This weekend I had National Guard. I’ve been in the military for almost 17 years now. I spent three years on active duty with the Army at Fort Hood, seven years with the Army National Guard in Pittsburgh and the past seven years in the Air National Guard at Pittsburgh International Airport. I have worked with a great many people over the years and done lots of things most folks would not normally get to do, including playing with landmines and various explosives as a Combat Engineer; maintaining and firing numerous small arms as a Unit Armorer; shuffling supplies all over bases and the California desert as a Supply Clerk; and most recently helping airmen and officers navigate their careers and all the paperwork that goes with it as a Personnelist. All-in-all it has been a great experience. Of course there are times that I look back on and am thankful that they are in the past, but the military has been the longest constant in my life. Almost half of my days on this earth have been as a service member.

Thankfully I have never been deployed. I came close numerous times, but different things happened that kept me from going overseas. The most important of these was my switch from the Army Guard to the Air Guard. Technically I was able to ETS (end of enlistment move) from the Army Guard, but I believe that was only because I had already signed paperwork with the Air Guard. Within weeks of making the move my old Army Guard unit was notified that they would be deploying to Iraq. They have been back twice in the intervening years. So instead of going off to Tech School for the Air Force, coming home and meeting my wife and raising our three beautiful and wonderful children I would have spent roughly three of the last seven years in Iraq. I often think about this decision point in my life. I had little control over it other than to express my intent to make the move. Had the timing been any different the move would not have happened. I got lucky, but I truly believe that the Good Lord was looking out for me and producing that luck. It is difficult to fathom that other life that was waiting there for me, that life without my wife and children, a life that would have seen far more violence than anyone should and I am so thankful that life never came to be.