Well, not quite yet Ma. I don't officially retire from the US Air Force until next week. It will be my last and final promotion, having finally reached the rank of "Civilian".
It's been an amazing 20 years, much more than I ever planned or expected. I joined the Air Force because it was the only way I could afford college...and back then, college was the only way I could imagine escaping from that farm. Sure, there were other ways. I could have jumped onto a train and been a hobo. I could have fled to Canada, floated a raft down the Mighty Mo', or maybe even become a carny. But Uncle Sam, he waved college money at me and talked about travelling through Europe or visiting the Far East. "Just a little time serving your Nation," he said, "it will be fun." Yep, he hoodwinked me.
All I knew was, I wanted off that farm. It was so rural, so small, so boring, and so much work. I was just like every other farm kid at school...nothing more than an indentured servant to The Old Man. Picking rock, shoveling grain, driving truck...no thanks, not for me. I had to escape, I had to make it out into the real world and be a real person, with a real life and a real job. College sounded like a great start.
And then something funny happened during my real life. I grew up. I learned it really did take an honest day's work to earn an honest day's wage. I discovered honesty and integrity really are the real mark of a man and that character does matter. I found out communities really do need volunteers in order to remain vibrant, that churches and summer baseball and nice parks don't just happen by magic. Gradually I found myself searching for an abundance of these values, a place that overflowed with good work, good character, and good neighbors helping neighbors.
Yep, you guess it. One day, in May of 2003, that ton of bricks slapped me right upside the head. I still remember that phone call to The Old Man, telling him I wanted to come home and I wanted to learn how to farm from him. That passion I had to get off of that farm? It still burns...except now the flow has been reversed.
Finally that day is almost here. Ma...I'll be home soon.