Friday, October 3, 2008

Naval Retirement

The wife and I took the day off Friday (09/12/08) to attend the retirement ceremony of my best friend, HM2 Kirk Blakesley. He spent the most of his career as a Corpsman, and did two tours in Iraq with his marines. His first tour was in Ramadi in OIF II, and he spent the second stretch at Camp Taqqadum, with HMLA-169(Vipers).

Having not ever served our great country, the retirement ceremony was a humbling experience for me. The entire family, in addition to the serviceperson, sacrifice a lot when the father and husband is a career sailor. There were lots of long deployments, and as I said, two combat tours mixed in those 20 years of service. The entire family was honored individually during the ceremony. His wife and all five children received certificates of recognition from the Navy. It isn't nearly enough for what they have done for this country, but it was a nice gesture to be sure. They were all very happy to be escorted to the stage to receive their awards.

It was a very moving scene. Kirk was dressed in his white uniform. Several people including a retired marine that is a good friend of Kirk's and the commanding officer of the station's medical clinic spoke after the colors were presented. After that all of Kirk's various awards were presented to him. There is a myriad of items presented to the retiree and his family. The most interesting one was an awesome shadow box that contained his individual awards from throughout his carrier, a photo from when he enlisted and one from his time in Iraq, and an American and Texas flag. Very neat deal for sure. There were also proclomations for he and his wife from Governor Rick Perry.

One of the most emotional parts of the ceremony included "Old Glory" being recited, during the passing of the flag. That is something I will never forget. The recital of "The Watch" was another highlight. The neat thing about the navy retirement ceremony is that it is carried out as if it is on a ship whether it is or not. The retiree and several of the officers are given permission to come aboard or to go ashore during the ceremony, culminating with Kirk and his family going ashore for the last time.

I am a better person for having attended such an event. It was an honor and a priveledge to be invited and to attend. Kirk is my best friend in the world(except for my wife of course), and I am so glad to know him. He is a truely an awesome guy.

There was a lot more to this deal, than just the ceremony and such. I saw Kirk sitting up on the stage in his uniform, and he had the biggest smile on his face the entire time. The only thing was you could tell that he totally had mixed emotions about the whole thing. He was proud of his service, excited to be able to spend more time with his family, scared about the transition, wondering what it was going to be like not to be a sailor anymore, and probably one hundred other things. The emotion on his face looked like a guy that was very proud, happy, and sad all at the same time.

Towards the end of the ceremony it was his turn to speak. I don't remember a lot of what he said, but I do remember this. He said, "I love my flag, and I love my uniform." He barely got it out. It took everything I had not to bawl like a baby at that point. Here is a man, like many before him and after him, that served his country for a very long time. He is proud of what he has done, and he is proud of his country, and he loved being a sailor.

Afterwards we all had a bite to eat, and left the facility. We met up with Kirk later that evening, and I was able to present him with a small token of our appreciation for his service. I gave him a Springfield XD-40, which he liked a lot. We were able to go shoot it a couple of weeks ago, and it shot very well. I may just have to get me one at some point. :) I hope to be lucky enough to spend many more afternoons with Kirk and his boys at the shooting range. It sure is cool having such a good guy and family as our friends.