Thursday, July 13, 2006

Family Holiday Togetherness is For Sissies

Kirk was lucky. No, actually he was unbelievably good at his job (all of his job... I feel a poetic wax coming on here but I'm willing for the moment to just say he not only knew the technical stuff about his job like no one's business, but he understood people, and he liked them, and he cared about them and so therefore he was like a management god). So his commanding officer, being a really great type, appreciated Kirk and tried to demonstrate that appreciation when he got the chance.

This was 1998 (way-back machine set? Good, buckle up then) and for people of non-military pursuasion this might not be common knowledge, but I think it should be. You see, there had been a draw down (which I liked because it set us free of the army after much angst and horror and drama) and the formerly bloated armed service had been pruned of dead wood and detritus. Unfortunately, there was also a general anti-military vibe in the air - a sort of please, don't embarass us by pointing out we even have such an unecessary and unevolved thing as a gun-totin' establishment. So, raises? Nope. Investment in the actual people? 'Course not. BUT at the same time a massive increase in the use of the military as a diplomatic tool. So our overseas commitments increased unbelievably at the same time that spending was sort of frozen a bit. Anyone catch the logical disconnect? And if you think I'm bitter, YES I am. And that's mostly because we knew so many fabulous, committed, intelligent, wonderful people who were working 12 hour days and THEN delivering pizza in the wee sma's so they could support their family. I was, I remain, extremely angry about that.

All of that overseas commitment meant a huge increase in the TDY load. Basically, anyone in the military could count on getting tagged for a four-month, away from home assignment at least once every two years. That's four months straight guys. No passing go, no collecting $200 or running home for a weekend. Those assignments could be to the far East (Korea et al), Africa, the Pacific, Europe... just about anywhere. We knew Kirk's time would come up at some point. He had been really fortunate so far to get short assignments to Hawaii (awwwww - poor guy!) and Iceland (he loved it). But as I said, his commanding officer really liked him, so he made a special effort and got Kirk the prime TDY assignment that crossed his desk.

The timing, however, could have been better. He would leave in mid November, and get back sometime in February. So he would miss Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at least two family birthdays. And he would be gone during the winter - leaving me with three children too small to press-gang into snow-shovelling duty. But on the other hand, this was a great assignment.

Kirk would go to the NATO unit in Vicenza, Italy.

Remember, 1998.

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