I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
And saw that death was both the bride and groom
I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
And life is born in stars as some contend
The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
Away the time in counting kings and tsars
Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
Believing they are mighty as the sword
Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
The winds we have but time is what we lack –
Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.
So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
Time. It happens to all of us. Of late, I have come to realize that the military that I experienced and knew so very well is now as distant as – say, the military experience of the late 19th century was as distant from the military experience of the of post-WWI-era military, the finance-starved and tightly-bound professional military of the 1930s from the draft-expanded and eventually victorious WWII military. Only the uniforms, the ranks, the various understandings remain, from age to age the same. The culture itself changes from war to war. The military I knew so well was the all-volunteer one which had recovered from the desperate straits that Vietnam and a draftee-nation had left it in, which proved the worth of the all-volunteer service in the first Gulf War and saw the falling of the Iron Curtain. Now there has another leap over a gap of perceptions/experience. My daughter has said, often enough, that she was quite fortunate, time-wise – in that she was able to see the last few years of the military that I knew, where a TDY mostly meant a fun deployment exercise in a mostly interesting part of the world, segueing to the post-9-11 military where a TDY mostly meant a grim tour of duty in Afghanistan or in the Middle East.
And now the American military is a very different place. Once again. Discuss.