I’m now past the 2 year mark of being retired and life is going well. I’m sad to see so many of my friends must continue working past 62. Even my brother, now 64, has just announced that he will work until 67 for financial reasons.
I’ve been very fortunate and grateful for that. My living expenses do not come close to exceeding my retirement income. In fact, I decided to start drawing my Social Security. I received the first payment a few days ago and have not had a need to even think about it.
But I did want to talk again about being thanked for my service. I served 20 years of active duty and 12 years in the Reserves of the US Army. I’ve been downrange twice and on standby a couple other times. I have spent a lot of time away from home, missed a lot of birthdays, and worked a lot of weekends. Having said that, I would do it again in a heart beat. For all that, I drew a pay check and benefits. Yeah, the base pay was not as good as some of my friends in the civilian world but I volunteered for this. I could have left at any time and did for a while (92-97).
Military pay has increased significantly since 2002. When I first joined the Army in 1978, no one below the rank of Sergeant/E-5 could afford a car. Privates and Specialists lived in the barracks, ate in the Dining Facility, and pretty much spent the weekends drinking in the barracks. They couldn’t afford to do much more. These days, young Privates are driving Escalades or incredible motorcycles. They are making a lot more than their counterparts in the civilian world.
When I first joined, many people talked about doing their time then getting out to make some real money. Now I see a lot of soldiers talking about staying in because they can’t find a job on the outside that pays as well with the benefits. Thanks to the military, my two oldest children were able to go to college and graduate with no student debt. That’s right - no debt! The Department of the Defense paid for it.
So where is this going? I guess I just want to say “Please don’t thank me for my service”. I volunteered, was paid, and now have a comfortable retirement. I’m the one that is grateful for the opportunity to do what I did. Sure, there were tough times but I volunteered for it. I’m glad I went to war. It tested me in ways that just cannot be done in the civilian world. Many of my friends that never joined the military now wish they did. Going to war was like playing in the Super Bowl after decades of practice. Did bad things happen? Yes! But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would do it again in a heart beat.