After my first hitch in the Air Force, I took a discharge. It wasn't that I was unhappy with the Air Force. Not at all; I truly loved those first three years, though they were hard and demanding at times and painfully boring at others. Taking a discharge just seemed like the natural thing to do.
I got into the Air Force by being part of an Air National Guard outfit activated during the Korean War and sent overseas to Iceland. As the war wound down, National Guard members were no longer needed. Individually, we were released back into civilian life.
I had enjoyed those three years very much, so when it was time to be shipped home, I inquired about re-enlisting for another year and staying overseas.
I hoped to transfer from Iceland to somewhere in Europe, preferably France where I could make use of three years of high school French. They told me that I couldn't re-enlist for just one year, so I gave up the idea and went home.
Back in Connecticut again, I applied at the store where I had worked before my outfit was called up.
I went back to work and to my surprise, found myself promoted, after a while, to assistant manager, with a salary that was five times what I had been earning in the service.
One day, a district supervisor told me that before long, I would have my own store.
This meant that I would be making five times what I was making as an assistant manager. I had arrived. My future was assured.
Ten days later, I re-enlisted in the Air Force.
Sounds like a stupid thing to do, doesn't it?
And for the vast majority of people it would be stupid.
But then the vast majority of people never find their calling.
I found mine. It was wearing the uniform of my country.
I didn't do anything special during my 21 years in the Air Force. To be honest, I didn't expect to.
I'm colorblind, and that cut me out of all the glamorous flying jobs.
Not only that, my colorblindness kept me from serving in a career field that directly supported those who did fly.
Of course, in a sense, everyone who wears Air Force blue supports those who fly, but I sure would have preferred being up there with them.
When I first re-enlisted I became a DI, a drill instructor, and spent three years teaching young men what the military is all about.
If you want to know what the military is all about, I can sum it up for you in four words: The mission comes first. Not you. Not your family. Not your friends. Not the men and women you serve with. The mission.
I did some fairly interesting things during my years in the service, but, I never did anything spectacular. I just did my job, that's all. I did it as well as I could, and that was that.
I never made a lot of money wearing that uniform. But, you know what?
I didn't need a lot of money. When you love your job, when it's absolutely right for you, you get a lot more out of it than you put into it.
A military career isn't for everyone. Nor is any career. We are all different. What suits me may not suit you, and vice versa.
Have you ever considered the possibility that somewhere out there the perfect job is waiting for you?
The one you haven't found yet?
The one where money doesn't count?
The one where you come home after a day's work feeling a warm glow of satisfaction?
The one where you know beyond any possible doubt that you have found your calling?
You might think about that tomorrow. It could make the day after tomorrow very different.