There is no doubt that over the years I have collected my fair share of AMMO & IYAAYAS memorabilia. Until recently most of which sat in boxes collecting dust in storage. In a way it was me putting my past life to rest and eventually moving on to a civilian life. However, while thinning out boxes, repacking boxes, and deciding what stays and what goes, my wife and son got ahold of everything while I was working. When I came home much of the stuff was hanging on the wall of the hall leading to the master bedroom. It was both a shock and surprise to see most of it. When I asked why I was told that this stuff needed to be out, needed to be seen, and she thought I would appreciate the fact that they took the time to put allot of it on display. I do appreciate the effort, but if I wanted it out of the boxes then I would of done it a long time ago, but no, it remained boxed, hoping until I was dead at least.
I ate, breathed, and lived the motto “We Live So Others May Die” my entire Air Force career and when I got out, my priorities, opinions, and morality changed considerably. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my fucking job every single day, all day long, but once I got out, day by day it just stopped meaning the same thing to me personally. Trust me, there is no better satisfaction than seeing the munitions you had a hand in building get loaded onto an aircraft and not see them come back because when the pilot pulled the trigger the weapons functioned as designed. That was the beautiful part of my job. I always remained disconnected from the damage, death, and destruction because I was in the “supply chain”. We were never the one pulling the trigger.
One day, in an undisclosed place in the mid 90s, I got to witness the true power of what I helped create and happen. I didn’t care for what I saw. I became ashamed of the organization I belonged to. I made up my mind I didn’t want to be a part of it any longer. When I got out I was happy to see the Air Force in my rear view mirror. At that point everything, pictures, memorabilia, uniforms, paperwork, trinkets, and so forth, went into the boxes. I ask myself why I boxed them up instead of burning it all and my answers were clear, I had many great memories of places I had been, people I have met, and experiences I have had. It’s what we do right? We put our memories in frames, shadow boxes, and actual boxes, as keepsakes and so forth. I have always had trouble talking with people in person about my ” job” in the Air Force because it no longer held any “glory” for me. As an example, way back when I was married to my ex, she finally found out what I actually did for a living. Sure, she knew what I did, but she never put two and two together because I never spoke of my job to her, ever. Sure, I had friends doing the same job who we interacted with regularly, most with wives who were friends with mine, but work was never the topic. Then, one day I received a slap to the face as I got told she didn’t want to be married to a baby killer. Yea, I know.
Years later, many years, my boxes full of my past life resurface, now my current wife and 14 year old son have questions. Questions I don’t really want to answer. My wife on the other hand already knew the answers but felt if my son was asking me questions then I needed to be the one answering. How about……. I don’t know…….. maybe……. fuck this shit I don’t want to discuss anything. My son had but one question. He wanted to know what the motto “We Live So Others May Die” meant to me. I’m not going to lie, there were many minutes of silence on my part, as I watched my son reading that phrase over and over on different things now hanging on the wall. What does it mean, really? The simple answer, in my opinion, is that thru training, schooling, education, and brainwashing, we truly were the facilitators of death and destruction, part of a machine which promotes peace through submission. I took great pride knowing that I did my job exceptionally well. However, the me of today is ashamed in many ways to acknowledge that this, in another time, was my life. I should have just burned it all when I had the chance way back when, but I didn’t, lucky me. We also looked at my uniforms, he was particularly interested in my dress blues, as they were still adorned with ribbons, awards, tours, and accolades. Looking now, I had quite the rack. It’s meaningless now I suppose, only because I wonder what it was all for.
I am very proud to have served my country and have the deepest respect for all of the men and women who serve now, have served, or will one day serve. I know it isn’t easy, not during your service and definitely not afterwards, not everyone has an easy transition. The military changes who we are to be who they want and then turn us out back into society. I explained to my son the reason I visit two different Veteran’s homes and the Veteran’s hospital is because I like talking with veterans who don’t seem to have anyone to talk to. I’m not trying to help them nor solve their problems, I just listen and talk, we share our experiences, we smile knowing that we have friends within one another.
After a very long conversation with my son, about the good, the bad, and even the ugly, he stood up and hugged me, it was a deep and meaningful hug which brought tears to my eyes as he whispered that he loved me into my ear. He explained that he wanted me to know he loved me and will always be proud of his dad. He has been going hard at the AFJROTC all year and hopes to one day follow in my footsteps. As much as I would like to desuade him from this career path, I won’t, I want him to fulfill his dreams, I won’t allow my own experiences to be his burden. Don’t know if that makes sense.
I close this post with a final thought, we are who we are, it is what it is, we live our lives as we see fit, hopefully we find some happiness along the way. To all active duty and veterans, I salute each and every one of y’all!