Ladies and Gentlemen,
That is the question I asked myself. That is the question I pose to you...
"What do you do?"
So... meet me after the fold...
What do you do, when all of your skills, all of your knowledge, all that you worked for 20+ years to attain, suddenly, becomes useless?
What do you do, when the area you live in has little in the way of jobs that aren't McDonald's or minimum wage jobs that you compete with high school students to get?
What do you do, when you cannot bring yourself to give up, quit, and yet, that very pride that keeps you from quitting, from giving up, has become a double-edged sword that cuts you from both sides?
Today, I read this diary. If you haven't, I suggest you do. The personal story was about how a woman with a child worked to survive. That message is very pertinent to my own.
I am a bomb technician by trade. I spent 10 years active duty in the United States Air Force and was trained in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). It is a relatively small field, and the jobs outside the military for ex-EOD are fewer still. I served my time in the Air Force, but, my childhood dream was to be in law enforcement. So, after 10 years, I left the military in 1996 to pursue that dream.
But, in my time in the military, I did many things that most would never be in the position to do; I worked for Presidents, I was in a war, and I was one of the few Air Force members to earn the right to wear an Army medal. I held a Top Secret security clearance and I knew the "real story" behind some events that the general public never heard about, or worse, heard about, but were never told the "real story". I was sent to places that didn't "officially" exist and flat told that if I left a certain area I would "disappear" for 3 days. That was the world I left to go into law enforcement so I could realize my childhood dream.
Yes, I realized my dream. I graduated the police academy a Distinguished Graduate. I rose quickly to become a Field Training Officer. It was my job to train the rookie's, not just in the law, not just in the department policies and procedures, but in other ways. It was my job to train them in how to be good officer's who worked to protect the public. It was my job to train them how to survive the perils of being in law enforcement. I rose to the level of Sergeant quickly; 5 years. I was second-in-command of the shift. I was good at my job and I made sure everyone went home at the end of shift. In those 6 years, we only had 1 fatality while our shift was on duty; an elderly man had a heart attack. But, after 6 years of law enforcement work it wore on me; low pay, lack of respect from the public, and worse, internal politics, drove me out. So I resigned and went back to being a bomb technician. It was a good 6 years, but ultimately, it wasn't what I thought it would be; or even, should be.
I quickly found a job working as a bomb technician with a civilian contractor. Contract work is just that; temporary. A contract could be 2 weeks or 5 years. The catch to it was I had to be a "nomad", ie, I had to be able to move where the job was located. My contract was only to be a year long so I left my wife and family behind to go work. The pay was high and the work good. But, keeping two residences meant we didn't get to save as much as I'd wished. After a year of working the contract my body gave out. I was forced to terminate my employment and return home to get treatment.
I was out of work for 3 years. It took 2 and a half years before I even got a physician to treat me. That is a long story, and maybe another diary when I wish to detail the problems in the workers compensation laws. During those 3 years, I became very depressed. For now, suffice it to say that when I finally got the surgery I needed and healed, I looked for another job in my chosen profession. By this time, our national economy wasn't so great and local economy worse. I needed a job, and I needed one quick.
I found that job, but, I had to go back to Iraq (I diary about that trip back here). The pay was extremely good; I cleared $7,000 a month. But, as you read in the diary, the company I worked for was more worried about production than safety. So, I left that job after only 2 months under a stipulation in the contract that if I felt the situation was too unsafe I could terminate my contract. I was able to save some money up, though, even in that short time.
So, here I am, 7 months later. Even as small as the EOD career field is, the jobs for those trained in EOD are even fewer. Even those who retired from the military as EOD fight for the few higher level jobs. So, here I am, asking myself; "what do I do?"
Do I take a job that a high school student can do making minimum wage? Do I simply trash 21 years of my life and the experience I gained in my chosen professions? Am I to be forced to be a "nomad", rarely able to see my wife and family so I can work in my chosen profession?
What do I do?
This is a question people ask themselves every day. This is a question that fathers and mothers deal with every day when they are in the situation of trying to provide for their children.
What do they do?
I am not a computer expert; I am a bomb technician. I am not a business consultant; I am a bomb technician.
What do I do?
Well, I answered that question last night and that answer may surprise you.
I am talking to recruiters about enlisting in the armed forces for the second time. I am 39 years old and I am not ready to quit; to trash 21 years of experience; to admit that my life up to this point has been useless, meaningless.
Yes, it very well will mean a third trip to that hell-hole I call Iraq; but, I've survived that hell-hole twice, and maybe, I can keep some of our best alive.
Yes, it very well will mean that me and my wife will have to sell our house as I get stationed to a different base/fort; but, I hate South Carolina anyway.
Yes, it will mean I re-enter this very war I have actively protested and spoken out so forcibly against; but maybe a Democrat will be elected in 2008 and the occupation in Iraq will end.
Yes, I too will become a hostage for President Bush; and worse, I will knowingly do so.
But what can I do? I have to feed my family. I have a daughter who just graduated high school and is entering college in the fall. I want her to have a life and the means to make her own way in a world where bachelor's degree's are the norm; where if you don't at least hold a Masters degree, you are qualified to flip burgers.
What can I do? I am a bomb technician, and there is nothing else I want to be in my life. I want my wife with me, not at home alone as I bounce from contract to contract.
In these hard times, we are all forced to ask ourselves; "what do we do?" It could be a single mother with a new baby. It can be a father who just wants to provide for his family. We all ask ourselves, "what do we do?"
Luckily, I have a wife who was military herself, who understands that I am not ready to quit, and, who supports me. Yes, I'm a very lucky man to have her; she has been there. She has faced her own trials in life. She's asked herself, "what do I do?" It was my wife's diary that I referenced above.
Sometimes, we don't like the answers to the question. Sometimes, we need the help of our government. Sometimes, we do what we have to do, whether we like it or not.
There is no security anymore for anyone. My father retired twice; the first time from the Navy, the second time from Boeing. He has a little security; a little. If I do another 10 years active duty, I too could retire; and have a little security. A little, but more then I have now. So, what do you do?