Just after being home from two weeks on active duty, this past weekend was yet another weekend in my Navy threads. If you're not following along, I am the XO (Executive Officer) of my unit and will be the Acting CO (Commanding Officer) after March's drill weekend as the current one deploys to war. As a relatively junior officer, (O-3...Navy Lieutenant), being the acting CO is a pretty big deal, especially in a unit that is so heavy in mobilizations to Afghanistan. Many many Navy reservists sit in units that don't do a whole lot. We, however, never stop and serve a vital mission on the warfront. For me, though, I will not deploy with this command again as I did back in 2011. The month where my eligibility comes up again is just over a month PAST when I roll out of this unit. Darn! :-) In the meantime, though, we are sending and welcoming home sailors and airmen monthly. Yep...Airmen. I have 6 Air Force Reservists in my command, too.
Driving home through the snow last night, doing my best to get home for the Super Commercials, I had lots of time to think and evaluate myself. Deep thoughts can always be dangerous so give me some latitude, will ya?! There is such a distinction from what I do IN uniform vs. what I do as a civilian. It's not just the uniform, either. It's the culture. Let me do some compare contrast for you to better explain what I'm aiming at here:
Respect: it's earned but always shown in uniform. Rank matters and there is no wavering from it. Respect the rank always and hopefully respect the one wearing it. In the civilian world, it seems to be a popularity contest and going with the flow. Whether deserved or not, you may or may not get it...regardless of your "rank."
Entitlement: The sense of entitlement in this country is gut-wrenching. The concept of working hard for what you want has been diminishing and being replaced by an empty (or full) outstretched hand. The same exists in the workplace. In uniform, we have basic entitlements like pay, uniform, etc. Beyond that, you'd better work for it. Huh? Yes, work for it. For me, that means an opportunity to lead like never before and EARN the respect of my sailors and airmen. Not too many JOs (junior officers) get the kind of opportunity I have sought out and am doing.
Freedom from what is PC: Ah, political correctness. Name the topic: race, sexuality, party-affiliation. We may have our opinions but they don't cross the line of our service. We wear the uniform...we are equal. No matter if we like boys or girls, we're black/white/whatever, we're a hard core liberal or right wing extremist...in uniform, we are United States military. Period. To wipe the slate clean from all the garbage that "clogs" up our world....well, it's simply refreshing. Freedom to serve uninhibited by my/your opinion and focus on the mission at hand...all while doing it with respect and honor.
Selflessness: "I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." That is the oath I took back on Labor Day 2007 and twice more as I was advanced a few ranks. That oath is the removal of self and in its place, my country...it's citizens...it's Constitution. It is selfless in its very nature. Please tell me how selflessness rules in our civilian population today. It does not. No surprise, though. We are ALL born selfish. We have to make a deliberate choice to not be.
Nearly home last night, the 'ol bladder had reached it's maximum capacity and only 15 minutes from home, I pulled into a Wendy's. After using the bathroom, I felt obliged to purchase something from them. While in line, a young "lady" approached me from the side: "Excuse me, Sir. My name is ______. I'm in the Sea Cadets at my school. I'm a Second Class Petty Officer." She stood tall. She was proud. She was shaking the hand of a Naval Officer and she beamed from ear to ear. I asked her what grade she was in and what school she was going to. Quick answers ending in "Sir" followed and more smiles. After shaking her hand, her mom was calling and off she went. "Dang," I thought. "That was super cool. There IS hope!" Let me describe this girl. She is certainly not in the "popular" crowd at school. You know how the "popular" kids look at school and how the "others" do. She, like me, was part of the "others." Yet there she is...a part of the U.S. Navy Sea Cadets, desiring to serve in the 10th Grade. She is the epitome of what we need in this country. A desire to serve while rendering a salute vs. her hand being palm up asking for more. I won't soon forget my little encounter with the 10th Grade Sea Cadet.
I love being in uniform. Perhaps I should be in it full time. I just don't know. For now, it's my "part time" gig but one I love more than you know. I love to serve my country and I love (selfishly) how it makes me feel inside. I look forward to the next time.