Today signaled my time has come to an end. I can proudly say that I’ve served honorably and did the best I could. It is bittersweet, and I've accepted it. I look it at as another chapter ends in my life another will be written. I’ve had a long good run and it’s hard to believe that I managed to stay this long. Initially, I only wanted to serve my 5 years of my enlistment option get out an do something else. When I entered the Army at the age of 23 and remember doubting my decision and missing home terribly. Military life was a big adjustment from life in Arizona. I wonder at times of what have I gotten myself into, but I learned so much about myself, the world and how to live with integrity and discipline.
I grew up so much in these nearly 24 years of service and for that I am eternally grateful. It is something I wish more Americans could experience. Though I deployed at one point, my experience was not like a lot of my friends, some came home to their final resting place, some got back from some hell hole only to lose them months later, some came home changed forever, never to be the same again. “This has given me a profound respect for my military brothers and sisters who’ve experienced combat in ways no one or I could fathom. I look back at my time in the service with great appreciation and I am very proud to be counted as a veteran.”-J.A.
Overall It was a positive experience for me and certainly wasn't glamorous. The personal growth I experienced is what made it positive. I matured faster than I would have, and in ways I would never have because of my military service. I don't know how the positive maturity experiences military service has provided me can be imparted to those who have never served. I only know for me that military service was a valuable experience. Now there’s a certain amount of maturing one can do without if y’all get my meaning. Yet, for me it was a net positive experience because I'm a better person now, at least I like to think so.
“A friend pointed out that the military ruins the service member for the civilian world. Having been in both worlds at some point in time with my feet firmly planted, I can personally say it's true. The problem isn't vanity, it’s the lack of a true cause in the civilian world and the petty things which are held up as being important. When the stakes are your life and the lives of those around you and you live with those stakes for long periods of time, well filling out TPS reports in a cubicle kind of loses it's allure.”- H.B. I am glad for my AGR job but sometimes it is a real drag knowing that the most exciting thing I have ahead of me that day is updating powerpoint slides. Yes, it’s in the scope of my daily duties and responsibilities, but as a HR Specialist, helping the actual Soldier is my passion.
My concern now is that the favorable way veterans are thought of will be a passing fad. Commitments made to veterans are considered to be ‘on the table’ when difficult budget times come around. It's hard to think of anything more dishonorable than that. “A part of me knows full-well the size of the ‘ick’ factor that can be associated with military service. I also know this; If you have no ‘ick’ on you, you ought to go get some on you before you talk about putting commitments made to veterans on the table when your budget gets tight.” –T.
I often wish I had stayed in the Active Army, but being in the ARNG has afforded me the best of both worlds in many ways. I am fortunate to work for an organization that has allowed me to enjoy the same pay and benefits of my active duty counterparts, even though our benefits are slowly eroded away by a congress that keeps giving themselves raises and takes more out of mine.
When I get out there is no expectation of help looking for a job; I will be on my own, same as anyone else. But this is how I grew up, to be self sufficient, work hard & make your way in the world. Good thing there are programs for transitioning veterans, I would be silly not use them. I translated my skills from military to civilian for my resume (thank you TAP) and maybe I’ll start another career even if it’s a part-time job. There are veteran’s benefits available for school and home buying.I'm definitely using those to finish my professional cert(s) & degree and I’ll be buying my very first house.
In the end, I don't think being a military member is a qualification or detractor in its own right. It's about what you invest into your experience and how hard you work to get something out of it. It's not about what kind of military member or worker you are, it's about what kind of person you are. For that I am grateful to those former, currently serving, and retired service members, for sharing your sage advice and experiences. It’ll be my turn soon to come up to thank you and your family(s) for your service and their sacrifices. To my immediate family, there are no words to express my gratitude for supporting me all these years, it’s been a long hard road and so happy you stood by me through it all. I am also grateful to my other friends & family, my heartfelt thanks to you for your unwavering support, your actions are truly honorable and I am deeply humbled.