On 26 September 2013 I participated in my formal retirement ceremony conducted by the Old Guard at Conmy Hall at Ft. Myer, VA. More pictures can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/theoldguard/sets/72157635920974634/.
Many family, friends, and co-workers attended, including Marcel “Frenchy” Lettre, who was my battalion commander when I was a company commander (above); my parents, mother-in-law, sister, and brother-in-law; a couple of folks I wargame with; and many of the people with whom I have been working.
I was disappointed when I learned that the ceremony would be indoors, but with the lowered lights and spotlights, the ceremony was terrific.
The presiding officer for these ceremonies is selected from the (many!) general officers stationed in the national capital region. I was pleasantly surprised to know the presiding officer for my ceremony. I had first worked with COL Greene when I was a PM at DARPA and he was PM Battle Command at Ft. Monmouth. Then, when I was Chief of Staff for Research, Development, and Engineering Command, BG Greene was our deputy commander. In fact, I attended his promotion ceremony to BG. Now he is a major general working for the chief of Army acquisition. He had nice comments to make to all us retiring soldiers and our families.
Thirty nine of us held our retirement ceremony Thursday morning. Each of us received a retirement certificate and a folded US flag individually. People asked why I opted for the ceremony at Ft. Myer rather than doing something at Ft. Meade. First, at Ft. Meade it can be difficult to get visitors through the gates. I think those who attended the ceremony would agree that it would be difficult to top the send off provided by the Old Guard.
The ceremony was in the middle of the day, so we scheduled a party for the evening when we thought more people would be able to attend. When the smoke cleared, we think we had about 80 people attend. Mark Ryan (right in the picture above) gets the award for having travelled the farthest to attend. He tarred his driveway in the morning on Long Island, drove almost six hours to the party, stayed until about 2100, and then drove four hours home.
When I was a PM, we used to host about three events this size each year. We quickly found that we spent so much time managing the food platters and drinks that we never got to spend time with our guests. We typically hire a girl we know who we think can keep up with everything to manage this part of the party for us. For this party, Hannah did a very good job helping us manage the party, keeping trays full, reheating food, taking out trash, etc.
While the guests initially broke into their “comfort” groups, we did try to encourage intermingling.
It was a nice day, despite my mixed feelings about taking off the uniform. I will have to adjust to being “just another guy.” Yesterday, I was in the mall and I was joking to my daughter that I didn’t want to go into a store with her that had “Navy” in the name. She said “you’re not in the Army any more.” That’s not exactly true. A retiree from the Army is subject to recall to active duty until age 60. More importantly, the Army isn’t just a job, or even a profession. It’s even more than the camaraderie based on shared suffering, experiences, and accomplishments — even if any two people have never actually served together. It’s a way of life, and there are many aspects of being a soldier and being a colonel that I will miss as I change my signature block from “Colonel, US Army” to “Colonel, US Army, Retired.” I’ve been wearing the uniform of this nation for 32 years, beginning as a cadet at West Point. While you can take the soldier out of the Army, I don’t think you can ever take the Army out of the soldier.
On a side note, I had lost my dog tags in an airport screening machine at BWI airport and didn’t notice it until the next day. I’ve had that same set of dog tags for more than 20 years, and I wear them every day, including my time in Iraq, Korea, and Italy, through jump school and Ranger school, during hundreds of days in the field, so I was sad to lose them two days before my retirement. Yesterday, I got a hold of TSA lost and found at BWI and learned that they found my dog tags, so I will be able to pick them up today. After almost 30 years I have an emotional attachment to them, and I was sad that I might have lost them. I guess that’s what comes of clean living.