Sunday, January 11, 2009

Enlistment Diary

During the coming week I will be on vacation, packing, cleaning up final details. I was looking at my enlistment diary and thought I should post some of my recollection of how I got here.

I left the Army reserve July 21, 1984. I completed all the classwork for an MA in American Studies and now had the opportunity to write a book for my Masters project. I needed more time. I could not quit my full-time job loading trucks at Yellow Freight, so I left the reserves. It wasn’t an easy decision. I liked the Army in some ways, but I wanted to get a job as a writer, so I had to cut something and the Army reserve was it.

At that point I knew I had served six years and ten months on active duty, two and one-half years in the Air Force and just over four years in the Army. I thought I had three years in the reserves, but it turns out I had 11 years, 2 months and 2 days of Federal Service. This would be important 23 years later.

I turned 50 during the very successful campaign to invade and capture Iraq and take Saddam Hussein from power. I was very proud to (formerly) have been part of the Army that won such a swift and sweeping victory. And I was envious. The Army I joined in 1972 was about to withdraw in defeat from a far-away jungle war. The Army that defeated the Japanese and the Nazis in World War II was unable to fight a limited war. Despite the great tactical victories in Iraq and Afghanistan, the situation after the major fighting turned bad.

In the fall of 2003 I looked at an Army Web site just to see the age requirements for re-enlistment. I satisfied myself I was too old to join by almost five years. I made jokes about it with my family. Probably too many.

In January of 2006, the military enlistment age went up from 35 to 40. I was three years older, still too old. Then in June of 2006, the age went up from 40 to 42. I was not sure, but now I could go back, but I just laughed at myself when I thought about it. The trouble was, I could not stop thinking about it.

More later.