After 16 years, its time to say good bye. Good bye to the moves every 3 or 4 years, to having my privacy totally invaded every 5 years for security investigations, to being on call 24-7, to getting called in at all hours of the night for exercises, and so many other things. For 16 years I served in the Air Force, doing what my country needed, living where they told me to go, and giving up much of my personal freedom to serve, and doing it knowing it was the right thing.
Now I'm not needed anymore, and being told good bye and left with nothing. Oh wait, I'm left with medical conditions from spending time down in ICBM launch control centers and breathing in absolutely horrible air, hearing loss from extended exposure to high levels of ambient background noise, and a bum ankle due to a fall down the stairs at the Pentagon and a misdiagnosis. It took 5 years to realize I had a fracture and not a sprain, 3 surgeries, a fused joint, and now I'm left with a limp, unable to run, an abnormal walking gait, and constant pain.
I understand the military is bloated in certain areas and needs to downsize. 157 Air Force Majors (myself included) were victims of this. All of us had between 14 to 17 years of service. But, every single day I ask myself what about the 900 people that requested release and 600 of those were denied? We have 600 people serving in the military that want to leave, and are kicking out 157 that wanted to stay, and were so close to getting the pension they'd worked for. In the 1990s there were drawbacks as well, but they didn't kick out the people that were so close to getting their pension. They were allowed to serve their 20, then get out, and not allowed to serve past 20. But most importantly, they got the pension they'd worked for.
This isn't something that can be blamed on Congress, or President Obama, or the Republicans, or the Democrats. The blame rests solely with Air Force leadership. They were told they needed to draw down to XXX number of people, not how to do it or who to cut. The decision to keep people in that want out, and to kick people out close to their pension was solely that of Air Force leaders.
The military pension system is out-dated, and like Social Security, needs an overhaul. That's been known for years, but nothing has been done. Its an all or nothing system. You work for 20 years, and you get lifetime pension and medical benefits. You work for anything less and you get nothing. We don't have a 401k that can transfer with us, there isn't any sort of matching investing.
The last several months have been hard. A lot of tears, bitterness, hopelessness, anger, and more recently, St John's Wort. I still have a lot of bitterness. I can't help feeling that I've wasted 16 years of my life, and it meant nothing. After 16 years of giving my life, I've been told I'm not good enough.
What are my plans now? Moving to San Diego, and taking advantage of this free time that was forced on me. My parents have some work that needs done around their house. There's a cruise they want to go on, so I get to be dog-house-grandma sitter. I'm going to start working on my Masters (again). Thank you Montgomery GI Bill and my forethought to sign up for it and pay into it (this was before the post-9/11 bill that didn't require any contributions from the member). Most importantly, I'm going to be looking for a job. I'm thinking maybe Oregon, there aren't any military bases in Oregon.
There's going to be a lot of lifestyle adjustments. I was used to having a very comfortable salary. I came so close to signing up for the 2012 CCN monthly SAL Vonna is hosting, then had to stop myself. That's a chart a month I'd be needing to buy. With no paycheck, that's just not something I can do right now. 2012 is going to be the years of trying to work on all my WIPs (there's plenty) and some of the charts in my stash (even more than the WIPs).
Sorry for such a rant of a post, but I needed to get this out. Writing letters to Congressmen didn't help, so maybe I can purge some of my bitterness in the blog. Its not like I can burn my uniform, I'd more than likely asphyxiate from the toxic smoke from the flight suit (its supposed to be flame retardant, but that washes about after about 10 washes).