This is it! For the last eight years of my short life I have been a Soldier in the United States Army. I can’t exactly say I have had the most exciting time, but I can say that I am proud of the experience I have had and of the work I have been able to contribute to our ongoing mission in Iraq. But, I hesitate to say this, in just six short months I will no longer be a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in America’s finest ranks. By June of this year I will be just Christina. My mornings will no longer consist of waking early to put on a physical training uniform. I will no longer hustle my kids out to daycare so that I can get to formation by 0620. My days will no longer be made up of ensuring my soldiers are properly trained and have what they need to maintain a good level of morale. I will no longer be a part of the team and family I have grown to love – and hate at times. It is a difficult decision but the time has come for me to move on. I want to focus my attention on the home front, spend more time with my kids while they are little. These years pass so quickly and I do not want to miss a moment if I don’t have to.
Am I going to miss it? Absolutely. I love spending the day around soldiers, listening to their war stories as they return from their most recent deployment or hearing their excitement and concerns as they get ready to head out to theater. I will miss hearing “good morning Staff Sergeant” when I drive through the gate onto post, and the silly – sometimes intense – conversations with the people I have come to accept as my brothers and sisters. I will miss the laughter that erupts from listening to one guy tell us about his evenings at home and then hearing another come back with “You clean your guns at night when everyone is sleeping? Dude, that’s called insanity man.” Unless you have been in uniform, there is no way to accurately describe what it is like to have these oddball relationships. Some I see as siblings, others have become my own kids in a way. It is painful knowing that I will not be here to work with these fine people. Sometimes I even think about running over to the retention NCO so that I can hold my right hand up and swear to wear this uniform a little while longer. I feel like there is still a lot to be done, more leadership that I can provide to the young Soldiers being indoctrinated to our team.
It is interesting that I have such strong feelings about the Army now. Back when I enlisted, just in 2004, I had a heavy case of cold feet. After graduating high school (I know. Still a baby.), I spent some time in San Diego, enjoying my freedom. By that time I had already been to the recruiter’s office and was enrolled in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). At that point, I wasn’t officially in the Army and could still opt out of signing my service contract. The time in California, paired with advice from a very close family friend, had me rethinking what I wanted out of my life. I decided that I was going to run the other way, completely forget about the Army, enjoy some time at college while learning about myself! But, obviously, that isn’t what I ended up choosing. My recruiter ended up talking with me and I decided to take the jump. I was off to basic two months later with my head full of fear and excitement, and my heart full of dedication. I wanted to make a career out of this!
In my eight years, and some change, the Army has taken me from Arkansas to Missouri; to Texas, Maryland, Argentina, Iraq, and now Washington. It is where I met my husband, had my children, found a large part of my own personality and character, and where I was able to meet many great friends. The Army is my home away from home, the extended family that makes being far away from immediate family not so bad. This is going to be one of the hardest decisions and transitions of my life. But, it is my time to move on.
Am I going to miss it? Absolutely.