I woke up today with the intention of sorting through all of my writings about the military. As a child of the computer age, I'm one of the thousands of soldiers who kept an online blog. I'm grateful to have made that choice since it now serves as a digital storage box. The writing is rough, yes, but it serves as a defibrillator for my memory and an excellent starting point in organizing my stories.
As I clicked the first saved file, it dawned on me that my official discharge date from the military was two days ago on August 24th. I had completely forgotten about it.
Since returning from Iraq in October of 2006, I have been moved to a reserve status. That essentially means I'm not required to wear my uniform, attend any training activites, or even give two thoughts about the military. I'm simply a number in their books. I was a "just in case" soldier.
Even though I've been carrying that discharge date in my wallet for eight years in the form of a military I.D., I had lost track of time. At first I was shocked by my disreguard but then found myself grateful for it. Otherwise, I may have ended up in some ridiculous cliche situation like getting tanked at a bar and forcing military memories onto anyone who would listen to me.
I allowed myself a few minutes to let the memories overwhelm me. It was the least I could do for myself. I realized then that I sincerely missed the military. I missed the security of a job that would always be there. I missed the steady paycheck (even if the pay was ridiculously low for the number of working hours). I missed the comradeship.
Most of all, I miss the way the military gives a person an absolute sense of meaning and purpose. I think this is the hardest part of the soldier to civilian transition. In the military, your life is literally broken down into missions to accomplish. There is no deviation or confusion about the matter. There’s no room for philosophizing or pondering. From the moment you wake up to the moment you close your eyes, your purpose is clear.
I sincerely miss that.
Fortunately, I’m also an independent thinker. I admit that it’s crossed my mind a few times since returning from Iraq to re-enlist and attend OCS (Officer Candidate School). I quickly pushed those thoughts aside because they only surfaced when I couldn’t find a focus in my life. I decided that it was a bad idea to re-enlist simply because I missed being institutionalized.
Now it’s all over. On the day I enlisted in 2000, eight years seemed like eternity. Now that eternity is finally here, I can only feel satisfaction with my service and content with walking away from it. Here's where I focus on those memories, consider them objectively, and formulate them into digestible stories for everyone. Let's get started.