Today is the first day of my retirement from the military. Today is less a day of reflection for me than it is a day of joyous anticipation of the future. I keep only the flag set from my deployment and one other award in my office at home as I do not equate future events with past accomplishments; rather the past and my retirement from it are but steppingstones into what the Lord will have me do next.
But rather than focus on the various service that I have done and my accomplishments etc., let’s focus today upon the other members of our military. When I say things like brave men and women, heroes, patriots, fellow soldiers, I am not just using axioms. To no man is the word brother of more import or meaning than to a person who serves in the military of the greatest country on the face of God’s creation.
To my fellow soldiers, from all the years of my service, I thank you. I thank you for sacrifices that you have made to ensure that this country remains free from tyranny and oppression. I thank you for those times when you have stood outside in torrential rain, or blizzards, or blowing sand, and remained vigilant at your post. I thank you and admire you for the willingness to maintain a value system that is sometimes scoffed by the world. I sympathize with you each and every time you go to a military school or go online for more “mandatory training”. I’m there with you, my brothers and sisters, and feel your pain when you sit through yet another death by PowerPoint presentation that you have seen countless times before. I am there by your side, my comrades, when you’re told at first formation that today is a DAT day. I am there with you as you sit in the “corral” and start guzzling coffee, water, juice, anything that will help you “donate” for the drug test so that you can get on with the business of the day (having been the collector, I will miss that the least!). I am right there with you, each and every one of you, as you sit in front of the desk of the admin NCO (personal pun there) and have to – yet again – provide all your personal information so that your paperwork is up-to-date. I am even with you, and know from experience, when you stand in front of the first sergeant or the commander’s desk and await the fall of the hammer.
And I am also there with you in your pride, pride when you hear your name being called out for a promotion or an award. I am there, as are all the previous members of the military, as you solemnly salute the flag while taps is being played. I am with you as you proudly stand, even when in ‘civies’, and salute the flag each and every time you hear the national anthem being played. I am with you, my fellow soldiers, as you quietly mourn every time you see a coffin draped with the flag of the United States of America. I feel, as you do, that twinge when each rifle shot cracks through the air during a 21 gun salute for a fallen Soldier.
I consider myself not lucky nor do I consider myself fortunate; rather I consider myself blessed to have been offered the opportunity to serve alongside the greatest citizens of the greatest country in the world. Even though my name is known, at present, by many soldiers - over time, those who know me will also retire or leave the service and eventually the memory of me will be nothing more than a name on an old pay roster or report, and maybe a fading photograph somewhere in some seldom viewed archive. But those things matter not.
Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage - more than just values, these things are foundational to ensuring that our Constitution, our civil liberties, and our freedoms remain. Know this, my brothers and sisters in service, that I will always consider you family. I will live my life, post military, upholding not only the Army values but also values that will embody what this country was founded upon. I will remain vigilant, as an American citizen, to ensure that your sacrifices and your service do not go unperceived or discerned by my fellow citizens.
The oath that I took to defend the Constitution holds no less validity today, for me, than it did all those years ago when I first raised my right hand. Now, I have what could be known as perhaps an even greater opportunity to uphold that oath. Should I entertain running in an election, rest assured that my actions will maintain the noble honor that each of you has sacrificed for. Should I but simply live my life in retired bliss (sounds kind of boring), even then I will honor your sacrifices. “Dear God, if there be trouble, let it be in my time – so that my children may know peace”, is a prayer, for me, which does not end on this day.
I have but one entreaty for you: live your life, do your duty, provide your service, and do all in a manner that will not sully the sacrifices of those who came before. Live your life with honor, compassion, truth, faith, and with the hope that what you do today will be viewed by the generations of tomorrow as noble and worthy.
My fellow patriots, soldiers, citizens, brothers and sisters - I thank you for the time I was able to spend with you in service to our great country. As I go forth, on this first day, I carry with me all that I have mentioned here and humbly thank you for your efforts in ensuring that this nation of the people, for the people and by the people indeed does not perish from the earth.
Your brother in service,
Kenneth J. Robart