a good belly laugh. It helps to release tensions, to vent unspoken frustrations, to make people near you move a little further away from you. Get loud sometime. It’s fun. It’s all good.
George Keck is an Army retiree, a drummer, and Lawton resident, off and on, since 1964.