Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thanks for all the fish...
Today is my last official day on active duty with the United States Army. A little less than half of my life has been in an Army uniform and practically my entire adult life.
It was so strange to turn over my active duty identification card in exchange for my "retiree" card. Something so trivial and yet so momentous at the same time. So often in life, that is just the way it is. We expect fireworks, that somehow the physical will match the moment. That somehow everyone will know that something has changed -- that somehow you will be changed. Yet, most often that's not the case. I walked out looking outwardly exactly the same as I did just a few moments ago but something had changed.
I am just not certain exactly how my life has changed but I am sure that I will discover it in time.
For now, I am just grateful. Grateful that I had a chance to serve my country. Grateful that I finished all the way to retirement. Grateful for the opportunities that the Army gave me and for the friends that I made along the way.
I often look at the Army flag and point out little things that my civilian friends don't realize. For example, on the Army flag is the year "1775." That is not a typo. There was an Army before there was a United States of America. Indeed it was because we had an Army that our country was able to be born. The streamers are not decoration. These 174 streamers denote campaigns fought by the Army throughout our nation’s history. If you pay attention you will notice that after the color guard brings in the American and the Army Flags and posts them, that the soldier always takes a moment to make sure that one streamer is always center and on top of the Army flag - "Yorktown." The epic battle that broke the British Army and secured our future as an independent nation. Indeed, the Army flag and it's streamers is the history of the United States of America.
And it is more than that. The Army is not decorations and streamers although those are important. The Army is people. People who fought and died in those campaigns. People who suffered and gave of themselves for something greater than their own interests. Families that sacrificed their time, their comforts, and sometimes their loved ones for the good of the nation. Our lives are woven into this tapestry of colors -- without us, there would be no Army and no United States of America.
And so while I leave, I am reminded of all those who served before me and those that continue to serve. The history of our great country continues to be written. I have little doubt that our future is still full of promise of better things to come. The brightest days for America have yet to dawn. And it is because of those that have served and those willing to serve that this remains true. Our soldiers have been the guardians of our Republic even before the beginning and have never faltered in their devotion to the service of America.
And so I leave the ranks of the brightest and the best. Those that serve are the brightest because they understand that without their service there would be no safety and no freedom for the rest of their people. They are the best because they are willing to sacrifice themselves and their families for the greater good.
I am proud to have been one of them. I am proud to say that I was a soldier in the United States Army. God Bless them and their families and God Bless America. Hooah! (For my civilian friends that don't understand "Hooah", it's OK, it's an Army thing.)