The military experience made us the ethical
persons we are and gave us a great sense of understanding of the
people around us. Like it or not it gave us an experience we will
never forget. Occasionally, I venture back to an Army Post, where
I'm greeted by an imposing security guard who looks carefully at my
Military ID, and then hands it back and says, "Have a good day,
Every time I go back to any Post it feels good
to be called by my previous rank, but odd to be in civilian clothes,
walking among the servicemen and servicewomen going about their
duties as I once did, many years ago.
The military is a comfort zone for anyone who
has ever worn the uniform. It's a place where you know the rules and
know they are enforced—a place where everybody is busy, but not too
busy to take care of business.
Because there exists behind the gates of every
military facility an institutional understanding of respect, order,
uniformity, accountability and dedication that becomes part of your
marrow and never, ever leaves you.
Personally, I miss the fact that you always
knew where you stood in the military, and who you were dealing with.
That's because you could read somebody's uniform from 20 feet away
and know the score.
Military personnel wear their careers on their
sleeves, so to speak. When you approach each other, you can read
their name tag, examine their rank and, if they are in dress
uniform, read their ribbons and know where they've served.
I miss all those little things you take for
granted when you're in the ranks, like breaking starch on a set of
fatigues fresh from the laundry and standing in a perfectly straight
line military formation that looks like a mirror as it stretches to
the endless horizon.
I miss the sight of troops marching in the
early morning mist, the sound of boot heels thumping in unison on
the tarmac, the bark of drill instructors and the sing-song answers
from the squads as they pass by in review.
To romanticize military service is to be far
removed from its reality, because it's very serious
business—especially in times of war.
But I miss the salutes I had the privilege to
return as we soldiers criss-crossed with a "Good morning sir".
I miss the smell of aircraft fuel hanging
heavily on the night air and the sound of engines roaring down
runways and rotor blades ‘whooping’ as they disappear into the
I even miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality
that soldiers gripe about constantly, a masterful invention that
bonded people more than they'll ever know or admit.
I 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.
Mostly, I miss being a small cog in a machine
so complex it constantly circumnavigates the Earth, and so simple it
feeds everyone on time, three times a day, on the ground, in the air
or at sea.
Mostly, I don't know anyone who has served who
regrets it, and who doesn't feel a sense of pride when they pass
through those gates and re-enter the world they left behind with
I wish I could express my thoughts as well
about something I loved—and even hated sometimes.
Let’s face it—we all miss it. Whether you had
one tour or a career, it shaped your life. A Veteran, whether active
duty, retired, served one hitch, or reservist, is someone who, at
one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to
"The Government of the United States of America", for an amount of
"up to and including their life." That is honor, and there are too
many people in this country who no longer understand it.
Author unknown –
Max Holt, Class 02-67, Association Chaplain