Monday, May 24, 2010

In These Footsteps



I travelled to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky this weekend, home of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) "Screaming Eagles" for my father's retirement after 35 years of service in the U.S. Army.

I grew up on Army posts all over the world. I had become acustomed to the lifestyle, it was normal to have helicopters flying over my house, see tanks driving down the road while I walked to school, or have daily conversations with uniformed men and women carrying assault rifles. Two different events this weekend caused me to reflect upon the humble sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make daily.

The first being the actual retirement ceremony. My father is not the norm in the length of service he has given to our country. Typically, a soldier will retire with full benifits after twenty years. My father almost doubled that commitment, 35 years. There were about 20 soldiers retiring at this ceremony, of those 20, four or five served between 21 and 26 years. 10-12 retirees had served the typical 20 and a few had served a little less. In total, they were celebrating a combined 440 years of military service; 38 years served in combat. I am gratful for the gift these men and women have given us. There was a receiving line after the ceremony, I took the time to shake the hand of every one of the retiring soldiers, offer my congratulation, look them in the eye and thank them.

My second opportunity for reflection came as I rose early Saturday morning to run a 18 mile long run. As I began my run, I slowly moved away from the housing area on post, past the stores and the bowling alley and towards the barracks that housed the different units. I ran past motor pools full of Humvees and tanks. I ran along the fenced-in airfield and hangers that the helicopters called home. Then I began to run past this stretch of trees spaced evenly apart, lined in perfect rows. These trees were tall, as if they had been there for a long time. At the base of each tree there was a monument. I had an idea what these monuments were, the picture became even more clear when I saw another monument. It was about 20 feet tall, made out of marble, on the monument walls were names, names of fallen brothers and sisters from battles past. For me, the most stirring part of this monument would be the four life sized "sentrys", marble statues of uniformed soldiers standing guard around the perimeter of this monument. The next few miles passed while I reflected on the commitemnt and sacrifice so many had made. I was running along a well worn path, a path that 1000's of Air Assault soldiers ran daily. 100 people join the military for 100 different reasons. Some to get away from their family or hometown. Some are "forced", some volunteer willingly. Some are seeking educational assistance or some join out of a sense of civic duty. They all serve proudly. It was an honor to run amongst these warriors this weekend, it is a great honor to be the son of a retired U. S. Army soldier.

13 comments:

Julie said...

Hi Thomas,
This was a very touching post! Congrats to your father for serving our country for the past 35 years! Thanks to your dad and all of the other brave men and women who are volunteering for the safety of our country! It sounds like your run was very inspirational:)

JojaJogger said...

Congratulations and thank you to your father for his 35 years of service.

RockStarTri said...

Thanks for this and thanks to Papa Snail for all he did.

MCM Mama said...

Congratulations to you father. 35 years is quite impressive, and as you said, unusual. My dad retired after 22 years in the Air Force and it was pretty emotional. I too spent my growing up years on military bases.

ajh said...

Congratulations to your father.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

O, man, brother - I thought I had left a comment here last night, while I was manning the reference desk, but apparently I never pulled the trigger on it because it was so busy. I must've been interrupted.

Basically - A Heartfelt THANK YOU to your Dad for his service, and a CONGRATULATIONS on his retirement. You have every right to be proud of him as he does you.

SteveQ said...

Thanks for the shout out a few posts back (when you took a month off, I stopped visiting)!

My father spent 47 years at one job, but 35 in the military is amazing. I thought my grandfather spent forever in the military, but it must've been short of 35 years, even if it did include the Spanish American War and WWI. (Yeah, that makes me old)

Psyche said...

There's no higher aim in life than to serve others. You should feel very proud of your dad for what is basically a life long committment.

What a moving feeling to run where you did and reflect on such things. You are lucky.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Re: Your comment: Dickey! Hahahahaha! Maybe YOU should try IT as a career!

The Phillies got their collective @$$es handed to them in two straight games by knuckleballers. That maybe their Achilles heel.

In any case, the National League East promises to be interesting because it's anyone's to win, seemingly.

Whether we be Mets fan, or Braves fan, or Phillies fan ... I think we can all agree on ONE thing:

The Yankees are DICKEY!

Hahahahahahahaha!!!

Wes said...

That's pretty cool that your Dad served our country for 35 years. I found the military not to my liking, but I would go back in a heartbeat if the country needed me.

Adam said...

This is a great post. GREAT post. Thank your pops for me.

Rad Runner said...

35 years?! Thats amazing, he rocks! and so do you!

Anne said...

Congratulations to your father (and mother!) for his many years of service. One reason you don't see that level of commitment is because some branches (but apparently not the Army) now make you retire much sooner, within 25 years max. That was the case with my husband, but I, for one, was ready to settle down after 21 years.