It has been over 17 years since I walked away from active military service and there are still very few days where I don’t feel some longing for what I use to have when I was in. There are choices that I made that led me to my decision to finally sever my ties with that life, choices I don’t regret, but choices that have most definitely lead me to the place where I currently am.
When I first joined, I had dreams and aspirations. Ok, reality, I had no idea what I was getting into… but after about 6 months, I had an idea of where I wanted to go, what I wanted to accomplish, and who I wanted to become. Dreams of becoming a SEAL, or heading off to become an EOD Tech floated at the top of my list. I then found out about the SBU’s, and set my sights on heading in that direction.
Notice how all these aspirations have to do with what is commonly recognized as ‘warrior’ callings, the brave men who walk into hell and eat fire for a living. I wanted so desperately to be numbered among them, to prove to people that I had the steel inside to wear a badge of honor that set me apart. Someone of note.
However, I never achieved those dreams. My desire to marry my high-school nemesis* changed the first. The birth of my son put a stop to the second. All that was left was the SBU, but it was going to take me away from my family for a year, so I made a hard choice and decided that my family was more important than a dream. That choice lead me to the place where I became a father again. Four years later, looking at having to go back to sea and be away from the family I had already made so many choices for, I changed my dream. I hung up my uniform, gave my last salute and walked into civilian life. It was honestly one of the easiest and most difficult choices I have ever made.
I was my uniform. All my ribbons, all my medals, all my commendations. I had honor and pride in saying I was a United States military member. I had significance in knowing that what I did mattered for the safety and freedom of our country. Honor, courage, commitment.. they weren’t just our core values, but they helped define the type of man I wanted to be known as. Yeah, I know, this is all so very Born on the Fourth of July, but that was…is… who I am.
The dream didn’t change overnight. 17 years later I’m still working out the final parts of it. But it started when I came home for the last time. I walked in, having been away from my family for a few months while I separated from the military, and there they were. All three of them. A 5-year-old son whose life I had missed so much of. A 3-year-old daughter that I almost didn’t know. A wife who spent too many nights alone.
Sure, I have medals, I have ribbons, I am a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I could have been a chief, I could have been an officer, but these days…
Dad works just fine.
* I’d say sweetheart, but.. that’s just not our story. If interested, you can read a few of the blogs under the category of “The Story of Us”