Skip to main content

May the Fourth Be With Me: Today I Am a Civilian

Today at a minute after midnight I became a civilian.  I do not have enough years to retire, so I my enlistment expired and my Army career ended.

Cinderella, One Minute After Midnight

Like Cinderella at one minute after midnight, the party is over and I am just another former soldier with uniforms in my closet and memories.

In the sticky way that social media softens the line between life events, my Facebook page is full of birthday greetings from soldiers, along with family and friends who wished me well in serving in the Army.  So I had one last Happy Army Birthday courtesy of Facebook.

From now on, I will be posting as a civilian, a former soldier who served during the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Afghanistan War and in the Iraq War.

Sadly, the only war we won that I served in was the Cold War.  The others, we lost.  But like so many successful armies, the reason we lost the wars since World War II is partly because of winning that war.

Winning makes people and countries think they are in control.  In the wake of World War II, we made compromises and mistakes that led to the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and to the terrorism we live with now.

I enlisted during the Vietnam War knowing how terribly unpopular the war was, but I was enlisting to get a better job, not for any great purpose.  And I had a vague idea that the military would help me to grow up.

When I re-enlisted in 2007, I had a vague idea about serving my country, but it was also an adventure.
And now the coach is just a pumpkin again.  So I will have to find the next adventure.

Popular posts from this blog

Different Water for Sinks and Toilets--Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, and Amtrak

On the train to Philadelphia recently, the toilets had water, but the sinks did not in the last two cars. I walked three cars away from my seat to wash my hands. On the way back, I let the conductor know about the lack of water.  He said there are different water systems for the sinks and the toilets.  Then smiled and said the water is blue in the toilets.  
I told the conductor about a morning at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, in April 2009. We were there for training before we went to Camp Adder, Iraq.  During our two-week stay, we slept in 77-man tents.  Outside the tent were several sinks and mirrors just standing in the open on the sand. I wish I had a picture.  
About twenty yards away were Porta-Johns or Shit Ovens, which everyone called the plastic enclosures when the temperature approached 120 degrees.  One morning just after down I went out to the sinks, brushed my teeth, then walked toward the Porta-Johns.  One of the soldiers just stepped out of one and was walking toward me.  

Ten Years Ago Today: Cold War Soldier Starts Re-enlistment Process

The Night Before Basic, Killing Brain and Lung Cells
On January 31, 1972, I flew to Texas to begin basic training. On April 2, 2007, ten years ago today, I called Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Askew, recruiting sergeant for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, and began the process of re-enlisting after 23+ years as a civilian.  I was 53 years old at the time, about to turn 54.

In the Spring of 2007, The Surge in Iraq was in full swing and recruitment for the Army was down a lot. The economy was good, Congress would not even consider re-starting the Draft, so in late 2006 Congress raised the maximum first-enlistment age for the Army from 35 to 42 years old.

The program was a failure and was rescinded three years later. But that failed program allowed me to re-enlist.  The maximum enlistment age for soldiers with prior service is the enlistment age plus the years of prior service plus a one-year waiver.  I needed all of that.

I called three recruiters before I called Kevin. He was the first one…

My Last Tanker Nickname: Oddball

Donald Sutherland as Oddball, a tank commander in the movie "Kelly's Heroes"
I got my last tanker nickname more than a decade after I earned the nickname Sgt. Bambi Killer.I got that nickname on a business trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2000.The company I worked for just bought a company in Brazil and I was part of a team that went to Brazil to introduce ourselves to the people who ran the business.
Sao Paulo has traffic that makes Los Angeles look like Omaha, so the local managers sent a limo for the four of us. This meant we could be more comfortable on the three-hour 20-mile trip from the airport to downtown. 
At the time I had a beard and still had a lot of brown hair.  Among the local staff people who were waiting to meet us was my now long-time friend Ivan Porccino. Ivan speaks five languages and was assigned as our interpreter.  When we got in the car, Ivan introduced us to the driver and said we would be in Sao Paulo for a few days. The driver said, “I love Americ…