It’s official. As of Dec. 1, Mark is retired from the U.S. Army.
We weren’t sure how we’d feel on that day. I thought I might be sad or emotional, or that Mark would suddenly be worried about what the future might bring or have regrets about getting out. I wondered if the clouds would suddenly part and we would feel a newfound sense of freedom, of being able to do what we want when we want.
Since Mark was on leave for about 31/2 months before his official retirement, which is when we started traveling, we had already started going through many of the emotions and adjustments of civilian life.
So, instead, nothing much changed when the clock struck midnight and retirement was final: The Department of Defense withheld half of his last paycheck until they make sure he doesn’t owe them any money for lost equipment (even though he cleared his unit more than three months ago), and we waited in line for four hours at a reserve center in College Station, Texas, to get retiree ID cards.
Just another day in the life of an Army family.
Here’s a photo of us on Aug. 17, the day we left Stuttgart, Germany, and the last time Mark wore his uniform.
That day he also received his form DD-214, the final piece of paperwork an active duty officer gets before leaving the service. It’s a two-page retirement packet that sums up a service member’s career. Here are some highlights from Mark’s:
- Time in the Army Reserves and National Guard: Two years, 1 month and five days.
- Date of entry into active duty service: Nov. 25, 1990.
- Time on active duty: 26 years, five days.
- Time served as an infantry officer: Four years, five months
- Time served as a Special Forces officer: 21 years, seven months
- Time served overseas: 17 years, 6 months and 28 days
- First military school attended: Airborne, in 1987.
- Last military school attended: Canadian Forces College in 2013-14.
- Countries deployed to with “imminent hazard pay:” Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The DD-214 also contains a long, alphabet soup list of schools and awards, deployments, achievements and milestones.
It reminds us that Mark spent time in Iraq during each of the years from 2005 to 2011, and that he was there for the entire calendar years of ’07 and ’10. It reminds of long-forgotten separations for schools and trips to countries across Asia and Europe. It reminds us that we have spent about half of our marriage apart, just as much in the early years pre-9/11 as in the years since.
It reminds us of all the places we’ve lived and bonds we’ve forged, and all the things – good and bad – we’ve experienced along the way.
Mostly, though, those numbers and words on the DD-214 remind us that all of that is history now. Not just history to us, as in it’s over, but history as in things future scholars will study and write about. Things our grandkids might learn about in school. Things that made a difference and had an impact, nationally and internationally.
Now, we’re ready to move on and create new achievements and milestones with our family. We’re ready to make in impact on our kids and our community. We’re ready to forge new bonds and experience new things.
We’re ready to make our own history.