Dear Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Just a note tonight wish all of your a Happy Black Friday, or as it really is the day after Thanksgiving.
Yesterday we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at home with one of our friends over as a guest. I am thankful for so much for I have been blessed. I am especially thankful for my wife Judy who despite the many opportunities I have given her to kill or divorce me has not. She has endured over 10 of the last 18 years of marriage separated from me due to my military assignments and deployments beginning in June of 1996 when as an Army Reserve Major was mobilized to support the Bosnia operation.
Since then most of our lives have been spent apart. I realized a couple of months ago that if I should be selected for Captain in the Navy Chaplain Corps that the odds would be pretty good of having to endure yet another separation. I know that no no matter how strong that she has been that our marriage could not survive another separation of two to three years. Likewise I realized that I am tired and want to go home and that if all I wanted to due was to increase my retirement pay by getting promoted and hanging for another two to three years was the price that to do so would be to jeopardize my marriage to basically hold a position from another chaplain who still wants to push themselves as hard as the office requires. I finally came to realize that I could no longer keep up the charade. I had to chose, and I now, for probably the first time in our marriage with Judy decided with her to get ready to retire from the Navy, give up the idea of trying to make Captain and to get ourselves ready to retire from the Navy and go home.
Home is important to us. I think that I can speak for many, when I say that those who elect to spend their lives to serving their country in the military, away from home and family; that no matter how many friends and relationships that you develop away from home, that home is home and everywhere else, as wonderful as it may be is not. Going to my induction at into the Edison High School Hall of Fame made me realize just how much I realize that Stockton is home, like it is for Judy.
My regular readers know the struggles that we have endured since I started this site a year after I returned from Iraq dealing with a complete, psychological, physical and spiritual meltdown due to the shattering experience of combat trauma and PTSD. Likewise regular readers know just a bit of what Judy and I have been through ealing with separations necessitated by deployments and assignments. The time involved is astounding, since I was mobilized as an Army Reserve Major to support the Bosnia operation in 1996 it is about 10 of the last 18 years that we have spent apart.
We have talked about it and are both at peace to announce that I am going to be putting in my retirement papers so I can retire from my present duty assignment at the Joint Forces Staff College in the spring of 2017 and move back to Stockton. Moving back to Stockton will reunite us with family and friends, I am looking forward to being near my brother Jeff and his family and so many friends, some of who I have know since 6th grade at Cleveland Elementary School Stockton Junior High and Edison.
There is a cost to this. By putting in retirement papers I will not be considered for promotion to Navy Captain, or for those unfamiliar with Navy ranks, the same rank as an Army, Marine or Air force Colonel. Financially it is a decent amount of money, not just for retirement but for time on active duty. But I have to live with myself. If I decided to roll the dice and actually be selected for promotion I would only be doing it for money. My heart wouldn’t be in it and in doing so if I was selected and either turned it down, or accepted the promotion just to retire in the minimum time required I would be penalizing a man or woman who if not selected because of me might lose the chance to be promoted. I have had friends do just that, and I told them when they did so that that they had hurt the Navy, and especially hurt the men and women that were not selected. Thus I cannot allow that to by the case for me. I am happy, I don’t need another promotion to prove anything.
Now I still have a lot to accomplish before we retire and move home. I enjoy my current assignment as a Chaplain and instructor at the Staff College and the opportunity that it has given me to move back to the academic world. As such I will begin to pursue and Educational Doctorate with a concentration in Organizational Leadership; continue to write about leadership, military history and PTSD and continue to do what I can to advocate for veterans and active duty personnel dealing with PTSD. I also hope to get my text on Gettysburg published and continue to write after it is done.
Likewise, I am so thankful for all of the people who I call friends, people who care for me and have been there through so much. I am a very fortunate man.
As I think about Thanksgiving I remember the one that I spent in Iraq the most, serving dinner to the troops in the mess line at Ta’Qaddum Air Base after spending half of a mission to the Syrian border marooned with my assistant and body guard Nelson Lebron due to lack of air support and having to cut the mission short to get back to prepare for the next mission.
I left much of my heart and soul in Iraq and brought much of it back with me. I want to see in my lifetime a time when Iraq is a land of peace, and a place that I can return to, if nothing else to see at least some of the Iraqis that I got to know when I was the unlikely “American Imam” who cared about Iraqis as well as Americans and tried to build bridges between our peoples. I hope that I can spend time with men that I served alongside in 2007 and 2008, as well as the Iraqi merchant Marine skipper who I became a friend of in 2002, when he and his ship were detained under the United Nations oil embargo. That man told me that one day that he hoped that “when this war was over, that like the American, British and German veterans of the Second World War, that one day we could meet at a tavern and have a drink as friends.”
That is something that I long to see in my lifetime.
Since returning from Iraq in 2008 things have not been great. But despite all that I have endured since then dealing with chronic PTSD and so many other issues I am more than thankful. I am blessed beyond belief. Today was the “holy day” known as Black Friday. I didn’t take any part in it. I was too tired.
That being said I thank all of you you for being a part of my life and I wish you all a Happy day after Thanksgiving!
Stay tuned I will be putting some new material out this weekend.