Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The uniform within

The impact of Veteran's Day for me changes every year. For my whole life, I understood its purpose but never really felt it. Once I was in the military that all changed, although from my cushy desk job in South Carolina, it's hard to accept being lumped in with those who really change things every day. After the first deployment, that all changed. In 2012, Veteran's Day was also 4 months and 2 days from my last day in uniform. It was close enough to being over that I really looked backwards on my time. 2013, of course, was the first in 10 years where I wasn't wearing the uniform. I wrote a post called "On being just a veteran" and promptly got put in my place by my old mentors who never stop keeping watch.

Now, it's been 508 days since Staff Sergeant Viglione officially became Mr. Viglione and 612 days since I watched Keesler Air Force Base disappear behind me for the last time. I've been slowly moving, notch-by-notch on the sliding scale. I learned that I can't be all SSgt Viglione in the civilian world. People just don't understand that rigidity, and often don't appreciate it. I worked to return to the civilian version of me.

Today I got a message from someone I do some work with. It said, "Thank you Jason, for all you've done for our country! The discipline and education you learned while ensuring our safety and freedom, has proven invaluable for our team. Thank you for what you did then and thank you for what you do now! #MomentOfAppreciation"

Two days ago I was at MetLife Stadium for the New York Jets game. The MetLife sign was camouflaged. Military members from cadets to Colonels were all over the place. There was a flyover. The announcers mentioned it several times. I was full of emotion, some of which bubbled over more than once. It wasn't sadness, it wasn't happiness. It wasn't anything any particular. It was just a lot of whatever it was.

Linda sees me work my company's accounts, my business development, graduate school, my freelance work and make time for her and my family and friends. A few weeks ago, I was speaking with my mother about packing my grandmother's house for her move and I said that we'll get it done, whatever it takes. If I gotta stay up late into the night, that's what we do. She commented about that no quit, keep working attitude. I've heard that a lot since starting my company.

I feel like the pendulum has finally come to rest in the middle for me. I went from young, corporate bonehead that was a hot shot (in my mind) to USAF reality check. It was all about me and my bank account and then it became about everyone except me. My personal good to the greater good. My transition just about covered the range of human endeavor. And now I'm a civilian again, but not the same one.

I'm different at my core. My values have changed, at my core. Not surprisingly, they've changed in concert with the core values of the Air Force. Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do. Those 3 things are in me through and through. 10 years of service instilled them in me, not as doctrine, but as actual values. What I mean to say is that I found value in them and adopted them.

I guess I always thought that Mr. Viglione and Sergeant Viglione were like Jekyll and Hyde (or Hyde and Jekyll, as the case may be). I thought they were mutually exclusive. I buried the old me in favor of the military me, the disciplined me, the focused me. And I took the uniform off and left Sgt Viglione at Keesler and became a bearded entrepreneur. But none of that is true. Sure there are parts of corporate me that are gone forever and some of the most extremely "blue" parts of the Staff Sergeant have subsided. But they both live in me. As an aside, my little brown book of AFI 36-2618 is still never far away.

I wear that uniform every day in the person I am. You don't see my stripes on my arm, but they are in my thoughts, in my decisions, and in my treatment of others. Staff Sergeant Viglione isn't gone; he's just part of Mr. Viglione.

None of that would have been possible without the guidance of people above me on both parts of life. People who truly taught and mentored me. It was these folks that helped me learn, appreciate and live these values rather than just memorizing and regurgitating them. I've been truly blessed with so many people to look up to.

So as I get thanked for my service today, I want everyone who has had a hand in my successes over the years (as a person) to take your part of the credit for making who I am.

As for my still uniformed brothers and sisters, I'm a phone call, email, text message away if you ever need SSgt Viglione.

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