You Leave It but it NEVER Leaves You

Those who have never served the nation in a military capacity or shared the life of a military man or woman in some way may benefit by this retrospective glance:

By Dick Roberts

Once in a great while I venture back to a military post where I’m greeted at the gate by an imposing security guard who looks carefully at my retired ID cardands it back and says, “Have a good day, Colonel!” As I return to any military post it feels a bit strange to be called by the rank I once held and at the same time a bit odd to be in civilian clothes, walking among the today’s servicemen and servicewomen who are going about their business with the same zeal that I once did many years ago. It’s somewhat of an out of body experience for me, and I am so impressed by what I see and hear.

The military space provides a comfort zone of sorts for anyone who has ever worn the uniform. It’s a place where you still know the rules and know that they are enforced — a place where everybody is very busy, but not too busy to take care of business in a professional manner. There exists behind these gates an institutionalized understanding of respect, order, uniformity, accountability and dedication that became part of your marrow and never left you. Going back heightens your awareness of that fact as you witness it again , now a spectator, in spades right before your eyes. Was I ever part of this you might ask?

If pressed I might say that I miss the fact that you always knew where you stood in the military and with whom you were dealing . You could read somebody’s uniform from 20 feet away and pretty much know the score. One might say that military personnel wear their careers on their uniforms. As you approach each other you can read the person’s name tag, see his rank and, if he is in dress uniform, read patches and awards to get any idea where he ‘s served and what he’s done before you even get to know him. That has not changed.

I might also admit that I sometimes miss all those little things you take for granted when you’re in warrior ranks — the sight of troops running in the early morning mist, the sound of boot heels thumping in unison on streets, the cadence bark of a formation leader and the sing-song responses from the formation .

Trust me though, I would never romanticize military service too much by its “jodie calls” because it’s very serious business at all times, and especially in time of war to which I can attest. But just the same I miss the professional camaraderie of airborne infantryman and their swagger/ esprit de corps, the “can do” Ranger mindset. I also miss the smell of jet fuel hanging heavily on the night air and the sound of engines roaring down runways and soaring into the clouds and lots, lots more.

I even miss a tiny bit “ the hurry-up-and-wait” mentality that enlisted men griped about constantly, a masterful invention that bonded our soldiers more than they’ll ever know or admit.

I do miss people taking off their hats when they enter a building, speaking directly and clearly to others and never showing disrespect for rank, race, religion or gender.

I miss being a player in this vast team whose arms circle this Earth and always cares for the needs of all its players as its first priority.

Mostly though I miss the likes of you and the many fine young men who were entrusted to my care in peace and war, a privilege like none other in this life …

Frankly , I don’t know anyone who served who regrets it and does not feel a sense of pride when they pass through those gates and ever so briefly and re-enter the world they left behind many years ago – even if we are a bit out of place now.

Face it guys – we all miss it`to one degree or another …………Whether you had one tour or a career, it shaped your life.

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