Skip to comments.The Military....Well Said
Posted on 06/15/2013 2:32:42 AM PDT by NKP_Vet
Occasionally, I venture back to one or another military post, where I'm greeted by an imposing security guard who looks carefully at my identification card, hands it back and says, "Have a good day, Sir!"
Every time I go back to any Military Base it feels good to be called by my previous rank, but odd to be in civilian clothes, walking among the servicemen and servicewomen going about their duties as I once did, many years ago.
The military is a comfort zone for anyone who has ever worn the uniform. It's 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 business.
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. That's because you could read somebody's uniform from 20 feet away and know the score.
Service personnel wear their careers on their uniforms, 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 they've served.
I miss all those little things you take for granted when you're in the ranks, like breaking starch on a set of fatigues fresh from the laundry and standing in a perfectly straight line military formation that looks like a mirror as it stretches to the endless horizon.
I miss the sight of troops marching in the early morning mist, the sound of boot heels thumping in unison on the tarmac, the bark of drill instructors and the sing-song answers from the squads as they pass by in review.
To romanticize military service is to be far removed from its reality, because it's very serious business -- especially in times of war. But, I miss the salutes I'd throw at senior officers and the crisp returns as we crisscrossed with a "by-your-leave" sir.
I miss the smell of jet fuel hanging heavily on the night air and the sound of engines roaring down runways and disappearing into the clouds.
I even miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality that enlisted men gripe about constantly, a masterful invention that bonded people more than they'll 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.
Mostly, I don't know anyone who has served who regrets it, and doesn't feel a sense of pride when they pass through those gates and re-enter the world they left behind with their youth.
Face it guys - we all miss it............Whether you had one tour or a career, it shaped your life.
I am newly retired (less than a month) so I don’t miss any of it yet. But I know I will.
I have been retired for over 10 years.
With each debacle of the government, I think of yet another reason to be glad I'm retired (I'm up to, at last count, 384,786 reasons why I'm glad to be retired).
Having said that, I do miss the ability to move PCS every few years...to essentially change jobs while maintaining all my rank and benefits. That's probably close to the only thing I miss of active duty.
The only PCS I truly enjoyed was when I went to Hawaii for 3 1/2 years.
I PCSd 11 times during my career. There were only two that I didn't enjoy. One was March AFB, CA (part of the reason was that I was there during the Rodney King riots).
But even then, the job I did made up for any negatives about the place.
The other one was to tech school at Keesler AFB MS (long before the Casinos). Tech School really sucked -- the "rules" for students were set up for students in schools that were 6 weeks to 3 months...my tech school was over 6 months long, so the restrictions got real old real fast. But even then, I had some great times in New Orleans and Pensacola.
I even had a great time at a mountaintop remote in Turkey (and had such a good time, I volunteered to go back to Turkey on an accompanied assignment...and loved it).
I was a two-year draftee just before the Vietnam buildup (Cuban Missile crisis). Through Fort Ord, then to 6th army HQ at the Presidio of San Francisco (both now defunct), never leaving the state. What I enjoyed most was the monthly retirement ceremonies, marching on the large parade ground to great Sousa (and other marches).
I miss having a mission, a purpose.
Very well said Brother. I spent 30 years on active duty. Just long enough to figure out that I liked it. :-) De Oppresso Liber
I miss the camaraderie and the trust that I had in my fellow Marines. It’s the kind of trust you rarely ever have in people who are not in your family or have been life-long friends.
Wow! After many years, I am on base now. You described my feelings when I passed through the gate. The military still gives me hope. I think that is why the Charlatan in Chief is making such an obvious effort to change the military culture.
I think this article is rose colored at best.
The military of today is more a reflection of Liberal/Marxist/Multiculturalism ideology than the Red, White & Blue of our history.
I have missed active duty since I left after my 3 year gig as a female JAG. It was the best career experience of my life. Met all different kinds of people, did more before 9 AM than the rest of people do all day and absolutely loved it.
Many of my neighbors are active duty military and they do not project that at all to me. They are good decent, patriotic Americans. Their civilian bosses and their senior military commanders are another story.
I appreciate my time in the military.
My dad was a 30 year naval officer through three wars, and I served time in the Seventies.
I was a jet mechanic, and did two med deployments and a North Atlantic cruise. I saw the Egyptian pyramids, the red tile roofs of Dubrovnik, and the red glow of Mount Aetna reflecting off the clouds as we passed the Straits of Messina.
I saw an A6 one moonlit night, rise up in the sky in front of the ship as I stood all alone up on the bow, reach a peak, and slowly fall backwards to disappear instantaneously in a flash of white foam a few hundred yards in front of the ship. I saw a Crusader shoot off the bow cat, pivot to starboard and immediately dive into the ocean while the ejecting pilot barely escaped.
I saw one of our pilots die, slowly, drowning in front of the entire watching ships company as they tried desperately to untangle him from his parachute shrouds just aft of our heaved-to carrier.
I remember two instances of a man leaping off the ship. One was as we passed in the middle of the night again, through the Straits of Messina, never to be found, and the other leaped as the ship had barely un-moored from Pier 12 in Norfolk, VA as we left on deployment. (The story was, his wife was passionately smooching another man as he watched, taunting him as the ship pulled away.
I remember the liberty. Disco in Europe, Palma De Mallorca, Barcelona, Naples...Naples...Naples...Naples. I had my first fried calamari in Barcelona at the Los Caracoles restaurant with all those flame roasting chickens turning on spits recessed into the walls just outside the front door. In Palma, I found myself drunk out of my mind, none of my friends anywhere to be seen, in a fancy mountaintop restaurant sitting at a table with an entire family of beautiful scandinavian women and having no idea how I got there.
I remember a near riot in Naples one night on Fleet Landing as hundreds of sailors drunk on that putrid Peroni stood for hours in the pouring rain because the water was too rough, and fights started breaking out all over. One man was surrounded by Shore patrol as he swung a metal stanchion at them with the rope still attached, and the scene was mayhem as we egged him on. GSGT Douglass, a most imposing man, walked up to the man, knocked him to the ground with a single punch, and with a single shouted command “YOU MEN SHUT UP” flipped a switch from bedlam to cowed submission.
I recall a huge party thrown by the Marine embassy guard in Egypt in a huge walled compound, and being chewed out by our own Marine Gunny, who was later the ranking enlisted man killed in the Marine barracks bombing in 1983. (GSGT Douglass) I was casually viewing him chew out a young Marine, and he took exception to me as a someone apparently enjoying the spectacle...
I remember being on a packed liberty boat in extremely rough seas, with people puking over the sides. I had to piss so bad I knew I could never make it, but grimly and eyewateringly held on. I saw one buddy that night who was on Shore Patrol on that boat remove his armband when he heard someone shout out “FCK THE SHORE PATROL!” as they tried to maintain order, and my other buddy, who had to go as badly as I did, actually pissed over the side while pretending to puke. I was angry at myself for not having the guts to try it...
I remember being chased by a transvestite with a knife in Naples up near Via Roma (which was off limits, and we had to guard it while on Shore Patrol to keep an eye out for sailors violating the ban. As we walked along, this transvestite comes at us, wearing some black plastic raincoat (guy looked a bit like Alice Cooper!) He is brandishing a knife, waving it in the air, yelling as he staggered towards us. I just stood there with my mouth open, and as I looked at Cookieman (AD1 Cook, who was in charge of my shop in my squadron) he just turned about and ran, so I turned and ran too. I have no idea what it was pissed off about, but it was screaming something at us in Italian. So we ran for a block or two laughing as we ran, then stopped to catch our breath. While we were standing there, Cookieman had his hands on his knees, panting, and looked at me with a big grin and said “She looked like Grandma but talked like Grandpa...”
I remember loving the ocean in all of its forms, the glass-like early morning Med with steam-like tendrils rising off the water, not a ripple to be seen, and the mountainous winter water of the North Atlantic, a Knox-class frigate with its bow alternatively being buried and completely visible nearly back to the missile box, and the single screw churning in the free air with the stern out of the water.
I remember lying in my rack, right under the third wire (RIGHT under it just a few feet away) as planes landed all day and night. As I slept (amazingly) I could actually HEAR the planes on approach, the modulation of their engines as they lined up, getting closer...closer...then WHAM! The engine would roar, stop, and I could hear the cable scraping off the deck as it retracted back into place, finally coming to rest for the next trap on the metal leaf springs holding the cable off the flight deck with a characteristic CLICK......CLICK.....CLICK as it stabilized and finally stopped moving.
I remember sleeping in my A7 one afternoon parked parallel to the waist cat off the coast of Scotland somewhere, when my plane shuddered and I looked back to see the twin tails of a Tomcat disappear off the port side of the flight deck as flight deck crew ran up to the edge of the deck to look. I remember looking up to see a Soviet cruiser far off our starboard bow attempting to cut across to get a better look and being blocked by one of our escorts. That turned out to be important, as the Soviets knew right where that plane, equipped with a new Phoenix missile had gone in, so our government had to look for months to find that missile to make sure the Soviets didn’t.
I recall being involved in some kind of fleet exercise, and having an Aussie A4 Skyhawk dive breakneck out of a break in the gray clouds directly above us, followed a second later by a Tomcat in hot pursuit.
I remember having an entire task force waiting for me to finish my job fixing an oil leak on the last plane off the deck in an Alpha strike. Here I was, an E5 and a guy in khaki pants and yellow jersey telling me the Captain was asking how long it was going to take because he wanted to change course as soon as our plane launched. It didn’t hit me then, but did later. The huge responsibility we give to our young people in the military. And they accept it and carry it out well.
I did not make the Navy my career. As most young men, who decide after seeing it up close, that the military is not for them long term, I insultingly derided lifers and the stupid (yes, there is a LOT of “stupid” in the military, no escaping it) brain-dead ways of the military. I was better than all that, and I was going to be a college man. I got dinged by my supervisor on a fitness report for making comments “not complimentary to the naval service”, and now, fully knowing how those things read, recognized it for what it was, a bad mark. And I deserved it. The AD1 who had written that fitness report was someone I liked immensely, and he did not deserve the reflected derision I issued.
He said to me afterwards, and to this day, I wished I had been able to find him, shake his hand, and tell him just how right he was. AD1 Ingram was a toothless, flatulent guy with a black mustache and a twinkle in his eye. Toothless because all his teeth had to be pulled at once for some reason while on a deployment, and flatulent, because he took to diet for a while of pure peanut butter. He cleaned out our gasping shop one day with an evil grin as we all scurried out, leaving him sitting there in a green acrid mist of his own making.
But AD1 Ingram had said to me after a derogatory comment one day: “Listen, son. You may not think so now, but someday you will look back on this time as the most exciting and important time of your life.”
How right he was. You see, I was good at it. I was good at the military life and the jobs I had been given. I advanced quickly, I was given roles of responsibility, flight deck troubleshooter, working on a special project with a defense contractor and so on. I was squared away, proud of my appearance, was responsible, never late, always stuck to military discipline and protocol.
I was privileged. The flight deck was my office for four years on one of the most powerful naval ships in history, and I saw and did things the vast majority of my peers in civilian life would never, ever, do or see.
I learned more about the world and myself in those four years than I did at any other point in my life, and I thank God, and thank my country for letting me serve.
I do believe that a 2 year mandatory stint in the military after HS would make a huge difference in the lives of most. It would help them to be more focused on their life and its possibilities afterword, and for ALL, would help them to realize what those who serve longer sacrifice and put up with for the rest of us to live free. It would give time for a more mature look at college for most, instead of the “party” mentality that ruins so many lives today. Who knows that it might also translate into better judgment in the voting booth, as well.
Been retired two years. Miss it. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But it’s a different Army now.
By the way, if you were addressed as “sir” while in uniform, you’re now being addressed as “sir” out of respect for your advancing age.
I just ran into one the of the great NCOs (retired also) I worked with in Germany, Kosovo, and Iraq at the AMC terminal in Dover. Shared a lot of great stories and caught up on the news about the other Soldiers we served with — always good to hear about the successes of the good ones you served with and catch some of those stories of what happened behind the scenes of “NCO business” that we Officers were not usually privy to(and for good reason;-).
I certainly miss Soldiering —I DO NOT miss being a staff officer at the Pentagon.
Amen, Mac, amen...honestly, I've met few people since I've been out that I'd willing die for. In fact, most of the time I am scratching my head in amazement that I was willing to die defending the rights of most of the knuckleheads I meet.
Anymore, I truly wonder at times if the sacrifice is all worth it, or if my country is just pissing it all down a hole, all for the sake of bread and circuses.
I miss having a respectable CiC.
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