Labor Day, 2012. Four years ago on this day, I was in a state of panic. I had made this crazy decision to enter the military and leave everything behind. Everything that we had done and accumulated over 27 years, we essentially mothballed. What I did not realize is that I was doing the same thing to my heart and soul. It would take several more months and a trip to the war zone to learn all about that.
Two years ago yesterday, I flew out of Iraq and ended my tour of duty there. I had a smile on my face during that whole flight in the C-130 despite the heat, cramped quarters, noise, vibration and “battle rattle”. It did not matter. I knew I had done a good job and I was now returning home to loved ones and reality. Ah, but reality is only a state of mind. It would take a few more months to come to grips with that concept.
Now, I have 30 days before I end my military sojourn. I go on what the military euphemistically calls “terminal leave” and then I “separate”. These terms invoke visions of death and end-of-life care for me! However, I know better. I spent 53 years in the civilian world and only 4 years in the military. I am excited and delighted to “separate”. I did what I set out to do, even more, and return to the “real world” banged up but a far better person with a renewal of purpose, mission and peace. I do not dread separation. I CANNOT WAIT!
I will miss my troops, though. Everyone I served with. Everyone I worked with. All those in the deserts of Southwest Asia, all those in the jungles of Washington, DC. Working with these gallant warriors was, by far, the best experience of my military “career”. I doubt I shall ever have an experience quite as intense again. I do not think I WANT and experience that intense again. I want to gracefully slip into the next phase of my life and prepare for the bliss of retirement.
Most unexpectedly, I have found new work to occupy my time. Suffice it to say, I will work with my fellow veterans and toil ceaselessly to minister to their health and bind up their wounds. I think it is another one of those missions from the Master Physician. I cannot decline.
Tomorrow morning, I fight a new battle. I must annihilate this thing called the “outprocessing checklist”! It was NOT EASY to get INTO the military at my ripe old age. It is HARDER getting out and no one seems inclined to help. I am, once again, on my own but I know that somewhere, somehow an Airman will come to my aid just when I least expect it.
Finally, the photo attached to this post was taken at the National Museum of Heath and Medicine this weekend. I apologize that I had to take it through the display case glass. I was struck by the statement. I was even more stunned that Calvin Coolidge was the author. It turns out that I will soon have an attachment to Coolidge. More on this in the future.