November 8, 2008 was my last drill with the 269th Combat Communications Squadron. While I officially remain a part of the Ohio Air National Guard until Nov. 28, the 8th was my last opportunity to participate in the monthly ritual that characterizes the service of the citizen airman before I separate.
I joined the Ohio Air National Guard and the 269th on Nov. 29, 1993. Since then, the people of the 269th have transformed from fellow military members into part of my family. Those men and women are among the finest Americans I have ever known, and I count it an honor to have been numbered among them for a time.
Why leave now?
An interesting quirk of my personality is that I tend to define myself by the things I spend the most time doing. Right now, I spend more time being a college student than just about anything else, and I consistently tend to think of myself as a student even though I spend lots of time doing lots of other things. In 1999, I began working full-time for the 269th, first on orders and later as an air technician. During that period, I came to define myself as a Guardsman to the exlusion of a lot of other things.
One of the things that came to be excluded was my desire to write. I have wanted to write, especially fiction, since I was in the seventh grade, and as time has passed since then, that desire has only grown. Since I returned to college, I have earned an associates degree in creative writing and worked for a college newspaper, both events that cemented for me the realization that writing is my future.
What resulted is the realization that I could not continue to be a Guardsman and a Writer. In trying to be both, I was doing neither of them well. I take my service to my nation very seriously, and the thought of giving it less and less attention as I pursued writing as a career was unacceptable to me.
This was a hard choice, but it was obvious to me that it was time to go. God has placed me on another path, one I never imagined even a year ago, and it is a path I want to pursue with all of my effort.
So what now?
Over the past couple of years, my pursuit of writing has slowly revealed a path to me. I want to write and get published, especially fiction, but I am not putting all of my eggs in that precarious basket. In considering what else I am willing to do as a writer, it finally occurred to me that the only other thing that I am willing to do beyond writing is to teach others how to write. Some people reading this post might be surprised by this conclusion, but I can assure you that I do not want to work for anyone else in the traditional sense unless it is by returning to public service in the military. I believe teaching, especially at the college level, gives someone like me the greatest freedom to pursue my desire and my goals.
So, from here, I will finish what I need to a the community college level, then return to the university level to finish a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. After that, it is at least a master’s degree program and probably also a PhD. My hope is that, in the next six to ten years, I will be writing, published, and teaching somewhere at the college level.
My time in the military represents a huge part of the person I am today, and for that service I have no regrets. I hope that I am able, through my future endeavors, to give something back to the military that gave me so much. In the mean time, I have set my face resolutely to the future and whatever it may bring.