Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wanting to be there

I was approached the other day by a former National Guard soldier that was deployed about the same time as I in 2005. This soldier was deployed to an overseas assignment with his unit which by all accounts did a great job in their assignment. He was telling me that he has also since retired and has recently found out that his unit is now being sent to Iraq. The purpose of the discussion coming from him was related to his feelings of concern for the soldiers he served with previously that now will be departing for another operation without him.

It was clear that he was somewhat in turmoil and distraught at the thought that the young soldiers were somehow going to be cheated by the lack of his efforts in this deployment. It was almost as if he was no longer in the race anymore like a stallion in the paddock looking out at the track and unable to trot the course. He expressed a desire to somehow join what I would describe as a young man’s effort, but knew that is not possible for him anymore.

Its really not so curious how this former NCO had come to view his soldiers as his personal charge over years of dedicated service. The sad part of the conversation was that he and I sat and reminisced about we accomplished in molding our soldiers to be able to take on the roles they now face in their deployment. That in and of itself is an Army process that repeats itself innumerable times at all organizations. The life of a soldier from rookie private of Lieutenant to mid grade leader to senior leader and all of the sudden – on the outside swelling with pride and sadness that your soldiers can carry on so efficiently without you. The mark of success I suppose, but still doesn’t make the departure of our own any easier.

Now somewhere, there stands the man
His duty o'er and won
The world will ne'er forget him
To him we say, "Well done."
from Old Soldiers Never Die
(Gene Autry, William Burch and Carl Cotner)

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