Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with John J. Bodzislaw

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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00:00:11 - Introduction & Connection to Washburn County

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Segment Synopsis: John is a U.S. Army Veteran and he graduated from Shell Lake High School in 2003. He moved back here after he got out of the service around 2014. He has been in and out of Washburn County since he was in high school.

Keywords: Shell Lake High School; United States Army; Washburn County, WI

00:00:57 - Decision to Join the Military & the U.S. Army

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Segment Synopsis: John decided to join the military because he needed something to do after high school. He didn't do the greatest in school because his home life was rough, so he wasn't able to attend school as often as he should've. He wanted to go to college and the GI Bill offered a way to pay for it. He wanted to become well rounded, he was book smart and wanted to round out who he was as a person. He also thought it would be cool. He chose the army because the recruiter came to his school and showed cool videos. The Army recruiter was the first who got to him, despite his interest in joining the Air Force to become an Aeronautical Engineer. The Air Force recruiters are typically hard to get a hold of. John had a cousin he looked up to in the National Guard. The recruiter showed videos of Scouts riding around on dune buggies. He found out later, as an Army Scout that it wasn't representative of his experience, but admits that the video did a good job marketing.

Keywords: Academics; College; GI Bill; National Guard; Recruiter; Recruitment videos; School; U.S. Airforce; U.S. Army

00:03:10 - Service Dates & Expectations

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Segment Synopsis: John was on active duty from 2003-2006 and he was medically retired from the service. He doesn't remember what his expectations were going in. He remembers that it wasn't like he thought it was going to be. He said that it wasn't like you see in the movies.

Keywords: active duty; medically retired; movies

00:04:07 - Basic Training

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Segment Synopsis: John said that bootcamp sucked, it was tough because they are preparing you for war, especially of you will have a combat job. They try to simulate the stress of that experience and the Drill Sergeants care and are challenging you for a purpose rather than just being mean for the sake of it. In the Army they do basic and advanced training in one go. He was in OSUT which stands for "one station unit training" which is 16 weeks of constant training with many phases. It starts rough because Drill Sergeants challenge you and you start with no privileges. As you continue you get more privileges. As a scout, John got trained on many weapons, which was really cool. He was trained on 50 calibers,Mark 16's, and more. There was also the physical training which means you came out in better shape than you came in. To get through it, he just put his head down and kept going. One common saying was "embrace the suck", which means just roll with the punches, don't think about how bad a situation is and keep going til you pop up on the other side.

Keywords: 50 caliber; Army; Bootcamp; Combat; Mark 16 rifle; OSUT; One Station Unit Training; drill sergeants; grit; perserverance; physical training

00:07:25 - Stations Locations & Travel

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Segment Synopsis: John attended OSUT (One Station Unit Training) in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Then he was stationed in Germany and was deployed to Iraq for a year before returning to Germany. After that he was stationed in Colorado Springs, CO at Fort Carson. Then he was medically retired. On base, living in Germany was similiar to living in the U.S. Outside of the base, visiting the towns it was completely different. There was lots of old history to see. In Germany he visited the Neuschwanstein Castle and the Eagle's Nest. He traveled to France and Belgium while living there. It was a priceless and enjoyable experience, meeting people, eating the food, etc. He was there at 19 years old, so he was able to legally drink in Germany so they had a lot of fun going out and saw lots of cool things. He remembers visiting Dachau with his wife Angie which was a eye opening and sombering experience.

Keywords: Belgium; Colorado Springs; Dachau; Eagle's Nest; Fort Carson; Fort Knox, Kentucky; France; Germany; Iraq; Medically Retired; Neuschwanstein; Neuschwanstein Castle; Traveling

00:11:18 - Calvary Scouts

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Segment Synopsis: John served as a calvary scout in the Army, "19-Delta". Their main goal is to collect reconnaissance, like identifying troop locations, tracking enemy equipment, surveying roads, etc. They collect the information that the leadership is using to make tactical decisions, they are the "eyes and ears" of the Army. Scouts are jack-of-all trades, they are training on armored vehicles, on dismount operations, etc.

Keywords: 19 Delta; Armored Vehicles; Army Scout; Calvary Scout; Dismount Operations; Equipment; Information; Reconnaissance; Tactical Decisions; Troop Locations

00:13:12 - The Day That His Service Ended

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Segment Synopsis: John said he was in Colorado Springs living with his wife Angie when he found out about his heart condition. It was a bittersweet day, especially because his unit was about to deploy again. Many didn't have combat experience, so it was difficult leaving them since he had experience in combat. But he was also ready to get on with his life. He had mixed feelings since he was leaving his friends, people he bonded with, and then he was just gone. He didn't want to go to Iraq again so he was happy he wasn't going back but wish he could've been there to help his brothers and sisters. At the end of the day, that is what it is about, accountability to the guy your standing next to rather than the patriotism and righteousness. It was difficult for him not to continue. He kept in touch with his NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) from Germany and speaks to him almost daily. He also has a good friend in Ohio that he keeps in touch with. He keeps up with others on Facebook.

Keywords: Bittersweet; Combat Experience; Deployment; Keeping in Touch; Medically Retired; NCO; Non-Commissioned Officer

00:16:19 - Life after Serving & Reflection on Serving

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Segment Synopsis: John joked that he has done nothing after serving. But he did start going to school for computer networking, but dropped out after the birth of his youngest child. So he is now a stay at home dad, which is a difficult job. John's experiences in the service are a big part of how he sees himself as a person, it is a part of his story. He doesn't know if he would've made the same decision if he had the knowledge he had now, but wouldn't change that it happened. There is a lot of pain and suffering but it also came with insight and rounded him out as a person. It gave him direction and motivation. It is part of his identity and he doesn't know who he would be without it.

Keywords: Children; Computer Networking; Dad; Education; Identity; Insight; Knowledge; Motivation; Pain; Stay at Home Dad; Well-Rounded

00:18:12 - Advice to Those Thinking About Joining the Service

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Segment Synopsis: John says think hard about it. He wouldn't tell anyone not to do it, but to remember it is war and war is horrible. Sometimes, people willing to do that are needed. It is important to think hard about since there is no way to know how it will affect you at the moment you are making the decision. There are a lot of benefits, you can do cool things, but you might end up in a warzone. It is one of the biggest decision you will make in your life, so think about how it will affect you and those around you. John is proud to have served his country, he paid a price for that and would pay that price again if he had to.

Keywords: Benefits; Big Decision; Proud; Reflect; Service; Think Hard; War