Three years ago I went on a trip. I spent a weekend with a few dozen WWII vets, hearing their stories, watching them remember, and seeing what the honor of service really means. I came home to my own WWII vet, and an agonizing decision to make.
It turned out the decision wasn’t between do it or don’t — it was between fear and what I needed to do. I was at the recruiter’s office within the week. I was signed up and scheduled for a ship date to Basic Training within the month.
I was old enough at Basic that they called me “CID” thinking that I was a 21-Jump-Street style embedded secret investigator. I WISH. I left with notebooks full and the honor of being on the receiving end of this comment from a Drill Sergeant at our final dress uniform fashion show,
“Who are you? Have you been here the whole time? I ain’t never seen you.”
“Yeah, she’s the one who cries all the time.”
But in between tears, I learned how to call cadence (thank you musical theatre) and march a company of 200 (without ever figuring out my lefts and rights.) I was Student 1SG, Distinguished Honor Grad, Soldier of the Quarter, and promoted before my first rank was two years old.
Frank knew I had made it through and he got his final salute before I got my first duty assignment. You will never be able to convince me that the reason I got sent to Italy to be on the radio in the Army isn’t entirely because of the Colonel up there, directing the movement of his troop. I absolutely believe that because of him I was given a job where I could actually make a difference, a job where I met Ryan — a meeting that ultimately led me away from Afghanistan and now, that leads me on to a different path. Away from the Army.
A good officer knows how to best use his soldiers, and how to lead them. I followed orders. And I gave him my best.
Phrases I turned in along with my boots include, “Roger that,” “tracking,” “hooah,” “squared away,” “high speed,” and “too easy.” What I will keep with me is the motivation behind them, the people who taught me their meanings, and thoughts for everyone who still puts on the boots every day.
And I will forever keep what started as a trip, and ended as a journey.
(Though I never did find a “Humor in Uniform” anecdote to send to Reader’s Digest, I never got to see the WWE Salute to the Troops live, there was this — “Hey, did you hear about the one time I saluted a Sergeant INDOORS?” Ha. There’s some funny stuff in here.)
As a parting gift, they paid me for my unused leave. I’m sending it here.