In a few DAYS (I can't believe we're finally to that point!!!), Pete will be taking off his beret for the last time...unless he gets a moment of nostalgia in a few years. His retirement won't be "official" until the end of March, but he will be wearing polos and casual slacks to work when he starts his new job on February 1st. He had to rub that little point in to our son the other day, who is just a year and a half into his own military career and is...well, let's just say he's not all that fond of camouflage at the moment! LOL
Ironically, the same month Pete will retire, Jon will deploy to Afghanistan for a year. We've randomly commented on the oddities of having father and son in active service consecutively over the last 18 months, but pretty soon, that will end. We'll have one more "retired" soldier in the family and only one actively serving. It feels a bit like the changing of the guard for our family in some regards, and it's a whole lot easier to deal with than I ever thought it would be.
I grew up civilian, oblivious to the lives of those who served our country in the military, with the lone exception of my uncle. I didn't know much about Richard; all I really knew was that he lived in some pretty exotic places (Congo, Morocco, Paris, Helsinki) and he couldn't tell us what he REALLY did for the Army. I also knew we didn't see him but every five or six years, at best. I knew my father and both grandfathers served in the Navy and the Army Air Corps, respectively, and I had heard my dad's ridiculous tales of raiding the officer's mess and stealing their prize turkey. That was pretty much it for my military knowledge. I certainly didn't have the slightest clue what I was marrying into, that's for sure! Mine has been on-the-job training from day one. If there is any other lifestyle that is more difficult (and sometimes hostile) toward family unity, I haven't found it yet....but the heartwarming satisfaction of knowing the family is contributing to a good far greater than our own is worth more than the security and "padded living" we give up to stand behind our soldier.
Now, though...for us, that focus is shifting. In a few months, instead of being the one leaving, Pete will be standing with the rest of us as our son takes on that responsibility. Many people have asked me how we feel about that, and my answer without even the slightest hesitation is that I couldn't be prouder. Our son has, on his own, decided to follow the footsteps of his father, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers and will be serving our great nation on foreign soil. He stands tall and proud, in a uniform that represents a nation full of wonderful people. Regardless of political policy, our military will continue to fulfill its duty at home and overseas in a respectable manner, and I have no doubt in my mind that wherever the US military goes, it does good in a land that greatly needs goodness.
For those who have asked....no, I do not look forward to the day my son gets on that plane. I will pray every day for God's protection, and I'm sure I'll probably lose a lot of sleep, just like I did when his father was away. But I have no doubt that this is Jon's path, and I am proud to play my passive part in such a patriotic heritage.
It will be odd...and a little sad, I must admit, to replace our dual-Liberty Star ribbon with a single. Pete will probably feel just a tad "lost" for a while too. He'll be okay. He was trained well.