Sunday, July 3, 2011
Last Thursday was my last 'working' day in the Air Force. I look back and I cannot believe it has been nine years since I set foot on the Air Force Academy campus. Since I knew my departure was coming for quite some time I didn't have a very dramatic emotional experience on my last day, however I did welcome a feeling that everyone experiences throughout the course of their lives. I felt the familiar feeling you get when you know you have reached a crossroads. Last Thursday was the ending of an era for me and although I am extremely excited for the next chapter I will definitely miss many aspects of my Air Force life.
While reflecting on my time both as a cadet and as a member of the active duty Air Force I could not help but to think about sacrifice. The sacrifices I made, the ones my wife made, and how they have impacted our lives. I started thinking about the greater sacrifices that many members of the armed forces make. My reflection led me to another realization, one that I revealed during my departure speech in my unit.
While I was giving my departure speech to friends and coworkers I stated that "my military service gave me far more that I ever gave back. I imagine that statement will become even more true as time goes on and as I embark on new endeavors in the civilian world."
I truly believe that statement. That is not to say that I was bum who took all he could from the military and left, because I didn't, and I am very proud of what I contributed during my service. I was merely expressing my awe at how far I have come since the day I stepped into the dorms of the Air Force Academy.
So were those "sacrifices" really sacrifices if ultimately they benefited me and contributed to my growth and happiness? Maybe I am being naive or romanticizing in hindsight but actions that ultimately benefit you greatly don't really seem to embody what sacrifice stands for. It almost seems more like delayed gratification. Or better yet, an investment in the future. Was the bypassing of a traditional college experience for a regimented character building leadership laboratory really a sacrifice for me? Was the lack of control over where I lived and when a sacrifice, or did it merely expose me to new parts of the world that I never would have otherwise been privileged to? Did the nearly seven months I spent in Iraq away from my family and friends set me back forever or set me apart forever?
Without delving into the Back To The Future-esque arguments that compare what your life would have been like had an event not occurred, I think the point of my riff is that sacrifice is not as straight forward a concept as we may think. I can confidently say that the sacrifices my wife and I have made over the years had shaped us, improved us, and have given us a hell of a ride that we never would have experienced had we not had the foresight, and/or ignorance, to embrace.