January 13, 1989, was a much anticipated day for me. And why not? It was the ETS date on my military ID card, the date when my enlistment would be up. I had re-enlisted once, back in early 1985, but this time, I was ready to get out. If I'd stayed in, the Army wanted to send me to Fort Hood, Texas, no doubt to spend long stretches of time in the motor pool or on field training exercises. The Reagan era was coming to a close, with the first George Bush getting ready to take office. It was time for me to do something new.
And so, after painting my graffiti on the Berlin Wall, I caught a flight from Berlin to New York, and a bus from there to Fort Dix, New Jersey, the very same place where I'd begun my military career in 1981. I got there late on January 12th, and spent my ETS day outprocessing. Being a sergeant who was ETSing was certainly a much nicer experience than being a buck private going through basic training.
And then, I got a plane ticket from Philadelphia to Fort Myers via Tampa, and got out of Dodge. There was snow on the ground in Philly that day, and that was the last time I saw snow from that day to this. I had made the transition from soldier to civilian again.
Twenty years! Where does the time go?