The Husband has finally found something he wants to jump feet first into at our local ROTC detachment. The internal struggles he’s faced since leaving active duty to join the student population have been almost unbearable.
How do you take a man who’s seen combat several times, been thrown off the back of a plane to form a forward operating base in Iraq and tell him to join a college ROTC detachment? It’s not easy for the ROTC unit, and it’s not easy for the man. Finding ourselves in the midst of college angst has been difficult, to say the least. Something that is alive and breathing in the military is the separation of ranks. The Husband is enlisted right now (E-6), once he graduates he’ll be a commissioned officer (O-1) in the Air Force.
Enlisted personnel are oft looked at as the “lower class” of the military. We’d be the blue collar workers in a white collar world. Unfortunately, the separation of ranks starts in school (at least, here it does). For the past year, these pimply faced 18 and 19 year old kids thought themselves better than The Husband simply because he’s enlisted. Forget the fact that The Husband was awarded some of the finest medals to come out of OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom). Forget the fact that The Husband has witnessed firsthand things that these children won’t find in a video game. He’s not as good as them. He’s enlisted.
On the flightline, separation of rank is not as prevalent as it is elsewhere in the military. On the flightline, men work side-by-side to complete hundreds of missions a week. Pilots drop their gear, hop out of the plane and find themselves unwinding at the end of the day huddled around a table, sipping beer with the men that take care of them. Regardless of rank, they sit and enjoy the company of those around them. I will always hold tight and true to integration of rank in our family. No one is a lesser being in my mind. You fight for your country, you’ve earned my respect. Period.
Coming to school and going through the ROTC program has had its challenges. The Husband felt out of touch with those around him. The first year was very difficult for him. Not only did he have a wife at home suffering from depression, he was being ostracized by the cadets at school.
Somehow this year he’s taken greater interest in his work with the ROTC. He’s been planning an exercise for a few weeks to take the kiddos out in the field and teach them survival skills. Of course, props are always needed in The Husband’s shenanigans. He set about making missiles last week in our garage. He cut 5 foot long pieces of PVC pipe, then attached wooden fins to the end. He propped them by the door of our garage and painted them OD green.
Of course, in my never ending playfulness, I opened the garage door last week to take the trash to the curb only to find four construction men standing across the street working on the new homes. Seeing me, they raised their hands in greeting only to suddenly go ashen, drop their gazes and find themselves deep in conversation. I hollered good morning to them, returned to the house and promptly recited the story to The Husband in a giggling fashion. I told him he should run upstairs to the computer and google Al Queda, Terrorists, Taliban… that way Homeland Security would surely find themselves on our doorstep by nightfall. Much to my surprise, The Husband had done just that earlier in the week to print out pictures for his “briefing” with the kiddos. Whoops.
He spent the day training the kiddos on how to use the equipment and intel at hand to locate and flush out terrorists. Finally, he’s found a way to co-exist with the ROTC kiddos and his past as a real-life hero. I, on the other hand found a paper bag and practiced breathing when I realized the very real possibility that we’d be expecting a visit from the Men in Black.