As much as we believe serving in the military is a “lifestyle,” the truth is that serving in the military is still a career (or a job, depending on your viewpoint.) And, like most jobs, its employees wear uniforms. (Even corporate business-types wear uniforms … I would argue that the mandatory suit & tie is just as much a uniform as a pair of overalls or paper hat.)
While in Afghanistan, I wore a uniform (of some type) during the entire deployment. All of my interactions with people were presented behind the view of my Captain bars (or the Air Force official physical fitness uniform.)
I always feel obligated to be “on” when wearing my uniform. I’m not saying that I’m not honest or sincere when dealing with people … But when I wear my uniform, I’m always thinking about how my actions will be received (and how they influence other’s opinions of officers or public affairs Airmen.) I served this way in Afghanistan for the better part of a year.
I worked with a lot of people during the course of the deployment. But there were only a handful of people that I would consider maintaining a personal friendship with (the type of friendship that is unhampered by what you wear.)
I got a chance to meet up with a one of those friends Saturday. He was a good Airman who decided to leave the Air Force after his stint in the ‘stan. (Can’t say I blame him.)
We only chatted for a few minutes, but I was able get an update on how things have been going with him since leaving the ‘stan.
Since leaving the military, he’s landed a great job and he’s convinced a beautiful woman to marry him. It was a real pleasure to meet with him without the pre-packaging the comes with being in uniform.
After our short meeting, I was reminded of a promise I made to myself while I was still deployed. Looks like I’ll keep that promise.