Today has been such a bittersweet day!
I retired today, ceremonially. It wasn't on my terms, but we have resigned to accept the medical retirement from the Air Force. It is a long standing tradition to honor a retiree in the military with a retirement ceremony. It was a day full of pats on the back and hand shakes and hugs. It was a celebration of the past 17 years of mine & my families lives. It was a time to reflect on all the accomplishments that I achieved and all the sacrifices we made for the Air Force... for all of ya'll out there in bloggy land!
I have planned a ton of these ceremonies... about 37 at my last count. It is part arts & crafts, part history, part party planner, and all stress! As an air traffic controller, I have known stress, there is nothing like trying to plan a retirement ceremony... the very last impression that someone will remember you and their service by. The guys who planned mine knocked it out of the park!
There was a much larger showing than I expected, which was pretty awesome! I am so thankful to everyone who took the time out of their busy schedule to support me & my family. Then there were the mementos.
The Shadow Box - There are many stories to how the shadow box came about. I prefer the one born out of the naval tradition. The presentation of a shadow box to a sailor is a practice that goes back to the time of wooden ships. Legend has it that it was once considered bad luck for a sailor's shadow to hit the pier before he descended the gangway and landed on the pier. If the legend is to be believed, the shadow box served a dual purpose: It served as a perpetual reminder of the sailor's career accomplishments, and it held the retired sailor's shadow in check until he completely departed the ship, thereby ensuring a smooth and lucky transition into civilian life. Sailors are notoriously superstitious, and many of them believe the shadow box legend to be true.
A Pair of White Converse All-Stars - I like to tell stories. One of the stories I tell is from my childhood, and how I was not able to play basketball for the schools team because I did not have a pair or all white Chuck Taylor's. The Airmen of the AOC got together and bought me a pair (Size 13... come on Fran, am I Kobe?) and many members of the unit signed the shoes. It is such a great gift. There was a very comical narrative that went along with these too.
Retirement Certificates - Me and Maria were both presented with certificates of appreciation from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the most senior enlisted member of the service too. They are very beautiful & very big! LOL!
Letter from President Obama - Yep, if ya'll know me, he's not my favorite guy, but hey, everyone who retires gets one. I also received letters from all of the presidents I served under... Clinton & George W. Bush. Also letters were requested from my Senators & Representatives, the Governor of Mississippi, and the mayor of Purvis... which, from what I was told, was quite a comical exchange when the guy called to inquire about receiving a congratulatory letter!
The Air Force Meritorious Service Medal - This is the highest medal I received during my time in the military. It was given to commemorate my entire career, but highlighted the things I accomplished while I was here in Germany.
A United States Flag - This flag flew over all the northern countries in Africa. I have learned more about this continent in the past 3 years than I have my entire life! It was the area that seemed to be the focus of many, MANY hours of my life! One of the members of my unit also took this flag and jumped out of an airplane with it here in Germany. It is a special gift.
None was more special than this though, and it almost made me cry like a little girl who got kicked in the shins!
When I fell ill with my joint problems, I was training for a half-marathon. Being unable to complete it, four Senior Non-Commissioned Officers, took it upon themselves to contact my wife & complete 2 half-marathons & a full marathon in my honor. They ran with a US Flag that they encased in a box of it's own. This in itself is enough to make many grown men cry. What happened next literally took my breath away! One by one, they presented me with their marathon completion medals. Now, I ran the Paris Marathon, and to be honest, even though I did not place anywhere near the front (not even in the front half!), it is one of my most prized possessions These men, gave up their medals to me. Still, it makes me well up with tears and takes my breath away. I do not think I will ever be able to wrap my head around this selfless action!
All in all, it was a great day! Fellowship with friends and family to commemorate the time I have spent in selfless service to my nation. I will post more about the events of the day when I get pictures back from our photographer. Hopefully I will be able to get a video up soon too!
Off we go, into that wild blue yonder!
See ya'll later!