Last Friday I put up a FB status. As everyone that is connected to me knows, I'm rapidly approaching my separation from the US Air Force after nearly 10 years of active duty service. The separation process itself was not without some hiccups and bumps. My close friends and family back home anxiously await my arrival. For all of them, the worst part had been the limbo of not knowing exactly what day I would be returning home. I finally, after many months of speculation, nailed down an exact day. So I posted a status that was, admittedly, not entirely profound.
In the, not quite, 72 hours since it was posted it has garnered 60 likes, which, as we know, is the litmus test for social success in today's society. It is amazing, not because of the number of likes or even the words of the status itself. It is amazing because of the people who clicked the button. There are people from elementary school in Glendale, Queens, NY that I haven't seen in over 20 years. People from middle/high school in Parsippany, NJ, some of whom I've been close with ever since and others who I haven't seen since the bleachers on graduation day. Then folks from my adult working life in corporate America weighed in. And, of course, a large contingent from people in my military life - some from this base or my last base or some I spent time in the middle east with and even from the early, early days in Basic Military Training/Boot Camp. What an incredible outpouring of support. As the title states, it's humbling to show up to work every day to do your job and make a difference and not once look for that that pat on the back or even acknowledgement and then have people come out of the woodwork to do it anyway and realize they've been watching and worried and praying/thinking/hoping all along.
In 2012/2013 this country is, quite clearly, not at its peak in so many ways. As Americans, we really don't help matters by constantly exhibiting extreme polarization and, quite frankly, intolerance towards those on the opposite side of the partisan fence. Yet, despite all of that, the unification is the support of the troops, myself included. We are offered a luxury that the Vietnam generation never got; and that is no matter what your stance is on the military, defense spending, the war, tactics/techniques or anything else, you, America, support US. You ALWAYS have our back. You always know that we have yours.
As any military member can attest to, there is an awkward moment for us. It's when we are out and about in town, in uniform, and a civilian stops us and says, "thank you for your service." When someone says, "thank you" for anything your first reaction is to say you're welcome, but we also want to say "no, thank you" in return toward that person who took those 5 seconds from their day and went out of their way to show appreciation. Usually we end up saying something like "you're...thank... I mean you're welcome and also thank you," fumbling most of the way.
This last summer (2012), I flew home for 3 days to say goodbye to a trusted friend and advisor, Colonel George Terry Ward (ret), who has since passed away. On the way back, I ran into an active duty Colonel and we began talking in the airport. While walking and talking, someone said, while trying their best to not interrupt, "Thank you for your service, Sir" and without missing a beat he flashed a warm smile and said "Thank YOU for your support." And in just 5 short words he said everything I've tripped over my lips and tongue trying to say for the last decade.
As I spend the next 54 days enjoying time with my current uniformed brethren while preparing for my next life back home with friends and family and trying to keep my sanity throughout it all, I'm blessed to know I have the support of every type of person that has been in and out of my life for the last 33 years. We do what we do every day for you and your families. And as I transition out, I know that many more will fall in behind me and do the same for me and mine.
So, with no more ado - to those in uniform past, present and future - thanks for your service. To anyone that has emotionally, spiritually, or physically had my back over the years - thanks for your support.