Reflections on a CareerBy
As I prepare to leave the only profession I’ve done my entire adult life I want to take the time and reflect on my career, and list significant moments from it so I have a record. If you are reading this thank you for taking the time, I’m writing this for myself, mainly, but if others find it interesting that great as well.
There was never a burning desire in my youth to become a police officer. I can’t remember ever declaring that that was what I was going to do, in fact, I remember wanting to become a stuntman of all things. That was my little kid dream as I jumped ramps with my bike and purposely fell off it and rolled along the ground like a “stuntman”.
The decision to become a police officer was sort of put upon me. I was a senior in High School and my father, who was a municipal police captain at that time, had a conversation with me at the dinner table right around the Christmas Holidays. He asked me what I planned on doing when I graduated High School, I said I wasn’t sure but I’d like to go to college. His next question was who is going to pay for that and where will you live? I said I’d get a job to pay for it and I had hoped to live at home. My father’s next words stunned me. “I want you out of the house after you turn 18, you’re not going to stay here and do nothing. You better figure something out”. Well shit, I wasn’t expecting that but it certainly told me where I stood. My parents had divorced when I was 12 and I asked my Mom about living with her, she said no. Talk about feeling unwanted. I was 17 and was going to be homeless in 8 months.
Obviously, at least in my mind, the Military was my only option. Still, I wasn’t leaning towards Police Work. I visited recruiters from all branches of the Military and the recruiters did what they do best, make it sound like the greatest adventure ever. I made up my mind, I was going into the Air Force and becoming an Air Traffic Controller, only it’s 1982 and Ronald Regan has just fired all striking Air Traffic Controllers, seems everyone else had the same great idea and the waiting list for Air traffic Controllers school was 2 years. Still I could go in, get on the list and after two years go to the school. I decided thats what I was going to do. Problem number 2, no Air Force Basic Training classes were open until the following spring more than a year away. When I told my Dad that he said that was unacceptable and that I needed to get out after I turned 18. He had his reasons I’m sure but let me assure you I was not a troublemaker or on drugs, etc…I think he just wanted me out of the house plain and simple.
So I went back and decided I’d go into Law Enforcement and go into the Marines. Having already taken the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) I had qualified for anything I wanted to do in the Military except fly helicopters because of eyesight issues. The Marines sounded promising until I started hearing about embassy guard duty and that was mainly what I’d be doing. Hardly any law enforcement at all. The Army made promises about tours of service in Europe and actual law enforcement. My mind was made up, the Army it was. I was going to become a Military Police Officer. I was afraid to tell my Dad that I wouldn’t leave for Basic Training until September 29. That was 29 days after my 18th Birthday. He let me stay until then. My father signed the papers in February 1982, since I was still only 17 and I knew where I was going after my 18th Birthday, Fort McClellan, Alabama.
I don’t truly know why my father wanted me out of the house so badly, and frankly I no longer care. It was a leap I probably needed to take and perhaps my father saw that as well. I certainly grew up fast and it set my life on a course that I followed for over 30 years. I will retire 39 days from today, just shy of my 49th birthday. It’s been an adventure with some really great satisfying moments and some that were very dark and solitary. At times it’s been exhilarating and at other times mundane. It’s pushed me to my limit both physically and mentally and almost took my life. I’ve laughed at inappropriate things and shed tears that I had no business shedding. I’ve watched people be born and watched way too many die. I’ve seen people shine in the moment and I’ve seen the darkest that humans can be. I’ve taught people life lessons and been schooled by 5 year olds. I’ve risen to the occasion and screwed up royally. I often questioned why but never regretted my choice.
Over the next few weeks I plan on detailing my career as best I can, more thoughts than deeds, although I will chronicle some of the memories. I hope if you’re reading this you’ll come back and read the other stuff I’ll write about and not judge me too harshly, after all, you should really blame my Dad!