When Dan Miller describes "The Launch", the sculpture he commissioned that took form during INNOV48, it is just like the decision to retire from the military for me. He describes the bird with wings extended expectantly, body poised, fully committed to flight with no thought of retreat. As an Air Force pilot, that nailed the way I feel now.
I entered the service during the culmination of the cold war, saw Desert Storm unfold, was in Port au Prince, Haiti the day after the invasion was recalled after takeoff. I've been to Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Djibouti (Africa), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Kuwait, Qatar, and been stationed in Japan, Korea, Hawaii, and throughout the continental United States. Throughout that time I have been proud to be surrounded by people committed to integrity, to service before self, and to excellence in everything they do. They are men and women who are smart, talented, and upbeat in the most dire circumstances. Most of the complaints I heard were when things were easy and carefree.
It will be extremely difficult for me to leave the military. When I do leave, I'll be looking to either join or start an organization devoted to similar tasks, to provide service where service is difficult to get, to provide a product that is hard to deliver, and work with individuals who are motivated more by the mission than by the pay and benefits.