John Gallagher, 28, is a native of Redding, four-year veteran of the Marine Corps and vice president of a veterans-service organization in Chico called VECTORS, which stands for Veteran Executive Committee to Organize Rehabilitative Services. Gallagher came to Chico to attend the university after he left the military in 2000. His work study program linked him up with the Vet center for post traumatic stress syndrome cases where he met his mentor, Vietnam Vet Les Orme. He was at the VECTORS office on First Street the day it opened. He graduated with honors in social work and is now in the master’s public administration program at Chico State. VECTORS accepts all kinds of donations. VECTORSNPO.org. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 343-3040 for more information.
What does Veteran’s Day mean?
Every day to me is a day to remember veterans. I guess it’s a day when those who hang their flags but don’t think of veterans on any other day go out and do maybe something extra-special that day.
How do you think America treats its veterans?
I think America is scared to deal with them. Maybe because of past experiences, maybe because it is difficult for anyone in any situation to talk about death and the military has a lot of that going on. And the vets don’t want to talk about these things because they have too much pride and that probably hurts them in the end—not brining it up not talking about it is going to depress them in the long run. These guys I see now coming back from Iraq. I know six that are back that are Marines living together here and they have their sniper room; they have M16s. You walk in the house and their guns are laid out. They’ve called me over to their house [when one or more is having problems] because I’m a young guy. They won’t talk to older people; they won’t talk to Vietnam veterans.
How do you overcome this?
Staying professional. You do what you can with what you’ve got. My mentor taught me there’s no area in life you can’t shine if you are willing to diversify and try something different. If what you are doing isn’t working, do something different. Don’t be stubborn.
What should civilians know about veterans?
They are willing to do anything for people to help them, if they know what is going on. A lot of vets are coming back right now after being traumatized and they are asking how they can volunteer to help. They lived through something and couldn’t save everyone and now they want to help. I realize now that for some people being traumatized makes all the difference.