YOU MAY ALL GO TO HELL, AND I WILL GO TO TEXAS ~ Davy Crockett
THE SINGULARLY DISTINCTIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF SERGEANT ANDERSON CULMINATE A DISTINGUISHED CAREER IN THE SERVICE OF HIS COUNTRY AND REFLECT GREAT CREDIT UPON HIMSELF AND THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE. ATTENTION TO ORDERS: SPECIAL ORDER - SENIOR MASTER SERGEANT ANDERSON EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, YOU ARE RELIEVED FROM ACTIVE DUTY, ORGANIZATION AND STATION OF ASSIGNMENT, RETIRED EFFECTIVE TODAY PER AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION IN THE GRADE OF SENIOR MASTER SERGEANT. PROCEED TO HOME OF SELECTION. BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE.
When some see 'coincidence', I see 'consequence'. When others see 'chance', I see 'cause'.
I felt honored to be one of the five people chosen to closely surround my childhood friend during his extended retirement weekend, and with the inclusion of another's brother who ferried in his deployed kin, there were seven people in total, most of us not knowing the other. Having anticipated this planned predicament, awaiting us in a massive over-sized refrigerator was a litany of beer.1 In recognition of this momentous occasion, I brought a bottle of black current I'd been saving over three years for just such an event, in order to make the UK's famed Black Snakebites for everyone. Now maybe its just the passing of time, but these were the best I'd ever had, and enjoyed by all. Seven strangers sat down, but no strangers stood up that night. In short, what happened, happened and couldn't have happened any other way.
The doors of Mission Espada
Its not everyday that a man gets a glimpse into his future, and just like the protagonist in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol it can change oneself. People understand the impact which unfolds when faced with their own future, and to a lesser degree we can make minor course corrections along the way as we see further down that future path, but its a rare glimpse indeed for a man to see his own future from a first-person perspective; also the most powerful.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!
I saw one possible future - a very real future for myself had I stayed in, and it both excited and frightened me - the consequences of which I have not yet fully realized, but which shall stay with me for some time. You see, everyone there was either current, or recently separated Air Force. I left the service of our country for two multi-faceted reasons which boil down to this: 1) I was moved into a position in which I did not flourish & would be unable to withstand, and 2) I did not wish to raise a family while I was active duty.
As a civilian these last thirteen years, I was unaware of the personal and professional growth I've accomplished since I left the USAF - after all, those days were the best of times, and the worst of times. I was filled with longing as we reminisced deep into the night; missed adventures, sweeping, epic stories! And I was finally among peers. People who understood wholly my experiences in the Middle and Far East and Europe.
Who's Barry Badrinath?
But it was also a frightening time-traveling roller-coaster of DOOM! I was immediately plummeted right back to where I was before I parted ways - looking around at everyone surrounding me, I was exactly as I was 13-years ago, only a little older and with more rank - it was like being frozen in a capsule - the Earth around me progressed while I remained immobile and unchanging. It was sucking me back in, and had I not escaped would've surely either irrevocably cemented me for the remainder of my days or driven me mad! Not that its a bad place to be - I admire and envy those who are doing it, but with my perspective I was offered a unique and special opportunity to both remember, and learn. Its a bittersweet thing.
I felt like I'd been hit in the face with a toaster by Carol Kane.
"I feel it was a great honor to serve the country."
The [retirement] ceremony itself was a fancy affair where solemnity mingled with joviality and participants arrived in a mixture of "mess dress" (military black tie) and utility uniforms. Us civilians were attired just as hodgepodge with some in slacks & ties, full suits, or jeans and a t-shirt. But this event wasn't an exercise in fashion - it was intended to pay our respects to our comrade, and if nothing else was clear in this mixed-bag of people it was that we all loved and respected the object of our attendance.
A man might be thought wealthy if someone were to draw the story of his deeds, that they may be remembered.
And what did he do for us? Let me tell you...he smoked two briskets. Yes, count them - two! The night leading up to the ceremony family as well had come down, and they now filled the kitchen back at the house in a whirlwind of activity. There was a pot of beans, shish-kebob peppers, cole slaw, potato salad and plenty of light-as whipped-butter tortillas ready to accept the 40-pounds of brisket.
It was all eaten.
The house was filled with people who each brought a little joy with them for the occasion and the edifice nearly burst with happy memories.
"There's not enough aspirin in the world, to bring a dead hooker back to life."
I am an American Airman
I am a warrior
I have answered my nation's call...
Daniel, its been one hell of a ride. And I'm proud to call you friend. Congratulations on your retirement. There's not a doubt in my mind you'll continue on this path of success and accomplish GREAT THINGS. From what I've seen, military retirement is only a gateway - a beginning into so much more. You've proven your worth and with that lifetime of experience behind you, can embark on the second part of your journey. Well done, sir. Well done.
I am an American Airman
Wingman, leader, warrior
I will never leave an Airman behind
I will never falter
And I will not fail