I am married to a veteran. JT spent 30 years in the U.S. Army and retired a full colonel. He deployed to Desert Storm, to Bosnia, twice to Iraq, and to Afghanistan, and he had tours that took him away from us five of those thirty years as well. We even spent almost five years at the National Training Center, a tour that requires three weeks of 24/7 service every month, giving soldiers four days to recoup before beginning the cycle again. None of these was as tough on him as retiring was.
My husband bleeds green. His desire to serve in the military began in the 7th grade when local veterans worked with him at the YMCA. He was so impressed that he immediately decided he wanted to go to West Point to be like them. After high school and a year at Marion Military Institute, JT got his appointment to West Point. He attended Ranger and Airborne schools upon graduation, and received his first duty station: Ft. Sill… where he met me.
If JT had his way, he would have stayed in the military till he died, but thirty years is the max if one doesn’t make general. At the conclusion of his service, JT was the highest ranking colonel on the post. He was important and respected and known. Within a month, he was just unemployed. JT spent two years as an insurance salesman… a very humbling position.
This fall we employed JT at our school. It’s been a steep learning curve, but he is a natural. Even though he has encouraged the students to call him “Mr. Smith,” more than one still calls him “Colonel.” The respect that title brings is back, and my husband feels necessary again.
On this Veterans Day weekend, I would like to encourage you to go beyond just thanking veterans for their service. They are not used up when they retire. Many began the career at just 18 years of age. So very many are still relatively young when they have to retire, and they have so much expertise to offer.