My second ending, and third beginning

Posted: April 17, 2007 in military

I have recently retired from active duty, ending the second phase of my life and beginning a third. All military people start life as civilians, and it’s useful to remember this. There is no “warrior caste” or “military breed” or other similar notion. That’s left-wing bullshit. Military people and warriors are created, not born.

All military people start life as civilians. The fortunate ones end it the same way. Today, the truly lucky become civilians with all their limbs intact. I was fortunate to spend nearly 21 years of my life in national service, and that’s something anyone would be proud of. I spent that time in a specialty called Electronic Intelligence, which is focused increasingly on keeping our soldiers, airmen and marines alive. The better we do our job, the more of them come back with the aforementioned limbs intact.

Tonight’s PBS special, “America at the Crossroads”, was all about the soldiers’ stories from the Iraq war. I watched it first because of interest (these being some of the soldiers I may have had a hand in protecting), then from a sense of duty (as a tribute to those we couldn’t), and of course, with a sense of relief (for not being a part of that any more). I wasn’t prepared, though, to feel guilt.

Yes, guilt. My decision to retire wasn’t taken lightly – I have a family to support, and leaving behind the life I’d known for 20 years wasn’t easy. But with deployments increasing in length, frequency, and unpredictability, the military had ceased to be an attractive option for us. But still I felt that guilt. Should I have stayed? If I had, could I have made a difference?

Probably not. But there’s still the feeling that I’ve somehow abandoned the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a host of other hellholes most Americans haven’t heard of and couldn’t find on a map.

So now I’m retired, and starting a new life. I have my retiree pay, and better health care than most regular citizens. I know I’ve earned this, and more. The price any military person pays for that privelege is higher than the average American can imagine. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

My third life began today. Pray not for me, but for the men and women risking life and limb to restore order to Iraq and Afghanistan. They need it more.


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