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Old 03-19-2010, 05:01 AM
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Arrow Upon reflection

The Charlestown "Post and Courier"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Occasionally, I venture back out to the air base where I'm greeted
by an imposing security guard who looks carefully at my
identification card, hands it back and says, "Have a good day, tech

Every time I go back onto Charleston Air Force Base 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, years ago.

The military, for all its flaws, 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.

Service 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 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 sidewalks, the bark of
sergeants 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

But I miss the salutes I'd throw at officers and the crisp returns
as we crisscrossed on the flight line.

I miss the smell of jet fuel hanging heavily on the night air and
the sound of engines roaring down runways and disappearing into the

I even miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality that enlisted men
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
doesn't feel a sense of pride when they pass through those gates and
re-enter the world they left behind with their youth."

Missouri State Coordinator
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