New Year’s Day is a day for change. You get to break out a new calendar and do your best to keep those resolutions that you made between glasses of champagne the night before. For me, January 1st 2012 is particularly important because it marks an incredibly significant day in my life.
New Year’s Day was the day that I became a civilian. 27 years and 21 days after I raised my right hand to swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States I found myself back to where I was that December day in 1984. I officially became a former Marine; “former” because once you become a Marine you are one forever. There is no such thing as an “ex-Marine”. Ex-soldier, yes. Ex-Marine, no.
New Year’s Eve was a party. It was a celebration with friends that marked the end of a tiring and, for many, a challenging 2011 and the bright beginnings of a new and shiny 2012. We rang in the New Year with a lot of noise and a lot of champagne – in particular an enormous bottle that was given to me by my great friend Chris to mark my transition. My headache the following morning indicated that I had indeed made a dent in the reservoir of bubbly that it poured!
Waking up the next morning was a little odd. I have been a Marine for the better part of three decades, and despite my newly found “Former” Marine status it was striking that I no longer had any official tie to the Corps. I would be receiving a pension, which is great, but no longer would I be watching the news with the same level of interest in world events as I had been. The probability that I would find myself in some pestilential third world hotspot suddenly became zero, and the odds that I would have to leave my family for months on end for a deployment disappeared. I was now back in the society that I had served for so long, with all of the benefits that make it the greatest nation on the planet.
It is a little like being that 17 year old kid who enlisted while still in high school. I have the rest of my life in front of me, and I have the opportunity to choose what comes next. It is almost like being given another whole new life; I can do anything I want. Except maybe professional sports. I’ll cede that option to the practical realities of starting life over at the age of 44!
I leave my military career with a wall full of plaques and a mind full of memories. Being a career Marine was the best career that I could have pursued because it took me places that I would otherwise have never seen and challenged me to levels that exist only in the most dire of circumstances. I have made lifelong friends and learned more about life than I thought possible at the ripe old age of 17 when I signed up.
So it is with a certain level of eagerness that I look forward to the next great adventure. I am not certain where the road ahead will lead me, but I am excited to take the first steps in a pair of tennis shoes. Like me, my combat boots are retired from active service. Time to try something new…