Today I signed my DD214. For non-U.S. military, this is formally known as the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. For me, it is the end of my military career as a naval officer. (I signed a previous DD214 when I was commissioned from the enlisted ranks in 1999.) I have spent the last 20, yes TWENTY, years and 7 months, proudly serving in uniform at sea and on land. There are many who have served longer. There are those who have served much less and sacrificed much more.
The realization that I will no longer wear a Navy uniform on a daily basis still hasn’t hit me yet. In less than 5 months, I’ve managed to start the entire retirement process from beginning to end, from having to make a relatively quick decision to retire (like less than 2 weeks) to attending every required and a good number of recommended pre-separation classes and medical appointments for both the military and the VA all before the end of November. Thank goodness I had a terrific boss who allowed me that time and a fantastic department working for me who understood my frequent telecommunications and office absences. Retirement would appear relatively easy except I also had to figure out how to also do a decent turnover at work, get cataract/lens replacement surgery on both eyes, finish other medical exams and followups along the way, and get overseas orders for December as a dependent spouse when I wasn’t going to be an official dependent until next spring. I don’t know which was tougher… getting the Navy to release my orders or getting all my VA medical claims appointments before December. Regardless, all was done in quick succession, almost like someone was holding my hand along the way.
So in the end, the chaos of the past few months had several highlights… I am able to say proudly that I am leaving the Navy at the pinnacle of my career, enjoying both my job and the people I worked with and for. I had a terrific retirement ceremony that I could share with my family who for the most part, had never experienced a traditional Navy retirement ceremony, with all the bells and whistles (except for NO WHITE GLOVES). My ceremony sponsor and truebluegalpal, Lori, helped me figure it all out while adding to her growing list of ceremonies and parties. Folks at my command, the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute, came together too. I had purchased an old WWII Navy trunk off Ebay in September for less than $40 (including shipping) and needed help trying to get my 20 year old collection of military “stuff” in a nice shadowbox display that could also be touched by my child if desired. SMSgt Joe Candaso and TSgt John Tyree did an incredible job translating my thoughts and culling through my huge box of stuff. I LOVE THIS SHADOWBOX!
Additionally, TSgt Melissa Muniz creatively put together a huge photo collage from my 3.5 years at the command. Incredibly, I managed not to be in any planned command photos… I was either directing the shot and incredibly pregnant so avoided being in the photo (2008) or deployed (2010) so the collage was an AWESOME gift from the command. Finally, I did get a beautiful paddle with the triservice colors on the handle’s ropework, handmade by HM2 Philip Davila… I didn’t think I’d get one and I’m glad I did… There isn’t a brass plate (that’s in my shadowbox)… but I know where it came from. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of it (I thought I did) before it got packed up the other day.
Anyway, we just popped a nice bottle of Moet & Chandon from our lovely neighbors, the Grahams, and true to form, Semper Gumby’d, and drank out of little papercups, since our glasses were packed up last week. To the Navy and the Army who brought us together and to my family who supported me without complaint. It’s now my time to dedicate to my loved ones. Now where are those Christmas cards that I needed to mail?