SMDC veterans prove it's a small world after all
November 8, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - As Veterans Day approaches, two U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense/Army Forces Strategic Command team members reflect on four decades of camaraderie.
Sgt. Maj. John Mattie, SMDC G-3, and retired Master Sgt. Mike Nash, SMDC Office of Small Business Programs, first met during the second day of Operation Urgent Fury as the U.S. invaded Grenada in October 1983. From that moment on, Mattie and Nash would share a bond that continues to this day.
"When I met John Mattie, I was a corporal with an air defense unit basically taking refuge with a mortar section," Nash said. "We both had a similar mission being in an overwatch position. Our mortar section co-located with theirs and that is where we met each other. It is a small world and although we were in the same division, we had never met each other before that day.
"We were unlucky enough to be at the same place, the same time and doing the same mission and we were caught up in a crazy situation," he continued. "One thing we both learned was that the Russians used green bullet tracers. I remember laying in a ditch near the airfield wondering for a second why there were 'power lines' running across the airfield and was thinking to myself, 'aren't the airplanes going to run into them?' I realized in a few minutes that they weren't power lines but green tracers.
"Sometimes you learn stuff the hard way," Nash added.
After their time in Grenada, Mattie and Nash were once again reunited as they deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
"When I showed up at our site during Operation Desert Storm I met Mike again," Mattie said. "Once we got to sharing stories and experiences we remembered each other from Grenada.
"After Desert Storm we kept in touch throughout the years," he added.
After the Gulf War, Nash and Mattie would stay in contact throughout the years even as their careers would take them on separate paths.
Nash retired from the Army in 2002 and began working at SMDC in 2008. On his first day, Nash walked through the front door where he was met by, now retired, Master Sgt. John Telgenhof with whom Nash and Mattie had also served with.
After briefly catching up, Telgenhof proceeded to inform Nash that the command's G-3 sergeant major was none other than Sgt. Maj. John Mattie.
"Master Sgt. 'T' informed me that a guy named Mike Nash that I knew was going to be working here," Mattie said. "I always had a nickname for him as 'Uncle Mike' because he always took care of me. He made sure all of the noncommissioned officers and Soldiers were well taken care of.
"I had always had that kind of bond with him and it is a small world when you can work with someone like that who you can fall back on when you need something," he added. "It has been great serving with him again."
Ever since being reunited, Nash said that there have been many times when he and Mattie will talk about mutual friends as well as how the Army has changed since they chewed some of the same dirt in Grenada.
"When I started here in 2008, the first person I met was Master Sgt. Telgenhof and I said it was a small world," Nash said. "And then he said, 'you are never going to guess who the G-3 sergeant major is, it is Sgt. Maj. Mattie,' and sure enough it was him.
"I can't seem to get away from that guy," he added jokingly.
With Veterans Day coming up, Mattie and Nash spoke about those who have served in the military and how they are proud to play a part in the tradition of defending America in both peacetime and combat.
"When I think of Veterans Day, I think about all the sacrifices people have made throughout the years," Nash said. "We were in a unit that had a lot of deployments and shared a lot of hard times and as paratroopers we saw the worst of the worst sometimes. And during those times we saw the best of people.
"The paratroopers had a tighter camaraderie than other units I saw," he added. "In most units, Soldiers only spend two or three years together. In airborne units, it is not uncommon to spend up to 15 or more years together. It is true that the paratroopers are truly a 'Band of Brothers.' There are people I served with that are closer to me than my real brothers."
Mattie took time to not only mention the many veterans throughout history but also a veteran he has served with for more than 28 years.
"On Veterans Day, I like to think of people like Mike Nash," Mattie said. "He is a veteran who has served in Grenada, Panama and in the Gulf War. The day is about veterans and they need to be appreciated, honored and respected for all they have done."