Sunday, September 19, 2004

The end (of a career): CFIX part 5

It had been a long day and a wild one too. We were back from the staff "dining-in," though, and it was mostly low-key now. It was a an honest-to-goodness lull in the action--a calm before the storm, so to speak. We all had something to think about. The Public Affairs office was working double-time to get the annual year book produced and printed the next day. The Squadron Commanders and First Sergeants had the White Glove inspection the next morning. The Flight Commanders and Flight Sergeants had the up-coming Drill Competition intruding on their peace of mind. What about the Command Staff--myself, Taylor and the Deputy Commander?

Taylor had everything to think about as usual. I won't even get into what the Deputy had on her mind (it was a lot). For myself, I had several individual projects to ramrod into finalization on the following day. Most of it had to do with the banquet in the evening. You see, it is the Executive Officer's lot to emcee the encampment banquets. I had thought about it as a kind of perk before encampment started--I knew it would be a challenge of the nerves--but there's nothing wrong with a little challenge now and again. I had one small problem, though: I still hadn't done any preparation for it.

It was a sorry state of mind in which I found myself on that peaceful evening. The rain had ceased almost as soon as the obstacle course was completed. The sun had recently set and it was relatively dry except for the ever-present puddles. It hit me right then and there--perhaps not hard enough: this was my last evening. It was the last, not only for this encampment, but it was my last as a cadet at any encampment. I was leaving the following day straight from the banquet. I would be starting at Western this fall. Then, in February I would turn 21, and so pass from cadet to senior member. This was it!

The three of us walked out on the quad as the barracks were preparing for lights-out. In a minute we found ourselves sitting out in the middle of that gravel yard--just talking things over and letting the stress seep out from our tired limbs. What was left of our voices would have been nothing but a murmur on the edge of the quad--just three dark forms we were, sitting in the middle of a white gravel background. It was dusk and almost time for taps...

The next day was a flurry of nonstop activity. For myself it was a desperate dash to get things prepared for the banquet while trying to navigate through all the other necessary items on the schedule. To put in a nutshell, it was nuts! In between failed attempts to print this or delegate that, there was the White Glove inspection, the official Encampment photo, my script for the banquet and the somehow, before this was all said and done, I needed to pack. A little hair-raising to say the least. However except for a few missed steps, there really wasn't much to regret by the time the banquet rolled around. With a fully packed car and one person to go with me, I drove to the banquet location, more than a little flustered and nervous. I was praying that I had a little bit more sanity left in reserve to get me through this evening.

It all came off well enough--from what I can remember, that is. I think I started out a little on the weak side--literally! The microphone was less then loud enough and it was all I could do to keep a bearable tone in my voice and also make myself heard in the cavernous room. Someone finally found the volume and cranked it up to full steam. After dinner, there was the usual pile of awards to be presented. Thankfully, one of the servers made it around to the head-table with a pot of coffee before that was to begin. It was then that I realized just how tired and muddled my mind had been--you can always tell by how un-muddled you get after two cups of coffee! The rest was a breeze.

When it was all over and the closing comments were just being said, it came to me that many of the people here--so many good friends--might not know this was it for me, that in a few minutes, I would be walking out the door, never to return as a cadet. Would they know just how grateful I was to them and to the program itself? So I took up the microphone one more time before the end and told them--and then I said goodbye.

I will never forget the acknowledgement I received. It was brief, but they stood up and applauded as I finished and then it was over. I had a plane to catch in the morning, so I walked out the door a little bit later and began the next leg of my long trip.
<< Home 2 Comments:
Anonymous Your-brother-who-walks-on-the-far-side-of-the-world said...

Wow, Mark. I never heard that particular story. Wow. Awesome. I'm so glad you actually remembered to say goodbye and thanks before you left the cadet program. Unlike me, I'm sorry to say. It's so easy to let such opportunities slip by. Other people appreciate it too, when you take the time to "say goodbye". I've learned alot since I've been away. I've gained church-families, made friends, and I hope I never again miss an opportunity to thank someone for all they've done for me. On a final note, standing ovations must be quite humbling.

8:00 AM, April 30, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark, continue to treasure time as the most important thing. The time that people have invested and the time that you have invested in others... It will never be forgotten. Many times, I have minimized this significant asset... But, during those times I was wrong.


Brian Jones

10:14 PM, May 30, 2005  

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