Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Defines Us?

Wasp-Class Amphibious Assault Ship (Multi-Purpose) (LHD)
Photographed from the flight deck of USS RONALD REAGAN, CVN-76
Somewhere off the Coast of San Diego
Fifteen years, one month and twenty-three days ago, I retired from the United States Air Force.

Prior to joining the Air Force I had been a civilian for 22 years. When I retired, I had been in the military for over half of my life.

In many ways, my time in the Air Force defined, at least to some extent, who I was. What I was.

I still shudder when someone attaches "Mister" to my last name when greeting me.

Though that event is rare enough in today's slap-happy, no respect for anybody or anything kind of world.

No. I prefer to be addressed as "Master Sergeant." It's what the Air Force molded me to be.

And I was a damn good one.

At least I thought so.

But it has been a long road from then...

Lackland AFB, TX - 1975

to now...
Shakespeare's, San Diego, CA - 2014

Lost quite a bit of hair, what's left is mostly gray and yes, I've gained a few pounds. Quite a few pounds.

While I still think of myself as a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, I'm also father to three kids. One of whom was an officer in the United States Navy, a lieutenant, two of whom are still on active duty with the Navy. Both daughters are lieutenants. That's three lieutenants.

At family get togethers I am surrounded by officers. The three kids, one son-in-law and The Nuke's man, he being an officer in the reserves. A Naval officer mind you. A submariner.  (That's two more lieutenants, for those keeping score at home.) So I have to keep my wit's around me at all times. They all know I'm a sneaky enlisted type. Mustn't let down the side!

Heh, heh, heh.

Old Air Force Master Sergeant and Navy Dad.

So the military has probably been the biggest influence in my life outside of my family.

As near as I can tell, the family record in the military goes back to the Civil War. (Easy my Southern comrades, I know what you call it and I know why. What's more, I understand that sentiment now, more than ever.)

Tales of military service, never of battle, nearly always stories meant to invoke a laugh or relate some silliness. But they influence a lad.

Made me want to serve.

I suppose my own career made my kids want to serve as well.


Get me around aircraft which are meant to take the fight to the enemy...

...and I'm like an old war horse who hears a distant bugle. The blood stirs, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I recall the days of my youth. Gone. But ne'er forgotten.

That's what defines me.

What's your story?

24 comments:

  1. The first ship reminds me of the game Battleship. Very popular here for many years.

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    1. My brothers and I played that when we were kids. Also played it with my kids. An excellent game.

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  2. I still think of myself as a Fighter Pilot and an Officer even though it's been 8834 days since my last sortie and 5775 days since my retirement. The military and USAF was my life for 43 years as my Dad didn't retire until after he commissioned me. So that background defines me. I am still regularly stunned when something I perceive as a given, not negotiable duty is not viewed that way by people who haven't served. Courage, Honor, Integrity, Loyalty and Discipline are typically the areas where this occurs. Changing folks perceptions of the importance of these areas cannot be forced and can only be taught by example. That is why I work in a School District and specifically at an Elementary School.
    Regarding the Mister, I get challenged by kids wanting to call me by my first name. I stop them and tell them they have a choice, they can call me Mr. Juvat or they can call me Col Juvat, but the may NOT call me by my first name. It's a respect thing and one of my missions in life now is to teach kids respect. Heaven help you if you show them disrespect (Pet Peeve alert--Disrespect is not a verb), but they don't understand that respect is a two way street. It's a long bloody battle and not anywhere near as fun as a many v. many furball, but I feel it's where I'm needed now.

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    1. Good to know that you're still in the fight Juvat.

      Teach 'em young and they'll remember, perhaps even show their peers the way.

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  3. I have the greatest respect for those who make the military a career. I knew it wasn't for me; not enough self-discipline. Did three years in a float bridge company, somehow made E5, and went on with my life. Looking back the experience shaped my life, in a positive manner, for the next fifty years. Now my youngest is on his second contract as a medic. He probably won't be able to continue due to service related health issues.

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    1. Swearing the oath, wearing the uniform, it leaves a mark. In most cases a good experience.

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  4. "Tales of military service, never of battle, nearly always stories meant to invoke a laugh or relate some silliness. But they influence a lad."

    I did 29 years in the navy. Father did 26 in the Army, grandfather did 30 years in the Army. One of us actually ran for Congress in Maryland. It was a while ago. The usual cousins in the Civil War and uncles in the Great War, lost the first of us Americans in the very first battle of the Revolutionary War. (not all of us qualify for a pension.) My dad never talked of war until I came home from my own wars. We don't do serious. We laugh and tell each other amusing stories.

    I like the tubes. A window on the world.

    Banned by some, but now I mostly amuse the muse at my own place. You know the whole brevity and keep it short style was what I learned writing naval messages and briefs ages ago and I haven't changed much.

    For Col. Juvat, we had a teacher of the maths. He was Mr. Shippey. He flew fighters in Korea during the war. He was unique.

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  5. Made of the same cloth, Master Sergeant as are all who have responded. Two of three daughters also served. Met the Mrs in Japan where she was stationed (Misawa AB) when my VP squadron depoyed there. Herself an Air Force brat. We leave the military but the military never leaves from us. Proud to call you Brother.

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  6. Call my anything you want but,
    a) don't call me "sir"
    and
    b) don't call me late for chow.

    I'll be in enlisted berthing...

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  7. It's funny-strange but I never thought about the military very much until I retired from my civilian career and came to New Mexico for a "one-month visit" with SN1 while he was stationed at Cannon. (Digression: SN1 is on his fourth or fifth assignment since that time and I'm STILL here; that "one-month" thing stretched into 12 years.) I never lived near a military base after leaving the Air Force and had little to no contact with the military. All that has since changed and the effect "being close" had on me kinda surprised me. Before I arrived in NM I thought of myself as an IT guy, now I'm MOST definitely a retired MSgt like some other folks we know and love.

    On another note... you know I have one AF (SN1) and one Navy (SN2) son, both career. I'm STILL trying to figger out where I went wrong with SN2 but it might not be me, at all. I'm pretty sure it's his Mom's fault.

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    1. Odd that, you considering yourself to be an IT guy. Of course, being well away from the uniformed side of things could do that. In your civilian career you were pretty well traveled from what I recall.

      Me? I've always been close to the military, I purposely chose my civilian job to continue in that vein.

      Glad to see you've returned to the side of sweetness and light. (Oh wait, we were Master Sergeants, that doesn't really apply, does it?)

      I'm sure you and LtCol (sel) Buck have lots of fun busting on Commander Sam.

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  8. Similar to the rest of us... We are now our fathers... :-) Except we didn't win like they did (no thanks to various administrations)...

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    1. "Except we didn't win..."

      True Story: My Father a WW II Company CO in the 242nd Rgt, 42nd Rainbow Div, was always a big fan of Bob Hope. He took me to all the new Hope & Crosby "Road" shows in the 50s and we watched the older ones on the tube as well. Well, spring of my freshman year at LSU (1963) I found out Hope was going to do a concert at LSU at the Parker Agricultural Auditorium (a unique oval structure built for rodeos and AG expositions, yet was air-conditioned with chair-backed soft seats in a raised structure above the floor like the old Roman Coliseum. BUT with one end open to the attached livestock pens with a huge hanging tarp covering the opening. The BB team played there also on a portable floor in the pre-Maravitch era) At any rate it was not far from where the varsity tennis courts were (then) so, thanks to a fraternity brother who was VP of SGA (who was sponsoring the event) who suggested I could meet him at the sound check/rehearsal in the afternoon prior to the concert that Sat night I planned to race over right after our dual match with Kentucky.

      SOooo....having won both my singles and doubles in short order I raced over, still in my shorts , towel around my neck and wracquets under my arm. walked up to the stage whereupon hope leaned over to talk to me. I told him how my Dad, A WW II vet admired him , as did I and I exclaimed that I had dashed over after finishing our match with Ky and that I "just wanted to shake his hand." "Did you win your match?" Hope asked. "Why yes, as a matter of fact I did," I exclaimed. "Good" he said. "Because I don't shake hands with losers." Well, I stepped up, he shook my hand, and that was that. Walking away somewhat taken aback I wondered to myself what he would have done/said if I had lost. "Pretty cheeky of him," I thought thinking somewhat less of my hero. But then I rationalized that Hope was famous for always being "on" and "in character," so I dismissed it as simply a guy trying too hard to be funny with the right quip on the spur of the moment. Years later, after the fall of Saigon, I wondered if Hope would consider us losers. A very small vignette perhaps signifying nothing, but I'll never forget that Spring day in 1963. Little did I know..

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    2. Great story Virgil.

      Hope would never consider the military to be losers. The politicians on the other hand...

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  9. PS: When Hope came to DaNang in '68 to perform I was given a chance to attend the show (it was most Army & Marines) I declined saying I'd already seen his act in person under FAR more comfortable circumstances than sitting on a muddy hill-side in the heat & humidity, lol!

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    1. Heh. Wise choice.

      My cousin was at Bien Hoa. Saw Bob Hope back in the Sixties. I believe he was so far away from the stage that the guys he was sitting with might have been VC.

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    2. PPS: Yea, I took a date later on to Hope's show that Sat nite in 63 and he ABSOLUTELY killed it as advertised! (And we had great seats thnx to my Fraternity brother VP of Student Government.. (A little lesson early on on the politics of "city hall" lol!)

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  10. I’m from a Midwestern, GM and Chrysler factory town. I went to boot camp a month after turning 18; not out of patriotism, but rather ’18 year olds not going to college couldn’t get a job in the early 1980s rust belt’ syndrome. I needed a job!

    It became so much more than that, though. My father left when I was 3; never saw him again. So the things a young man should learn from his father, like working hard, being on time, taking responsibility for a mistake, or knowing that sometimes it’s best to let things go, I learned instead from several petty officers and Chiefs. As I think of them in my mind, guys from places like North Carolina, Ohio, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Oklahoma.

    I still love it when Navy beats Army – and I don’t miss The Game. Ever.

    I still get misty-eyed when I see a military funeral or hear taps, even on the TV - and I don’t let my wife see me wipe the corner of my eye.

    I still am awed by a CVN at sea.

    I still nod and say ‘shipmate’ when I run across someone wearing a Navy Veteran cap when I’m out and about.

    I still get annoyed when I hear a newscaster, TV show or movie makes a factual error when it comes to the Navy.

    I still use the phonetic alphabet if I need to recite an account number on the phone, or a server name at work.

    I still call interoffice envelopes at work ‘shotgun envelopes’.

    Helos are helos, dammit. A chopper is a motorcycle with a long front end.

    I was perplexed when my oldest daughter was in elementary school, and came home excited because the kids were told that they were having field day at school on Friday. (Come to find out, to school kids that means a day outside playing games and eating lunch picnic-style).

    Yep, the Navy was a huge part of making me the husband, father and professional success I am today. And for that, it will always be a part of me. It made me who I am. How could you be a part of something for nine years, nine months and 27 days, and it not be?

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)