Perception vs Reality

I have to say the past few days have been a little tough. It all started when my wonderful husband decided to try and “fix up” my dad’s Army display case. My husband’s case is pretty well put-together and it still needs to be updated, but my dad’s looks pretty empty. By way of it being a surprise for my dad, my husband convinced my mom to give him a copy of my dad’s DD214 (for all you non-military people that is basically a piece of paper that says what you’ve done while you served as far as jobs and education and training). Ok, so we get my dad’s form, and I’m like WTF?!

Growing up I have some very vivid memories and some not-so vivid memories of my dad’s time in the Army. I thought up until about 6 months ago that my dad was in the active duty army and was a drill sergeant. 6 months ago when my oldest joined the Army National Guard, I found out my dad was actually in the NG and then got an AGR (Active Guard Reserves) position before he was honorably discharged. I honestly had no idea. And what difference does it make you ask? Well that part, I guess none really. It’s just that I remember living on base and my dad being saluted. I remember he played volleyball on base and the guys at the gate. I can remember playing in like a recreation room. Bottom line: the reality didn’t match my perception.

Yesterday, my husband and I went over to my parents’ house to get some upgrading done on our Goldwing. I started bringing up my memories and asking questions. Slowly the truth came out. My dad did serve in the Army NG after my 3rd sister was born. He then got an AGR position and we did live on base. He went to Drill Sergeant school, but not to be a drill sergreant. Rather, it was to become a Supply Sergeant. He was honorably discharged shortly thereafter thanks to many things including a motorcycle accident that left him with a rod in his leg and pins in his ankle. Ok so my dad wasn’t this “badass” drill sergeant. The saluting I remember actually had a cute story. Apparently when my mom and I showed up on base for his BCT graduation, I was saluting everybody I saw in uniform. Most of them thought it was so stinkin’ cute that they saluted me back. Pretty cool huh?! I was saluted. Awesome.

So now I’m dealing with this reality that is a whole heck of a lot different than my perception. I feel like my dad may not have blatantly lied to me, but he has let all of us believe a non-truth. My husband said, “It doesn’t matter. He still served, and that still makes him a badass in an elite group.” I do love that man of mine. This explains why my dad told my husband he has a lot of respect for my husband because he “really did it”. I didn’t understand the comment at the time and thought it was because my husband deployed overseas and my dad never had to deploy. Nope that wasn’t it.

Interestingly, I’ve always thought my husband was a badass. He was in Iraq in 2003-2004 as an infantryman kicking in doors and defending our country with all of the strength and courage and honor on the planet. Yep a badass. It wasn’t about just that he served his country and sacrificed so much. It wasn’t just that he was on the ground in the middle of the worst circumstances and getting the mission done. It wasn’t just that he would lay it all on the line tomorrow given the opportunity. It’s all of that and more. He has done and continues to do more to help people and protect our livelihood in this country than I could ever imagine. I could only dream of doing something that honorable.


And I feel like my dad’s true story somehow tarnishes the memories that I have of him and my childhood. It somehow tarnishes the honor that I thought he had. Is that weird? What’s weirder is that for fleeting moments I actually consider joining the National Guard myself to restore some of that honor and to know what it feels like to truly protect our great country. I guess there are moments when I don’t feel like I’ve done or am doing enough. Then reality hits me, and I’m like dude…I would have to lose 15 pounds, leave for 10-16 weeks plus weekends and annual training plus deployments. What the heck would I do? Administration? I mean geesh I have a doctorate degree in organizational leadership. What does that really get me in the military? I know what it means to be left at home, and how could I do that to my husband. Plus, this is his dream. He’s the one that wants to do his last 5 years and retire. Who the hell am I to try and weasel my way into this arena? I don’t know. It’s all sort of crazy, and I’m sure the crazy will pass. At least my perception is now well-grounded in reality in one aspect of my life. Most importantly, I will always be a part of a proud Army family.


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