I'll be back tomorrow with a July 4 post, but today was a momentous day for our family so I wanted to share.
It was my husband's last day in uniform.
He will begin terminal leave on Saturday and that goes until the end of September. The last day of September will be his final day in the Army.
He first enlisted during the fall of his senior year in high school. The year was 1983--over 30 years ago.
He graduated and left for basic training. This was all well before I knew him! He finished basic training and AIT (the course where you learn your "job"--in his case, he was a light vehicle/power generator mechanic. He had been promised duty in Germany, but decided to go to Airborne school instead, in order to jump out of airplanes.
This is his Airborne school picture. He was 18 and looks like a child!
(By the way, he still has that piece of tape with his number on it)
Instead of Germany, he was assigned to a unit at Fort Bragg. Part of his duties there included being the driver for his Lieutenant, and that made him think that the Lieutenant wasn't so different than he was, why couldn't he be one, too? So when his 2-year enlistment was up, he took his GI benefits and went to college. He stayed in the National Guards and was in ROTC. He actually was wearing his ROTC uniform when I met him.
Commissioning--with our daughter.
After graduation, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the US Army. Each officer is assigned a branch--infantry, cavalry, military intelligence, etc. He wanted the Signal corps--they are in charge of communication. He had majored in Electronic Engineering Technology/Communication but that is no guarantee in the army. (We had a neighbor once who was from San Antonio--home of a huge Army hospital--with a degree in medical services who joined and requested the medical corps. He got Signal.) Luckily for my husband, though, he was assigned to the Signal Corps, so a few months later we packed up and moved to Fort Gordon, Augusta, GA--home of the Signal Corps--so he could attend the Signal Officer Basic Course--and our Army life was underway! It was the spring and summer of 1990. The week before he graduated, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He already knew that his first assignment was with the First Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, TX, and before long, we heard that the division was deploying. Welcome to the Army! He had a follow-on course and by the time we arrived at Hood, his unit had already left. He had about 2 weeks for us to move in and for him to prepare to deploy and then he was gone. The war was over quickly, though, and he was back safe 6 months later.
Fort Huachuca circa 1997
Since then, we returned to Gordon for the Advanced Officer Course, then he spent a year unaccompanied in Korea--he was assigned to Camp Greaves which was right on the border with North Korea--they could see the North Korean flag. After that, we lived at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, returned to Fort Gordon so he could be an instructor for the Advanced Course, and then Fort Bliss (El Paso) Texas. We were living there when the terror attack of September 11 occurred. At the time he was the Signal Officer assigned to a Patriot Missile Brigade. Over our Christmas leave he found out they were deploying to Kuwait. They left in January and the Iraq War began in March. His brigade was responsible for shooting down the few missiles that Iraq launched. While he was safe, part of his unit was not--the 507th Maintenance Company was attacked, resulting in the deaths of 11 soldiers and the capture of Jessica Lynch and 5 others. I think the lowest day of my Army life was the day I attended the memorial service for those soldiers. Have you ever attended one? Part of the ceremony involves a Sergeant calling roll. Their names were called, and the silence of no answer in return had a finality that broke my heart and can still bring tears.
When he returned, we almost immediately moved to Fort Richardson, Alaska--where we were living when our daughter graduated from high school and left for college. Fort Leavenworth, KS, and then Fort Shafter, Hawaii were our remaining duty stations before here: Fort Eustis, VA. While in Hawaii, my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. Again he was fairly safe--remaining on a camp adjacent to the Kabul airport for the entire deployment. Thus he is a Veteran of not one, but three different wars.
Today at lunch we were talking. We agreed that we feel two things: the first is that a heavy weight is being lifted off our shoulders. No more can anyone else command the way we live our lives--no more separations/deployments, no more moves, etc. The second feeling is that of have a safety net moved out from under us--no matter what the army threw at us, we always knew we would have a place to live, and that the paycheck would arrive. While the feeling is overall bittersweet, I think we are both ready for this chapter of our lives to close, and for a new one to begin.
Have a great day,