The Interview: Student Veteran

Student Veterans are a special type of person, they are older, wiser and most likely have an an opinion on anything and everything. I decided to do an interview of the President of SVA (Student Veterans of America). Getting to know student Veterans can be fun, most of us may come off as moody or not wanting to talk but feel free to introduce yourself to us, I promise we don’t bite. We had real world experience before coming to Del Val and most of us like to talk about our adventures.  While doing this interview with Burt I learned that every Vet has their own unique story and their travels have stories that are so interesting to listen to. I met Burt during my first semester here in the Fall, here are a few interesting questions he answered.

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Name: Burton Oliver Langlois

Age: 29

Major at Del Val: Biotechnology & Wildlife Conservation Management

Branch of service: USMC

What your rank was: Sergeant

Where you served: NAS JRB Willow Grove, PA / MCB Quantico, VA/ US Consulate Shanghai, China/ MCAS Yuma, AZ

Why did you join? To get out into the world, leave home and have college paid.

Why did you pick the service branch you joined? Honestly because they were there, I had appointment with the Air Force recruiter but he no-showed on me (classy), there was the other recruiter in the office GySgt Vitalle. The rest is history; off to boot camp I went.

Do you recall your first days in service?
Absolutely! Being a junior Marine isn’t a picnic. I remember getting to my first unit and having to prove my self as a marine. The Marine Corps was simple back then, work hard, look good, be on time, and you got along right as rain.

Tell me about your boot camp/training experience(s).
I like to say that boot camp was far worse then any media has ever depicted it, the pressure is enormous. But having gone through it, I can say with out a doubt that it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Mentally speaking of course, the physical demand was incredible. I remember falling out of my rack in the first few weeks because I couldn’t hold my weight after jumping down from my top bunk. The life though was easy, move when told, talk when told, eat when told. Everything else was taken care of for you. Didn’t have to worry about food, bills, and responsibilities… Life was exhaustingly simple.

How did you get through it?
The best advice I got was to focus on getting to the next meal. Instead of thinking “I’ve got 13 weeks, I’ve got 2 months left…” You’ll go crazy! Instead think: “I just woke up, let’s get to breakfast, now we’re going to do combat training and a run, then lunch, let’s push to Dinner going to get through these classes to get to dinner”

Where exactly did you go?
I had a very weird career. My first unit was training reservists and running the squadron while they were out living their lives as civilians. The unit never let me go as an augment and the unit was never activated. So my time in Quantico was apart of the embassy work, no deployable unit, then I was stationed in Arizona apart of another no deployable unit who also would not let me leave as an augment. I was pretty disappointed but that’s life I guess.

Do you remember arriving in China, what was that like?
I remember arriving in China, I had no phone number, no cell phone to try to call someone, and no language skills I was pretty lost. In a city of 22 million Chinese I won the lottery and completely by chance ran into another Marine traveling back from training elsewhere in Asia. He brought me home and got me started. Talk about a huge eye opener, China is nothing like china town.

What was your job/assignment?
Primary: Aviation Operations Specialist,
Secondary: CH-53E Aerial Observer, Marine Corps Embassy Guard.

Did you see combat?
Not directly but I was shot at over New Orleans during hurricane Katrina Relief.

Your best experience?
Being pinned Sergeant by the first female consulate general of Shanghai, China.

You worst experience?
Being hunted and almost kicked out of the military because of my personal life…

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?
Oh absolutely, becoming apart of the military will change anyone’s mind on the wars. Did we need to go in? Are we there for a “good” purpose? I’m not sure, I admit I’m not versed or involved enough to answer that question outright. But what I can say is now that we’ve established a very large presence in the Middle East I have no confidence it will be any better off for our efforts, and I have no confidence we’ll ever leave. It’s a bit like playing that old whack-a-mole game. Knock down one bad guy and another just pops up.

What do you think, based on what you see in the media or even in everyday life, is a common misconception people seem to have about the military, or people in the military? A few things, the returning vet is someone who’s damaged and basically a hair trigger away from going off. Or that we’re all damaged now and need everyone’s help and attention. When in reality the majority of us just want to be respected and left alone. That being said, we need to politicize our struggles in an effort to fix the issues plaguing the VA medical system.

What did you find you missed the most when you were gone? Beef and anonymity. While living in China I stuck out a bit, as a six foot tall skinny white boy I got stared at, a lot… I had people taking pictures of me every time I left the house, to say nothing of the attention I got from the local government. But the “dark green” (black) marines at the post got the most attention. The Chinese do not allow the import of beef and their type of beef was kind of gross, so a good burger was the first meal I had on home soil.

Final question-what else do you want people to know about you?: I am most fond of being in the service while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed. As a gay Marine I spent seven and half years in the service with no major issues. I kept it to my self and that really sucked having to lie and hide but I knew what I was signing up for. And the Marines I served with eventually got a hint and left me alone. As the Congress started departing the issue, a Marine in my unit reported me. My unit tried to slow the process as much as possible but eventually the federal Judge in California who ordered the halt of all investigations saved me. A few months later the congress voted to overturn DADT and a few months later we were beginning the process to implementing the process. It was an honor to educate Marines, it was an honor to watch my Marine Corps warm up to me fully. Finally, for the first time in my life, I was a whole person. A proud, successful, and respected Sergeant of Marines.


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