By Selena Conmackie
According to VA.gov, every year, approximately 200,000 men and women leave U.S. military service and return to life as civilians, a process known as the military-to-civilian transition.
I love celebrating milestones and was looking forward to what would come with my husbandʻs retirement. Awards would be presented, something would be read aloud — about military life, I imagine. There would be an invocation, a parade of colors, and the playing of applicable anthems. My mother-in-law would be there in the crowd, smiling, beaming, and relieved. Her son’s duty would be done.
I read about how servicemembers, upon retiring, would request different ways to start their ceremonies or incorporate different elements like jumping from a plane to the ceremony site, for example. Whoa!
I pictured what would be appropriate to wear and convinced my daughter she would need to level-up her jean game so we would look smashing.
I grumbled as I knew my favorite baker had PCSʻd, and I would need to decide what type of cake to get and where I would get it from because — who doesnʻt have cake at their retirement party?
I grabbed the catering menu from my husband’s favorite Mexican restaurant so I could plan out a party menu and think about invitations for guests to receive.
There were tentative plans made about who would travel to our duty station to be part of my spouseʻs special day.
And I enjoyed seeing what the new military spouse friends I had made while networking and connecting on LinkedIn shared about their experiences and ceremonies.
What My Spouse Decided
He didnʻt want all that. I kept saying, “But why? You deserve all the hype and recognition in front of peers.”
What made him happy?
Let me share.
We woke up on his last day of being an active-duty soldier and took our daughter to high school.
Then he joined me while I had a dental appointment in the next town over, where we spontaneously decided to have a late breakfast at a favorite cafe. Ordering mimosas and Bloody Maryʻs put us in a celebratory mood and set the tone for the rest of our day.
We headed home, and he tinkered around the house, studying for the next endeavor heʻs ready to take on, while I locked myself in my office to get work done and wrap up some last-minute things for his retirement.
His Retirement Ceremony
Dinner came soon enough and gifts were laid out on the table along with his framed military retirement certificate. Our daughter and I sat as he opened them, read the cards, and thanked us. He had a smile on his face that was new to me.
We ended the evening outside sitting while we talked and he sipped on 14-year-old Scotch and a nice cigar. We talked about his 24 years in the Army — some happy, some funny, and some very sad. I watched his eyes as his mind went back to the moments he shared with me.
Continuing the Celebration
My husband’s retirement celebration started on a Friday and ended on Sunday, with our daughter’s Homecoming occurring in the middle of our weekend.
We made our way for a reservation at a nice restaurant overlooking a large lake that had seen my husband conduct Morale Events with his unit, Christmas lighting events thrown by our local MWR (Morale, Wellness, Recreation), and hail and farewells. When I asked if he wanted some friends to join us, he said his wife and step kid were all he wanted.
We shared a video montage of family members congratulating him with greetings from England to Hawaiʻi, and he was surprised and grateful they had taken the time. More smiles from him that were different but wonderful.
Brunch, libations to honor the 24 years of his service, and chitter chatter filled our meal. T-shirts, shorts, jeans, tank tops, Converse shoes, and a summer dress were the attire that documented this moment.
It wasnʻt what I had envisioned, but what I realized on our drive home is that it was exactly what HE needed. While my grandiose plans were to show him how special he was, and that his service was to be appreciated and applauded, this meant more to him. This was the way to celebrate him stepping away from the life of an active-duty soldier of 24 years to that of a newly retired Veteran.
Cheers my love!
About Selena Conmackie
Some call Selena their Social Media Gal, Website Designer Extraordinaire Guru, Genius (their words, not hers). But she’s also a Military Spouse following her husband with her kid and dog in tow to wherever the Army sends them. So, just add Rockstar Mom and Ah-mazing Wife to her list.