Thursday, January 18, 2007

Graduations and Retirements

I finished uploading my "Other Insects" photos to Flickr and thought I was done with my Canon digital photos. Well, I wasn't...hehehe. I had forgotten about my "Critters" photos. So, I'll be working on them for the time being.

I also removed my photos from my 360! album and placed them on Flickr. I did this because while visiting a friend the other day, I wanted to show him a photo I had placed in that album. However, at his place, with his computer, I could not access that album. Fearing no one was seeing the album, I removed it from there. I have made reference to photos in it in my blog, so if anyone reading this now has read my blogs in the past and wondered what photo I was referring to, well, now you know. Just go to my photostream from the main page here, and look under "Scenics."

Earlier today I was sort of half watching, half ignoring an episode of E.R. I had watched that show the first year it was on, but really didn't get all that involved with it. Today's episode was about Carter graduating from residency (or whatever it is a doctor does to earn his white coat) and missing the ceremony because he decided to stay with a frightened, young girl suffering from kidney failure (I got all that in the last 20 minutes of the show when I for some reason I stopped half ignoring it). Towards the final moments of the show, he was sitting with another doctor and they were talking about missing their graduations. It made me think...

I don't remember many of my "graduations." I don't remember graduating from elementary school to high school...barely remember graduating high school...don't remember my basic training graduation at all (I think we participated in a military parade) and I don't remember any of the graduations from any of the schools I went to during my military career.

As I have mentioned before (I think...but too lazy to check back), I spent 22 years, two months, and two days in the US Air Force. I am proud of the time I served; proud of a lot of things I did during that time period. In the future I will most likely pass on some of my war stories here. But to get back to the previous graduations.

I guess a person could make the case that retiring from something is a form of graduating. If that is so, I don't remember my retirement. I am not complaining, just saying...I really didn't have a retirement. My last assignment was at Clark AB, The Philippines. The base was naturally retired from the US Air Force inventory when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and more or less destroyed the base. I was there when that happened.

But before it happened, I was already planning my retirement . I was informed of a new policy the Air Force was implementing...that of an E-6 (Technical Sergeant) who reached 20 years of service, had to retire. Before that change, an E-6 could remain in the service until 24 years. I know I would have made E-7 by then. But the powers to be said I had to retire. So I began planning for it.

Then the mountain blew.

Lucky for me too, since I was probably the only person on the base at that time who had had any experience with volcanic eruptions and military operations. So I was asked to stay past my planned retirement date because my "corporate memory" of my previous experience (Mt. St. Helens) might prove useful...and it did, but more on that at another time. However, when Hq. Air Force approved my remaining on active duty, it was under the condition that I retire when I left Clark AB.

On June 15, 1991, the mountain blew up...literally. I remained on the base until Nov. 22, 1991. My planned retirement date was Aug 1, 1991. But when I left Clark AB, it was a shell of what it had been. When I stepped on the bus to take me to Manila, there were only 150 American servicemen left on what was prior to the eruption, the largest US military installation overseas. From Manila, I flew to Seattle and then went to McChord AFB, Washington for retirement processing.

At Clark, I didn't get a large dinner with all my friends -- they were all long gone to other assignments. I didn't get a military parade honoring my service -- and would not have asked for one. I did get a small goodbye dinner which included several other people leaving Clark at the same time I was departing. When I arrived at McChord, there were three days before the Thanksgiving holiday and everyone wanted to finish my paperwork before then...and no one there knew me from Adam.

When my processing was finished, I was given my marching papers, told my certificate would be mailed to me, handed a decoration for my service and then I was a civilian.

It may not have been a typical retirement, but it definitely was a memorable one.

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