Gulf War and Iraq War
Ricardo Ross served in the Gulf War from 1990 to 1991 and the Iraq War from 2003 to 2004. He delivered weapons and transported tanks.
For Ross, war often inspired thoughts of home, and the innocents affected by totalitarian regimes.
"Looking at the children, it touched my heart," he said. "They would be asking (for) food, and I thought about my children.
"When it was hot there, they didn't have any shoes on and I was wondering how (their feet) were staying on the ground. I guess the callouses had built up, so they was used to it. That was the most heart-wrenching episode I've seen."
Ross said Americans should learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder, that it doesn't necessarily mean a veteran is unhinged.
"I feel they should research what they are talking about first before they judge," he said.
Gulf War and Mogadishu, Somalia
"It had an impact in that you kinda view life a little differently. Things can become either black or white, matter-of-fact for you. You're somewhat desensitized to death and things like that. It's an adjustment. It can be an adjustment.
"I guess the biggest adjustment is when you come back from a war zone (and you're back here in your country), it's hard to tell your mind or your brain that you're no longer at war. So you're still, so to speak, looking for the enemy, if you will. Kinda paranoid, if you're not careful. It can affect your relationships."
Click here or on image to see interview with Duane Smith
After 20 years of holding in his emotions and wearing that strict military face, after an adulthood of being the hard-ass "gunny," Albert Hayes was suddenly adrift when he retired from the Marine Corps in 1995.
A salute to our veterans
Reporting by Josh Dulaney, Greg Mellen, Christina Villacorte
Photos by David Crane, Sean Hiller and Thomas R. Cordova.
Videos shot by Hans Gutknecht, Jeff Gritchen, Rachel Luna
Online production by Robert Meeks
"I lost the discipline," the 54-year-old said. "I was set free. Free to be a fool."
For all military service gives you, Hayes knows it takes as well.
"I went in at 17," Hayes said. "For my whole adult life I was so used to being told `do this, do that."'
Freedom was nearly Hayes' undoing as he battled alcohol and crack addiction, which he used to escape the scars of service.
"How do you talk to family members about the death?" Hayes asked. "You look for relief, and it's drugs and alcohol. The hardest thing I had to learn was how to forgive myself."
Now seven years sober and employed, Hayes stands tall and proud as a veteran, including during the First Gulf War, where he came under attack while setting up forward landing zones for battle helicopters.
It was there he saw people hurt and limbs torn off.
And though it's not always easy, he's learning how to let that go.
"Because of (my) rank I had to be more of a hard heart. A gunny can't show fear. A lot of times service people don't know how to take off the title and become a normal person."
- Greg Mellen
Kansas City, Mo.
Johnson was stationed at the former Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino. He served nearly six years.
"I learned a lot about brotherhood - depending on your fellow man, someone else to watch your back. Teamwork was very important during that time in the military. I learned that's what it takes to get the job done.
"Patriotism was very big. I wasn't a very big military person until I got in the service."
Navy 1989-1993 E-5
First Gulf War
Although there were tense times and even some men lost at sea, Scottie Scott - yes, he said that's his name - knows he may not have faced the horrors of some of his contemporaries. But he is still part of the fraternity of those who served.
As a member of that family, Scott has take it upon himself to be welcoming and helpful to all who leave the service and to provide them with the information and services available to vets.
Information that Scott said wasn't available when he left the service, unless you knew who to ask.
"It was get out and go home," Scott said of his exit from service.
Now, Scott said, "when (vets) return home, what I'm starting to see are really big welcomes, and I like it."
Scott says working as a vocational nurse with vets has made him keenly aware of the challenges they face, from trauma to merely finding work, and he is determined to do what he can to give his fellow veterans all the opportunities he believes they deserve.
Click here or on image to see interview with Scottie Scott.