YOU CAN LEAVE THE MILITARY BUT
IT NEVER REALLY LEAVES YOU!
At times, I venture back to some military base , where Iím greeted by
an imposing Security Guard who looks carefully at my identification
card, hands it back and says,....
ďHave a good day, Sir"!
Every time I go back to any post it feels good to be called by my
previous rank, but odd to be in civilian clothes, walking among the
servicemen and women going about their duties as I once did, many years
But you know I have no trouble with a sign in the commissary or PX that
says Men and Women in Uniform have head of the line privileges between
1100 and 1300.
The military is a comfort zone for anyone who has ever worn the uniform.
Itís a place where you know the rules and know they are enforced, a
place where everybody is busy, but not too busy to take care of
Because there exists behind the gates of every military facility an
institutional understanding of respect, order, uniformity,
accountability and dedication that becomes part of your marrow and
never, ever leaves you.
Personally, I miss the fact that you always knew where you stood in the
military, and who you were dealing with. Thatís because you could read
somebodyís uniform from 20 feet away and know the score.
Service personnel wear their careers on their sleeves, so to speak. When
you approach each other, you can read their name tag, examine their rank
and, if they are in dress uniform, read their ribbons and know where
I miss all those little things you take for granted when you are in the
ranks, like breaking starch on a set of khakis fresh from the laundry
and standing in a perfectly straight line in formation that looks like a
mirror as it stretches to the endless horizon.
To romanticize military service is to be far removed from its reality,
because itís very serious business especially in times of war.
I miss the salutes I would throw at a senior officer and the ones that
I even miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality that was griped about
constantly, a masterful invention that bonded people more than theyíll
ever know or admit.
I miss people taking off their hats when they enter a building, speaking
directly and clearly to others and never showing disrespect for rank,
race, religion or gender.
I miss being a small cog in a machine so complex it constantly
circumnavigates the Earth and so simple it feeds everyone on time, three
times a day, on the ground, in the air or at sea.
Finally, I miss Taps and the Star spangled Banner, both bring tears to
my eyes even now.
Mostly, I donít know anyone personally who has served who regrets it,
and doesnít feel a sense of pride when they pass through those gates
and re-enter the world they left behind with their youth.