Holy Crap! A Moment of Self-Awareness

Sitting in my office today I was struck by a disturbing thought: I’ve been in the Army a really long time.  Specifically, that would be in the “more than 19 years” range – bigger than 18, less than 20, as of now, a few days past the mark of an exact 19 to-the-day.  Don’t get me wrong here, because there are folks out there with over thirty years in who are obviously far more patient than I am (and much higher in rank too).  This is completely a self-comparative realization and not valued against others’ service.  In other words, 19 years is a really long damn time.  Wow.

Back when, if asked how long I’d been serving, I’d come up with an answer a lot like our kids do when they’re young and a stranger asks them their age: “Two and one-half years, Sir!”  That extra half-year was important, an entire 20% of the total sum of time.  As junior officers, we would celebrate each annual tick because it was additional street cred with the crusty, experienced NCO’s we supervised that had accumulated their own time in service that was whole-number multiples of ours. 

Six months now only represents 5.5% and the percentage is shrinking by the day.  People also used to ask me whether or not I’d make a career out of the Army, and I’d sarcastically answer, “Dunno.  Come back and ask me in (number) years.”  The word ‘number’ being the digit required, when added to my years in service, that would yield 20.  Twenty years is how long one serves in the military until you become vested for retirement with benefits, in Civilianese.  Part of the ‘Holy Crap’ moment is that I can see that from here now.  Without squinting. 

The question I get more often now is, “Are you retiring soon?”  I normally opt for something optimistic and witty, such as: “Well, I plan on staying in as long as the Army hands me interesting stuff to do.”  That normally comes off better than a cranky-sounding, “Why, do I look that damn old?”  The good news in all this is that to date I’ve been kept quite interested, so much of this is still undecided.

It’s not just a job.  It’s an adventure.

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