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Crossroads

2009 September 17
by ironcamelarmy

Today I find myself at a crossroads.  I have received my orders for my post deployment duty assignment.  It’s a sort of homecoming for me.  Career minded soldiers in the military bounce from place to place hoping to return to that favorite base; a place where we have been two or three times before and identify it as somewhere we call home.  I got what I wanted.  What I also got was a guaranteed deployment next December to Afghanistan.

The job I have will be cushy.  No more patrolling the streets.  I’ll sit behind a computer in a fortified, air conditioned building, next to a giant mess hall with all the fixins, watching my weight slowly climb as I drink Diet Coke and eat little bags of Salt and Vinegar chips.

My second deployment is wrapping up; the next one will be my third.  It will only be 6 or 7 months (when I tell my civilian friends this they say, “Only?”) depending on when I arrive, but it will be 6 or 7 more months, away from my wife and away from my kids.

What the Army doesn’t see is the 2+ years that I spent traveling around the country over 200 days per year prior to this deployment.  What the Army also doesn’t see is the 9 month long school they sent me to, which I could have moved my family to, but really, who wants to uproot their family from home, school, and work for only 9 months?  Combined with the 3 months of training and 12 months of deployments when it is all said and done, I will have spent nearly 5 years not living with my family, seeing them in sporadic visits and long weekends.

The Army doesn’t see the school and the traveling as being away from home, they only see the deployments.  My last deployment was in 2003, so, as the war goes, I had plenty of time at home, but to my family, I was always gone.

With over 20 years in the Army, I have the option to retire. If I retire now, I will have failed to meet my personal goal of making the rank of Lieutenant Colonel which is still 5 years away.  Fortunately my wife is always kind enough to remind me that I started out as a smart-assed Private, I’m a smart-assed Major and my peers are 10 years younger than me.

The Army is the only thing I know.  It’s a lifestyle and a provider. It is its own microcosm of cliques and politics.  It’s the big, green machine that keeps on rolling with me dead or alive, as part of the team or not.  As long as the United States is a country, there will be a United States Army.

And so I am met with a decision…WE are met with a decision.  My wife, my kids and me:  What does dad do next?  There are lots of ideas I have tossed around in my head: Fireman, Racecar Driver, Spiderman, and Astronaut.  None of them realistic, but still a guy can dream.

Things I like to do:  Flying, writing, teaching, selling, and of course, soldiering.

What will pay the bills if I change jobs tomorrow?  Retirement pay, teaching, selling stuff, and of course, soldiering.

What will afford me time with my family:  Retirement, writing, teaching and selling stuff?

And so, the Iron Camel finds himself, looking in the mirror, facing a transition.  As men, we strive for titles.  Those titles give us our identity.  It defines success or failure in life and lets others know what we provide for our families.

My title was defined by my job (Helicopter Pilot), who I worked for (the United States Army), and by my rank (Major Gafney).  If we decide it’s time for me to retire from the Army, my titles will change to Retiree, Veteran, and Mister, but I will always be “Dear” to my wife, “Daddy” to my kids, and “Jimmy” to my step-kids.

Anyone know where I can find a job teaching how to write about selling stuff when you retire?

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. Douglas Chace permalink
    September 17, 2009

    Dude… I’ve known you for more than 10 years. You did NOT write this. It is poignant, pointed, and spot on. Come on now Jim (guy who lost his helmet bag because it fell off his motorcycyle and was picked up by the COL behind him), who’s writing your stuff… because it’s perfect.

    Your hero,
    Doug

  2. September 17, 2009

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/17/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  3. Carol Bishop permalink
    September 18, 2009

    This is awesome! Thank you for your service-thankyou for your protection.
    May I share this in facebook? I am copying it to my son who at 28 recently joined the SCNG and had fallen in love with the Army- he hopes to become full time in a few short months. He is Daddy to 4, and also dear to his wife. He will always be my #1, my first born and I am proud of him and the path he is choosing. Thank you for going ahead of him.
    xxoxoxox

  4. September 18, 2009

    Of course…please share, and thanks!

  5. Eileen permalink
    September 18, 2009

    So many decisions. WWLD—What would Larson do???

  6. FLYBOY STINSON permalink
    September 18, 2009

    IronMan,
    my advice….time to retire !
    The America you are fighting for is diappearing…..with good men like yourself, we might slow it down !
    You`ll have retirement money from the Army and you`ll be able to find another job…..do a common job in an uncommonly good manner and you`ll always be employed !
    Now, the most important…..it`s time to be a Dad, a friend and a lover again, Full time !
    Take it from someone who was there !
    :~)
    flyboy stinson

  7. September 18, 2009

    Jim,

    The loss the service would feel is small. Been there, done that. That aside there is no doubt that a book should be your first consideration. The level of your writing has made a huge jump since the early days and it was good then.

    But I do understand the personal goals, I started out wanting to do 20 serving the Country, I ended up serving 30 with the DoD. But at the end of this year that goal is met and I am gone.

    The good Lord will guide you in the proper direction, with the help of your family.

    chas

  8. Liz Kolacny permalink
    September 18, 2009

    I absolutely agree with Chas. Regardless of what else you do, you definitely need to write a book. Your writing is outstanding…has the ability to “put the reader in the situation” as much as is possible. The humor you often intersperse is priceless. I am a former English teacher, so I do know a bit about writing. I also have lived long enough to know that it is just fine to modify goals as one progresses through life. Whatever you do, may God bless you and your family.
    Liz

  9. September 18, 2009

    Eileen, I already made a similar decision. With Jim active duty and gone so much, someone had to stay home and keep the “home” together. Fortunately for us and our kids, I am able to do that without working, but unfortunately for me, it meant giving up aspirations and dreams that I have had for many years.

    We make our sacrifices, and hope that we chose what is best for us and our family.

  10. September 19, 2009

    Thanks everyone for your input and advice. I appreciate it!

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