Since he's been in for nearly 14 years, we get a lot of, "Why aren't you retiring? It's only 6 more years! You really are missing out!" Mostly from people who either don't know everything that is involved in Sam staying in the Army, people who don't know what we've experienced in the Army National Guard and people who just don't know how Army benefits work.
Even though Sam has been on some sort of Active Duty Orders (meaning that he's worked full time for the army as his Monday through Friday job, plus 2 deployments and schooling) for about 4 1/2 years (give or take some) he would only be eligible for a National Guard retirement check when he reaches retirement age. That is a small amount of money that he would receive in 30 years for 6 more years of service. That could possibly be three more deployments. It's not worth it.
Last night we had the Division Dining Out. This is where everyone dresses up in their dress blues (and the women wear formal wear) and we all eat dinner together and listen to high ranked people give speeches. This year was the first year I actually wasn't bored to tears because the two men who spoke were actually interesting. One was retiring, and the other was being promoted. What was most interesting was listening to Sam's peers (all men who he worked in the office with the past two years and a few people he deployed to Kosovo with). They kept giving Sam flak for getting out, but they were all super impressed and incredibly supportive of him. They realize that IBM is a great job for him, and they are all still playing the bureaucratic games of the Army which is royally screwing some of them over. For example, one officer really wanted to be transferred to a unit in San Diego because he felt like that would help him advance. Instead of giving him that transfer, they picked a guy who wanted to stay put and transferred him instead. As a bonus, they are sending that unit to Afghanistan so...there you go!
I've never been a fan of Sam being gone. I've hated every single drill weekend, every month he's been gone, and loathed deployments. I've never been a "rah rah rah!" kind of Army wife. I appreciate the benefits, but at the end of the day I've always said that I would rather struggled and have my husband home than not be worried and have him gone. So, I have always chalked up my complaints of Sam's experience in the Army as me being a baby.
At least I did until last night when one of Sam's former office mates told me that Sam was getting out at a good time and that the Army really stuck it to him while he was in. Apparently two deployments like Sam had is unusual.
For the record, I have appreciated the benefits. It was nice having really great health insurance that was inexpensive for us. I also really appreciate the good car insurance and the pay checks. But, when people point those things out and say that we owe the Army for that, it doesn't compute for me. Sam has health insurance through IBM right now, but that doesn't mean that we owe IBM our lives, it simply means that IBM appreciates their employees and so they provide them with benefits. It's part of the perks of having a regular job. To say we don't want to be a part of the Army culture any more is not saying I didn't appreciate those things.
Here is the list of things that Sam has missed because of his Army National Guard duties.
- My undergrad graduation.
- The deaths of multiple family members (along with funerals because unless it is a direct relative, you aren't allowed to leave).
- My whole entire pregnancy with Nathaniel.
- Nathaniel's first 3 months.
- The last half of my pregnancy with Aaron.
- The birth of Aaron.
- Aaron's first 9 months of life.
- My graduation from Seminary.
That is just the big things. Not to mention birthdays, anniversaries, recitals and other things of the boys. He didn't get to see Aaron learn how to sit up or roll over or begin to crawl. He even missed the golden moments of Benjamin's infancy due to the trip to Australia last summer.
So, when we do the happy dance for Sam getting out of the Army, we have our reasons. When people ask me if I'm ready to have my husband back full time I look at them and say, "I've never HAD Sam full time. So, I am looking forward to having him full time for the first time in our relationship."
Does it mean we hate the Army? No. It just means we are done. And boy, are we happy!
(As I finished typing this, Sam walked in, finishing up his final Army thing. His timing couldn't be better!)