It has always felt awkward when someone says “thank you for you service.” For a long time I did not know how to respond. One day I was told about a sign at the main entrance to Fort Wainwright, AK, that reads “A Privilege to Serve”. That sign is a daily reminder that just as you have promised to defend the American people, the People have promised to take care of you. Ever since then, I respond “Thank you, it is a privilege to serve.”
Not everybody gets to be a US Army Soldier, and indeed not everybody can do it, but for those who can, the benefits and rewards are immense. And for that, I owe a massive debt of gratitude back to the People of the United States. You have served me well. And so I say, “Thank you for your service.”
I never thought I would make the Army a career. In fact, when I was a young 21 year-old Army recruiter in Athens, GA, I had my heart set on getting out and going to college. The truth is, I was afraid to go back to Iraq. But one day my wife said to me “Why would you quit something that you like and you’re good at?” She certainly had a point, so I decided that as long as I liked it and I was good at it, I would stay in.
I was a Soldier, after all. I would never quit, and I would never accept defeat. But then my daughter came home with her sixth grade math homework. I was defeated. Often more than once. I knew my time had passed.
Bright and passionate young leaders brought in fresh new ideas. The old dogs like myself were not keeping up with the new tricks. I was replaceable, and therefore, it was time to retire.
To all the Officers and senior NCOs who will continue to serve after me, I strongly encourage you to seek counsel and appreciate candor throughout your career. Some things are hard to hear, and even harder to say, but the truth always wants to come out and is a better indicator of character. So be a courageous leader. If you trust your people and take care of them, your people will take care of the mission.
To all the young NCOs and Soldiers, whatever your job or task is, strive to be the best at what you are doing, no matter how important or unimportant you may think the job is to the success of the organization. It is important to someone or you wouldn’t be doing it. You can do whatever you want and take credit for all of you actions, only when you also take accountability for them.
Finally, to everyone, know that sometimes the Army really sucks. It really does, and there is no way around it. But just remember, your absolute worst day in garrison training isn’t 15 minutes at the Chosin Reservoir, or the Korengal Valley, or Fallujah. So when things really suck the most, remember that the decisions you make, and the kind of person you are, in that moment, is when it matters most.
I don’t know what comes next for me, but I know the organization I’m leaving is in good hands. I am confident that the future is bright for one reason and one reason only, because all of you are here to carry on. As long as good men and women are willing to die, liberty will never perish.