It happens to everyone in uniform. Sooner or later you take off your uniform and face the reality of a future that stands in stark contrast to the military life that you have led.
It doesn’t matter if you serve four years or forty, ultimately we all get out. Lifetime service went the way of cavalry horses and airship pilots and as a result each and every one of us who has sworn to serve our country ultimately ends up returning to civilian life as citizen. A veteran to be sure, but a citizen. Just like everyone else.
So how do you decide when to leave? For a lot of military folks the decision is made for them because they cannot reenlist or they reach their maximum service limit. For others, they may be medically separated due to wounds received in combat or to accident or illness. For the rest of us, though, we are faced with a decision that we have to make. When should we head for the offramp?
For me, the decision was an incredibly difficult one while at the same time one of the easiest that I have ever had to make. Difficult because I love the life I have led in the military, and it has been my home for nearly three decades. Easy because the decision made itself.
I woke up one day and realized it was time to go.
Every Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Coast Guardsman has a unique story written by his or her unique career. Although every one of them starts at boot camp or recruit training or officer candidate school and ends with a discharge or retirement ceremony, the days, weeks, months, and years between the beginning and the end are invariably different. In my case, I woke up that fateful morning and realized that I had done everything that I wanted to do in the service of my country: I had seen the world, led men and women in peace and war, and been tested in the crucible of combat. I also have missed countless birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, and the hundreds of “firsts” that are part of my children’s childhoods. I awoke that day and decided that I had been gone enough. It was time to serve my other life- the one without a uniform. The life that I will live for the rest of my days, the one that starts and ends each day in the same place and the same people. My wanderlust is sated. It’s time to stay home.
At any rate, that is why I chose to retire and move on to a new and different life. A new adventure awaits…after I get done with my final physical, and my veteran’s affairs appointments, and my retirement seminars, and….and….and…