Yeah, that’s it. The little thing he signed before they gave him his DD214. The DD214 is the form that tells the entire story of his military career – and shows that the career has come to an end.
25 years and 12 days, it says. It says he was out of the country for more than 4 years total, but it doesn’t count up all of the NTC trips, or gunneries, school, or TDY (temporary duty). I’d say it was a good career, and certainly longer than most, and I am so, so incredibly proud of him.
Next to our marriage license and our babies’ birth certificates, this is the most momentous signature I’ve ever seen him make. And it made me smile. And pause.
No longer a soldier, and now a vet, he takes off the uniform and puts it away today. The boots will be relegated to yard work, and I know at least one pair of the uniform pants will become a set of yard shorts. But that’s just a costume. What happens inside when the identity of a job is changed?
No longer a military spouse, now I’m the wife of a vet. And I started thinking a moment about the first step I made towards being a military dependent, at the ID card center at Fort Riley. He was so serious, so proper as we waited. There were other families with infants and small children, and there we were. I already had some idea what I was in for, since he’d had to go to the field so soon after we got married that it took 2 months for us to live together once we said “I do”. But waiting there, I had no idea we’d eventually be sitting in similarly uncomfortable chairs, making nervous jokes and then having to explain them to the lady helping us. I’d never have envisioned so many years between office visits, or that we’d end up where we did after our start.
There is so much I didn’t know then, and I wonder now at what lies before us. There is so much possibility ahead of us – so much choice.
I tell the soldiers I see at work that there is a big shift when they leave this life behind. I tell them to prepare for the psychological change. And today, I halfway hope we’ve both been listening.