To them, a civilian is — if not quite the enemy — often an anomaly.
They can interpret innocent looks as judging glares, simple requests as hassles.
“I get along with other veterans better than citizens,” said Robert “Tiny” Hogan, a hulking Goodyear resident with an ironic nickname.
“You can relate to them better.”
Hogan is a Desert Storm combat veteran. After his discharge from the Army with a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis, the PTSD symptoms hit him so fiercely there were days he wouldn’t leave his house.
Then he realized other veterans were far worse off and helping them would also help him.
Four years ago, Hogan, 52, co-founded Veterans IV Veterans, a motorcycle “association” with two dozen members. They come from around the West Valley - Bernie “Slingshot” Kendall lives in Peoria, Dustin “Singleshot” Abbas in Phoenix just outside Glendale.
They are an active association, overcoming individual problems - several have PTSD, Abbas also had a traumatic brain injury - to aid other veterans, or just to celebrate the service.
“We’re the people behind the scenes, at a lot of veterans events,” said Kendall, who served in both the Army (1977-80) and U.S. Air Force (1981-85).
Veterans IV Veterans’ motorcycles will roar in Buckeye Veterans Day Parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9.
“It’s a nice, hometown parade. It reminds me of the smaller parades when I was a kid,” said Hogan, raised in Florida.
On Veterans Day, the Veterans IV group will be in Glendale for a new flag-raising ceremony and incineration of old American flags.
The Glendale event starts at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at the Glendale Main Library Auditorium, 5959 W. Brown Street. Speakers are planned, as well as a flyover by Luke Air Force Base.
“They should be fun,” Hogan said.
While there is plenty of entertaining, uplifting events and specials around Veterans Day, veterans often drift into the shadows the other 364 days of the year. Hogan and his group stay active year-round. They take food and help clean yards of veterans in need.
And Veterans IV host bingo every Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the Phoenix Veterans Administration Community Living Center.
“The guys we play bingo with are usually the sickest of the sick,” Hogan said. “A lot of them aren’t going home.”
Hogan and his Veterans IV comrades spend time with dying veterans - sharing tears, prayers as well as bonding over military experiences, stories and hardships, until the veteran passes away.
“The hardest part for me is the bingo when we lose patients,” Hogan said.
Yet he soldiers on, fueled by the purpose this group gave him.
Although the group is nominally a motorcycle association, “We’re just a bunch of vets helping other vets,” said Kendall, who lives in Peoria.
All the assistance and events can be exhausting, Hogan explained. “We’ve got to try to make time for ourselves with family and our kids,” he added.
“Sunday, we’re going to get together as a family group and enjoy some time together.”
When he uses the word “family,” it includes his association, Veterans IV Veterans.
“It’s a lot of work - a lot of work,” Hogan said.
“But it’s what I thought it would be. And it’s starting to get rewarding. People you helped years ago, you’re running back into. You’re seeing their lives are better.”
Abbas recalled how he was drifting three years ago until he heard about Veterans IV Veterans.
“It’s been a lifeline, for me. I was going through a lot of hardship. I didn’t have a place in society,” Abbas voiced.
“When I met them, I went up to Tiny and put my hand on his shoulder and said, ‘Hey, what’s this group all about?’
“It’s what you learn in grade school — go up to the biggest, baddest dude and talk to him. And he was really nice.”
Indeed, the pro-wrestling-sized Tiny Hogan proves to be soft-spoken and caring. And, he said, he is grateful to the group for making his own life better;
“For me, it’s important. It gives me a purpose. It gives me a purpose to get out of the house. Without that, I don’t know what I’d do.”
For more information, visit veteransivveteransmotorcycleassociation.com.