United States Air Force Veteran Philip Varnado

Philip VarnadoMilitary Branch: United States Air Force

Units Served: 4856 AirBaseWing, DaNang AFB

Role in the Unit: Consolidated Base Personnel Office, Office Recreational Services

Years of Military Service: 4

Highest Military Ranking: Staff Sergeant

Honors Received: Vietnam Service Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal

Overseas Service: DaNang Vietnam, NKP Thailand

What motivated you to join the military? New experiences 

What is an achievement that you are most proud of in your military service? Returned home from Vietnam and Thailand to my family.

Which medals and/or citations are you most honored to have received, and why? Honorable discharge from Active Duty during wartime and Air Force Good Conduct medal. During my term in the military I saw people dishonorably discharged from the military because of bad judgement. They didn’t realize at the time the long effective it would have on their lives and the lives of their families. I credit my family for my conduct as a person because they are why I was able to be honorably discharged.

How did you stay connected to home and to loved ones while deployed? When you’re away at war you really think about loved ones, probably more than they think about you. It is important that families go the extra mile to stay in touch with loved ones in the military. Some are away in the service for the first time in their lives and if there is a war going on they will need to hear from their families.

Who is someone you looked up to or someone who meant a lot to you while serving in the military? I looked up to my family. I never wanted to do anything to dishonor them or myself.

How did/does your military experience impact your life today? Lots of recognition for serving my country that I thought would never happen.

What was it like on your last day of service? Undecided about to stay or to go. It was a major decision that I’m proud that I made.

After returning to civilian life, how were you initially received by veterans/family/community? The war in Vietnam was never received as a war of valor, allegiance and civic duty. This was mainly because of the political attitude in this country. Racial injustices, social injustices, music and drugs played heavy on the war in Vietnam. In the military no one spoke of service to our country but only those things that were going on in the streets of the cities we came from. No one was jumping up with joy and there were no returning home parades. 

Following your service, did you pursue secondary education or enter the workforce? After returning home from service, I attended Roosevelt University in Chicago. I studied at the College of Music at Roosevelt University, played percussion in different music venues around Chicago.

Did you, and how do you, stay in touch with people you served with? I met so many wonderful people in the military and have many good memories. I only wish that I had stayed in touch with at least one.

What would you like people to know about your military experience? I highly recommend everyone should serve, not necessarily a career, but short term. Great opportunities lie in the military to travel, discover, move around and see the world.

What questions do you wish people would ask you? Is the military life difficult? What is the best time to be in the military? What about a career in the military?