We all stood in line this morning which seemed the perfect crowning to the definition of military efficiency. The middle aged officer (she had the officer look) made the comment of something about “hurry up and wait.” For fear that a conversation would be sparked up, I nodded in response. She took the bait and dove into the triad of her military career. 21st of June and it was muster. I was surrounded by literally hundreds of stories of past foxholes and military blunders.

The MSgt. at the in processing counter made the mistake of never changing her repeating order of reporting to station 6 for ID cards first as that would take the longest. We all had that look of uncertainty as we trudged along the skinny hallways for station 6. The reminder was bittersweet as I leaned up against the aging painted walls with the LT behind me and the overweight SrA in front of me. We all listened to the stories of our past units and job codes as the line transitioned from moving to stand still. Military ingenuity paid off as I spoke up to the passing blue suitor, “LT, can I get my ID card at the Army Post near my house rather than wait for the one machine here?” The LT seemed somewhat impressed and checked my box and okayed the bypassing of line. I replayed the phrase, LT. It had been years since I referred to anyone as LT.

A few of the guys I work with turned out to be Air Force themselves and we appeared to gravitate towards any resemblance of our civilian identities. We all visited the recruiter terminal for the quick briefing on what the Air Force could still offer us. Turned out we were all not that interested,  smiled and checked the NO box.

All I could think about this morning was my first visit to MEPS to join the military. We all had that look as we walked around in civi’s, but we all seemed scared. I kept expecting to see my Dad come around the corner armed with his camera to take that first shot of me enlisting. The moment never came and instead I waited for the day to end. Our last briefing was swift and we checked with finance to receive our 200 dollars for serving our country for a few hours.

“Lunch is on me gentlemen” I told my coworkers and as it turned out, brothers. As we sat down to lunch at the local subway it occurred to me that the uniform never comes off. I have worked with one of these guys for 2 years and never knew of his military service. Our relationship took on a whole new dynamic as we sat through briefings together. There is no way to separate duty from the rest of your life. The camaraderie will always exist from the moment you iron your first set of uniforms. The reason it never dies is that you never know. It is the great mystery as we were informed we were on mobility status.

48 hours was all I had to respond to any request from Uncle Sam. 2 days after that I had to have my tail end in whatever shit hole in the world I was needed. That is why you can never leave the service. That is why you will forever be military. When you put up your right hand in MEPS you are not saying that your 4 or 6 years is all you are giving. No, you are saying that you are joining the fraternity of defenders.

To be honest, I am somewhat excited at the thought of putting on my uniform again and checking out my M16. In my heart I will always be that 18 year old A1C Schmidt. I still look in the mirror and see the tired eyes of a kid in over his head. Hurry up and wait is the story of our lives. We are in such a hurry to move on to the next thing that we often miss where we are at. To that point the military has it perfect, they offer you plenty of time to look around as you wait.