Why I miss the Army

| November 11, 2012

It took me about two weeks after I got out of the Army to miss it. Well, not the guard duty, police calls, Staff Duty NCO, Common Task Training, the PT, the parades, telling people to take their hands out of their pockets, standing in the rain, twelve-mile quarterly ruck marches and a million other things. But rather, I missed the people who subjected themselves to those mundane tasks right beside me. No one does that stuff because they like doing those things, but they do it for the guy on their left and right, because the job is always bigger than the man.

If you’re wondering what that ribbon is at the top of this post, it’s a Valorous Unit Citation. It’s the award that I’m most proud of. The Army says that the citation is awarded for “unit gallantry in combat to a degree equivalent to that required for award of a Silver Star to an individual” – it recognizes an entire unit’s extraordinary heroism in the face of an armed enemy. To me it means, to borrow from Band of Brothers’ Major Dick Winters, not that I was a hero, but that I served with heroes.

And that’s the only reason I miss the Army. Thank you to all of you who served, either with me, before me or after me. I know that some days it takes every ounce of energy just to get to formation in the morning, and I thank you for doing that for me. And I know that you hate being lumped together and called heroes, but you did what 99% of the American population wouldn’t do, you stood in the breach when no one else would, and if that doesn’t make you a hero, I don’t know what hero means.

Category: Veterans Issues

Comments (46)

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  1. SJ says:

    What unit Jonn?

  2. Jonn Lilyea says:

    1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, 2d Armored Division (Forward) attached to the 1st Infantry Division for Desert Storm.

  3. NosDef says:

    I have one of these as well. Although I’m still in, I couldn’t agree more with this post. Thanks Jonn.

  4. DaveO says:

    Not me. The HRC decided to yank my retirement pay letter, being a reservist, and weren’t going to tell me about it. Apparently I’m not the only one in that position.

    So enjoy it while you got it.

  5. Gary says:

    I wish there was some wat to communicate to civilians what that bond between you and brothers-in-arms feels like. I have tried and always fall far short.

  6. doctorrich says:

    Thank you for serving in our Army, Sir. From a current soldier to a former one.

  7. Biermann says:

    Well said Jonn. Thank You and all TAH brothers and sisters for your service!

  8. SJ says:

    hooah Jon. I’m so glad I was able to serve with such great folks

  9. Well, said, I missed that stuff,,,,but miss shooting machine guns the most.

  10. OWB says:

    I, too, miss the Army, but only saw it as a dependent child. 😉

    But I do miss the Air Force for many of the same reasons, without so much of the mucking around in the mud. Same type of bonds from slightly variant circumstances.

    In case I haven’t said it lately, a huge thank you to each and every one of you who served – doing your part to fill in the brushstrokes of the big picture.

  11. Jacobite says:

    You nailed it in one my friend.

  12. ex af says:

    Yup. My uncle changed when I started flight testing real stuff in the AF. Working the U-2, the Shuttle, disappearing to NORAD watching stuff go overhead way up, then back to more flight test out at Eddies Air Patch until the Peace Dividend. He was a Marine on Guadalcanal. Never talked about it.

    I used to enjoy them flight testing Army helicopters, they chained them to the ground so the Army guys wouldn’t get lost. Actually it was to test the amount of lift they generated. First sentence was funner.

  13. Hondo says:

    Well said, Jonn.

    I certainly know what you mean. I’ve missed it every day since I hit max years – for pretty much the same reason.

  14. SJ says:

    Just watched some specials on The Bulge on (of all things) NC PBS. I always look ahead but things like this make me reminiscence and count my blessings. I was Blessed to start my career in the 82nd where I had some combat hardened NCO’s, some with gold stars on their jump wings, shape this 2LT up. I never forget those men and thank them daily for how they shaped my life.

    After VN with the 1/101 and 3/82nd, I decided I had enough of this chicken shit Army. My BN CO (gold star on wings) said I’d be back. I said No Sir. 2 months of dealing with civilians and even more chicken shit Southern Bell I realized that I didn’t like civilians. I called Branch and, miracles of miracles, the same Col happened to answer the phone. Seriously. I reported back 14 days later and never looked back.

    While VN was not a walk in the park, I stand in awe of what Service Members have gone through since 2001. You folks are amazing. Multiple, back to back, deployments and if you’re not deployed, you are at Irwin. Salute. Hooah.

    Sure wish my Sainted much elder LTC brother, 1/505, 82nd ABN, was still alive so we could get knee walking on Vet Days. Now it is all on me. I’ll pick up the slack.

    Thanks for TAH. Much cheaper than a therapist and folks that have that T-shirt. Hooah.

  15. UpNorth says:

    “Thanks for TAH. Much cheaper than a therapist”. And, hanging with those who’ve been there, done that. Nicely said, all of you.

  16. Former SSG says:

    Thank you all. It was the biggest thing I ever did, it gave me so much, and I never met finer people. I miss it (a little every day, a lot on days like today) too.

  17. SJ says:

    After pouring another Scotch and thinking on my stated appreciation for TAH and how it has helped this Old Soldier, I remembered that money talks and bullshit walks. I looked, and, yes, there is a PayPal link. Done. Airborne!

  18. Ex-PH2 says:

    If I didn’t miss the Navy, I would not be here.

    Thanks for the gathering point, TAH.

  19. Jonn Lilyea says:

    I just noticed that the VUC is upside down. I ‘ll have to fix it in the morning.

  20. Jabatam says:

    I miss it as well.

    Thanks to all of you that served with me or after me but the most thanks go to those of you that paved the way for me and my generation…the Army wouldn’t be the institution that I love today if it wasn’t for you!


  21. NHSparky says:

    Sums up what I’ve said about my time in as well. Don’t miss the Navy, but I sure as hell miss the people.

  22. 3C3P says:

    Sums up what I’ve said about my time in as well. Don’t miss the Navy, but I sure as hell miss the people.

    Same same, except the Army. And after retiring I still work for them as a civilian……just can’t get away

  23. Chris Maple says:

    972nd MP Co (MA ARNG) assigned to 1st Infantry Division during Operation Desert Storm. We got a MUC Meritorious Unit Commendation for our part. ARCOM for my part.

  24. MAJ O says:

    Same here. I am nearing the end of my service and have to write letters to justify why I want to stay. The people I serve with are the only reason.

  25. And….don’t forget the stupid safety briefings designed for 18 year olds, the great mess hall coffee, the new 2nd LTs who say” This is how we did it in ROTC”, the useless briefings, and the Generals showing up before a deployment saying “I wish I was going with you.”

  26. Anonymous says:

    Thats EXACTLY why Ill never leave. Well..okay, someday Ill be too old but lets not go there.
    By the way….anyone notice the VUC is upside-down?

  27. AW1 Tim says:

    God Bless ya, Jonn. You said it well.

    Even the old soldiers knew about the bond that forms between those who serve, something that John Civilian will never understand. This is one of my favorite poems. It;s from the civil war, and could be from either side. But, like Tommy, it sums it all up well.


    There are bonds of all sorts in this world of ours,
    Fetters of friendship and ties of flowers,
    And true lover’s knots, I ween;
    The girl and the boy are bound by a kiss,
    But there’s never a bond, old friend, like this,
    We have drunk from the same Canteen!

    It was sometimes water, and sometimes milk,
    And sometimes apple-jack “fine as silk;”
    But whatever the tipple has been
    We shared it together in bane or bliss,
    And I warm to you, friend, when I think of this,
    We drank from the same Canteen!

    The rich and great sit down to dine,
    They quaff to each other in sparkling wine,
    From glasses of crystal and green;
    But I guess in their golden potations they miss
    The warmth of regard to be found in this,
    We drank from the same Canteen!

    We have shared our blankets and tents together,
    And have marched and fought in all kinds of weather,
    And hungry and full we have been;
    Had days of battle and days of rest,
    But this memory I cling to and love the best,
    We drank from the same Canteen!

    For when wounded I lay on the center slope,
    With my blood flowing fast and so little hope
    Upon which my faint spirit could lean;
    Oh! then I remember you crawled to my side,
    And bleeding so fast it seemed both must have died,
    We drank from the same Canteen!

    Written by Charles Graham Halpine (Miles O’Reilly)

  28. B Woodman says:

    To all my Brothers and Sisters-in-Arms, I say both a hearty Thank You, and You’re Welcome!
    God! How I miss the life! I did my 20 (max time for rank) and retired 12 years ago.

  29. SFC Holland says:

    @20. This is wrong but I wondered who whould catch that was the very first thought that popped into my head. Glad you did.

    To all. Happy Veterans Day. Thank you. Thank you for your service and continuing to serve. I am proud to call you comrades and friends.


  30. Ann says:

    Jonn, thank you for your service and having TAH for all of us to congregate. I’m happy with choosing One And Done, but I do miss my guys (even if they gave me conniption fits half the time.)

    Happy Veteran’s Day everyone!

  31. WOTN says:

    As far as I know, no unit I was serving in received a unit award during my time with them.

    But to put Jonn’s words another way: the Military is an addiction, for the very same reasons he mentioned.

    Recently, I had the chance to visit with some of those that served in Desert Storm with me. It demonstrated all the same attributes Jonn and others mention here. The conversations stood in stark contrast to those with civilians.

    Fortunately, the VFW (and AmLeg) offer us a means to maintain the fraternity of Veterans.

  32. LebbenB says:

    I do miss the cameraderie that I enjoyed by being alongside my battle brothers. But then, I continue to enjoy it by staying in contact with the young Soldiers I led and mentored, who are now SLs, PSGs and, in a couple of cases, 1SGs. That they still take the time to share a laugh or a story with me or ask advice serves as all the external validation I ever need.

    But everytime I see a C130 or C17 fly over, I die a little inside because I know I’ll never be in the back of one, rigged up, waiting to jump ever again.

  33. RandomNCO says:

    12 Mile Road March? Sounds like a weekly PT morning at Fort Drum…

  34. DefendUSA says:

    Right Back Atcha’ Jonn. And to everyone else, too. I miss it, for everything you say and a little more.

  35. Ex-PH2 says:

    Your VUC is still upside down. I thought you meant to fix that.

    Troops Direct is sending supplies to the troops still in Afghanistan that they badly need, like chalk, gun lubricant, socks, gloves, etc. They were on the news here a few weeks ago, and they do a good job, buying in bulk and shipping directly to commands over there. The needs change weekly, too.

    They need donations so if you want to do something that will directly benefit the troops still over there, this is how to contact them and thsi is their website:

    2400 Camino Ramon, Suite 105
    San Ramon, CA 94583

    Direct phone number: 877-97-TROOPS
    Fax: 925-886-8733
    Email: support@troopsdirect.org


  36. Twist says:

    I’m looking forward to retirement for the reasons you cited. I am also not looking forward to retirement for the reasons you cited. The men I served with is what makes me proud to have been in a unit when it earned the VUC. The quote from Band of Brothers hits the nail on the head.

  37. Twist says:

    To exho what Ex-PH2 said, here is another good organization that helps Service Members and their families.


  38. Jonn Lilyea says:

    The VUC is right side up now. The leaves in the frame should be pointing up. When I noticed it, I was on my Kindle, so I couldn’t fix it, so Hondo fixed it for me.

  39. COB6 says:

    Jonn, do you have a copy of the official citation document? If not, let me know and I’ll send you one.

  40. Ex-PH2 says:

    Jonn, you do know I was yankin’ you, right?

  41. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Jonn, Hondo, TSO, et al…I only served a single enlistment so I know I don’t qualify. But you guys have my unwavering respect and admiration for your commitment to our nation. Men and women like yourselves have made my life easier over the last 28 years since I served. I have been able to concentrate on building a comfortable civilian life because of all of you. I can never repay what I owe you monetarily and Lord knows I would dearly love to be able to do so, but my words fail to aptly express the depth of gratitude for your service, thank you, thank you, thank you. And may God bless all of you and this great nation.

  42. dnice says:

    Love this post. Much more thanks to you all at TAH and the rest of you Vets out there.

    Now i need to clean my glasses off too.

  43. Ex-Army doc says:

    Jonn – on a blog with many great posts, you outdid yourself here.

    I was reminded of Atkinson’s The Long Gray Line when I read this one.

  44. 509th Bob says:

    God’s grace, my brothers and sisters in arms. Happy Veteran’s Day!

  45. Stuart Clark says:

    I also have one, awarded to the 2ACR (Dragoon Battle Group) for service in Persian Gulf War. Unbelievable unit; great friends.