07 May, 2008

Hanging it Up

Lex is fast approaching a landmark event. And in the inimitable style we've come to expect, he gives us a glimpse of the journey:

Broke out a freshly pressed set of khakis and pinned it out for probably the last time today. An eagle for each collar, facing inwards. A name tag. Command-at-Sea pin on the left pocket flap, under the top three ribbons and the Wings of Gold. I worked hard for those wings, and harder for that pin. The ribbons just seemed to show up periodically. The Legion of Merit is my highest award, followed by the Meritorious Service Medal. Both of them mean nothing to me. In fact, the only two bits of cloth I’ve ever cared about were the Strike/Flight Air Medal and Sea Duty Service Ribbon. Twenty or so combat missions - including a tough one that went very well - and seven deployments.

In a week, maybe 10 days the whole rig will go in a closet back home...Some day, hopefully very far in the future, it will fall to one of the kids to clean out the closet. Not knowing what any of it meant to me, because I’ve never found a way to talk about it that didn’t seem like boasting. [snip]

You’re going to love it on the outside, everyone tells me. It’s going to be great. I nod and I smile and tell them I’m excited. That I can’t wait to get started. All the while feeling like something inside me is dying.

At this point, I'm supposed to find eloquent words summing up 30 years of honorable service to one's country, but those words fall somehow beyond my reach right now.

Does the man make the uniform or the uniform make the man? Probably a little of both, but in this case they're now largely indistinguishable. I'm quite sure that Lex is merely putting in the closet an outward expression of what long ago became embedded in his soul. We are sad to see the Navy lose a good man, but count ourselves blessed that we continue to have such a man in our company.

Thank you for your service, Lex, but even more for who you are that powered that service. God bless you as you prepare for this new journey. With the impending transition near running its course and the studies soon complete, let's hope it won't be long before we're seeing more smiles like this again: