Twenty years and twenty-one days. Over one quarter of my life expectancy. That’s how long I served in the world’s greatest Air Force.
As I reflect, I remember mostly good times. Isn’t it funny how time slowly fades the bad times away?
I remember arriving at basic training along with a few other guys and sitting in a pitch black room into the early hours of the morning waiting for the rest of our flight to arrive. Little did we know the six-week pleasure cruise on which we’d soon embark.
I recall my arrival at technical training school–the excitement. I was on my own, and making my way in the world. I was meeting new friends and having new experiences. Monterey, California was my favorite place I’ve ever lived. I don’t think it would be the same if I returned now; Monterey’s become almost mythical in my memories. I enjoyed walks along the bay, fresh seafood, and perhaps the best clam chowder anywhere. Seems like all good things must come to an end sooner or later.
Landing in England, finding my bus and then having a much-needed Whopper sandwich upon arrival at Royal Air Force Bentwaters remains prominent in my memory. I would not change working at the RAF Woodbridge and RAF Bentwaters post offices. Working the night shift by myself was a fun experience. I also enjoyed working part-time as short-order cook at the local bowling alley. I can make a mean chicken melt. My hot wings are not too bad, either. I hardly remember the depressing, nearly constant fog and overcast weather. I made a few life-long friends. Then I moved to the other side of the world.
On the flight out to the island, I sat next to a colonel. I was a brand-new Senior Airman. I mustered the courage and asked, “Are you the wing commander?” He replied, “Yes,” and proceeded to have a conversation with me. So, that’s how my one year, overseas short tour started. Shemya, Alaska may be one of the most desolate places on Earth. The two mile by four mile island rests at the tip of the Aleutian Islands and is constantly bombarded with high winds. I bought a t-shirt that said, “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.” I swam in the Bering Sea. How many people can say they swam in the Bering Sea? I got to unload mail from aircraft and work in the post office, again. Everyone wants to be friends with the postman, especially in the middle of nowhere. Windy days (very windy days) were the norm. One time I literally laid back against the wind and did not fall down. Surreal. I grew tired of being away from the continental United States. So, I applied for a new job and received an assignment to North Carolina.
Pope Air Force Base seemed like it would be a good assignment. I had heard horror stories about Fayetnam (Fayetteville, NC) and “No hope Pope”, but I felt they were exaggerated. I moved into the dorm with some aircraft maintenance guys. That was an experience. Those guys liked to party; me, not so much. I enjoyed the challenge of learning a new job and working at the Military Personnel Flight. I made many, many wonderful memories at Pope AFB. I deployed to Haiti during all their problems in 1994. I met my beautiful wife, Adrienne. We had our first child, Timothy. I can’t really top those memories. Adrienne wanted to be closer to her parents. Fortunately, a rare opportunity presented itself (God looking out for us), and we moved to Madison, Wisconsin.
Working at the University of Wisconsin in the Air Force ROTC detachment was one of my most enjoyable jobs in the Air Force. I worked my tail off, but had many perks working at the university. I had a lot of time for fitness and was in the best shape of my life while in Madison. Plus, we lived in an amazing city–weird and wonderful. We suffered some financial hardship because the cost of living was so high, but it knit us together. Our daughter, Hollyn came into the world in Madison. After four years, we decided to see what I could do next and we got an assignment to Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.
When we first arrived in San Antonio, we hated it. The rude drivers. The noise. The fact that everything was spread out. We immediately started planning where we’d try to move to after three years. Little did we know how much the city would grow on us. During nine years, I worked at three different jobs and deployed to Qatar. I met and worked with a lot of great people. We bought our first house. Our babies grew up.
I took off my Air Force uniform for the last time in November, 2010, but I did not officially retire from the Air Force until today. I’m not sure if I’m finished with the Air Force. It’s hard to leave something that’s been a huge part of my life for so long. Maybe, I’ll get the opportunity to work as an Air Force civilian.
Now, I am anxious to see what the future holds and start the next chapter of my life.