Have you ever felt as if part of your life was missing? Not a person, but your actual life. Yesterday this feeling of loss and sadness overcame me. I couldn’t pinpoint it at first. Then it came to me. I missed being in the military.
I retired almost a decade ago, and yesterday was the first time the feeling hit me so hard. You see, I grew up around soldiers. My first exposure to military life was through my Uncle June. He was in the Army and he made it seem like fun. Probably because he goofed off most of the time. Lol. At the time, he was stationed in Fort Riley, KS and we were living in Topeka. When he visited, he never came alone. He would always bring a few of his Army buddies and the women in our Deer Creek apartment complex would go crazy! Uncle June, Tillery, and another friend would come up on the weekends, drink, play cards, and tell all kinds of wild Army stories. Little did I know, a few years later our family would move to Ft. Riley with my stepdad.
From sixth grade until I joined the Air Force in 1992, I saw soldiers daily. Hence the reason I chose the Air Force (smile). Honestly, I never considered joining the military or being associated with the military. I did not want to go to war. This was around the end of the Gulf War. I did not want to go to the field (military training for war). I did not want a cheating husband (cause they all seemed to cheat). And I definitely didn’t want to take orders from anyone (Ha! Nothing’s changed).
Anyway, about a year before I joined the Air Force, my boyfriend asked me to help him study for the ASVAB (military placement test). He had decided to join the Navy and needed a certain score. I helped him study. He passed the ASVAB, but due to a previous knee injury he couldn’t join. About a year later, I took the ASVAB and joined the Air Force. I had no idea that while I was helping him study, I was actually studying for myself. Crazy, huh?!
I’m smiling as I write because God will give you exactly what you ask for but it is not always what you imagined. When I was in high school, I wrote how I wanted to work for a major corporation, travel the world and speak different languages. Well… I joined the Air Force (major corporation), my first duty station was in Germany (traveled the world), but I never got to speak different languages, something I have always regretted. You see, over the course of middle and high school I had taken four years of Spanish and three years of French. While in basic training I was given the opportunity to take a language test. Taking the test meant another skill set would be added to my profile. Y’all, I was so afraid of failing that I did not take the test. I backed out at the last minute. Funny thing is, I knew both languages almost as well as I knew English, probably better. You know, it amazes me how fear.. little old fear.. can change the entire trajectory of your life. Throughout my career I had other opportunities to take the test, but decided not to. Mostly because I felt as if I was not worthy of the additional opportunities. Like, if I didn’t do it the first time, why would I be given other chances. It was like I was punishing myself for my failure to act. I am so grateful for growth. I have now realized God will give us opportunity after opportunity to fulfill our dreams and purpose. However, it is up to us to recognize them as such and grasp them. They are gifts. Yes, I’m learning.
Anyhoo.. back to missing my military life. Y’all know I get sidetracked. From the moment I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base for basic training, until the time I retired, I wanted to get out. Every day I asked myself why I joined. The ONLY answer I could think of was it was better than joining the Army. Really?!
I cannot lie, I LOVED every moment. I enjoyed the camaraderie. Having a steady paycheck and all of the extra perks. Opportunities to visit different countries (some I took, some I didn’t). Interacting with so many people. Pilots in flight suits (yesss). Fighter jets. Cargo planes. Beefing with ATC (they thought they were God’s gift to the Air Force). My Weather buddies. House parties. Squadron parties. Riding on the airfield when I needed to get away. Yes, that was the life!
Of course there were things I did not enjoy, but looking back, they were minute. Y’all, I am just grateful for the experience. If I had to do it all over, I would. BUT.. I would do it bigger and better. Thinking back, God always placed people around me who encouraged me to aim high (the AF motto). To tap into my full potential. Little did they know, I was too afraid to aim high because I hated the recognition. I hated receiving awards, and I received quite a few. I only wanted to do my job and go home. But they wanted to recognize me. Why? To me, I was doing what everyone should have been doing. It was nothing special. But.. it was!
I received my first commendation medal for my actions after a Boeing-747 cargo plane slid off the runway at Ramstein. It had been snowing heavily all night. The plane was scheduled to land as soon as quiet hours was over at 6:00 a.m. Before they even entered our airspace I had the pilots contacted so they could divert to another base because the snow wouldn’t be removed before they arrived. I even spoke with the crew. They said that they had enough fuel to divert to Frankfurt. Plus, I had already contacted Frankfurt and they had the ramp space. I asked the crew about their crew rest hours. They were good. So nothing was stopping them from diverting. They informed that they had landed in those conditions before. So I informed them that they were landing at their own risk. Tower cleared the snow removal crew from the runway. The plane landed and slid off the end of the runway. This led to the runway being closed for several hours. Which caused other aircraft to have to divert to other bases. At that time, I had only been on the job (in the Air Force) for a year, and the only one on duty. Looking back, that was pretty awesome. I stayed calm the entire time and did my job. To me it was no big deal, just another day at work. I will tell you I am thankful it was recorded because they tried to blame it on me. Bae-bé, I knew what I was doing! I had already made 100% on my 3-level course exam. Lol!
Listen, from now on I am going to seize opportunities. When God opens doors, I will walk through them. Also, I am going to humbly accept all accolades. I’m not going to shy away from them anymore because I am a display for God’s work.
Thank you for reading. I guess you could say this blog was about me coming to terms with a part of my life that I took for granted. A part of my life that I cannot get back, but I can learn from and do better.