Articles

10 things to look forward to about military retirement (and 5 things not to)

Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you'll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.


First, 10 things you can look forward to:

1. Higher pay

This is what everyone gets excited for and it's a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you'll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It's not Easy Street, but it's Easier Than Before Street.

2. Stability

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Cpt. Angela Webb)

This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we'll be sent next. So when that train stops, it's hard for some people to deal with. Others can't wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It's nice to finally have an address that doesn't change and no chance of another deployment order.

3. PT on your time

Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly leaps over a gutter during training at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. He is training to be a part of the Paralympic track and field team for the 2016 Paralympic Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

If you hated early morning PT then good news ... you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.

4. Networking

(Photo: Starbucks)

This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you're a professional. If a post-military job doesn't work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.

5. Health insurance

(Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you'll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective ... okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn't have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I'm probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.

6. Hobbies

(Photo: Wikimedia)

Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.

7. Joining the "old farts" organizations

Army vet, actor, and American Legion member Johnny Jenkinson. (Photo: We Are The Mighty)

The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they're honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.

8. Running into old friends again

The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement ...

9. Reliving old tales

Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo.

Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.

10. Facial hair

Gen. George Crook. (Photo: Civil War archives)

Come on ... you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.

Now, five things not to look forward to:

1. Loss of camaraderie

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain during an Adaptive Sports Camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform...or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it's hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.

2. Lack of respect from young bucks

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov

Get it through your head that your former rank doesn't mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you're Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he's in uniform, get over it.

3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty

This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.

4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities

(Photo: Greenbrier Historical Society)

Whether you're picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.

5. Dental insurance

(Photo: Department of Defense)

For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I've worked for since retiring. Weird.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of "Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man's Guide to Midlife."

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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