One of the things about being in the Reserves or National Guard is that you give up one weekend a month for duty. Sure, you get paid for it, but sometimes the dollar value earned doesn’t always really make up for the time lost. There are other ways to fill the gap, of course: hanging around with a group of comrades that understand you can fill a gap that otherwise goes unfilled, perhaps. Or maybe your “weekend job” with the military is just something that personally rewards you emotionally, or maybe it helps you polish skills that you can apply to the rest of your life, be it professional or personal. Or sometimes it is just as simple as getting out once a month and doing something totally different from your daily routine. I work a desk job by day, so sometimes the opportunity to go out and do something “in the field” is a real break.
Of course, there are those times when you wonder if you could be doing something else with your time, something personal. We all feel it sometimes. There are times when it seems Drill comes at the worst possible weekend and you ask yourself why you put up with it. Sometimes it really is the worst timing– missing the birthday of a loved one or an anniversary, or just a longed-for night out.
I really empathize with the people that got out and really, you know, Got Out. I understand. I’ve been doing this for years now and I have those thoughts a lot.
On the other hand, there have also been times when a weekend away at Drill kind of gave me a reprieve from something. A social obligation I really wasn’t looking forward to, perhaps. Or I just needed something to shake me out of a dull spot. I always thought that if I won the lottery, I’d quit my job but continue going to Drill, just to make sure I was able to have a sense of time passing (that was before I found out that most of the time, big lottery winners are quietly chaptered out of the military, because seriously, what are you going to prove trying to assign a multi-millionaire to KP?).
And truth is, when I had my recent losses in my family –first my dog and then my mom– frankly, going to Drill forced me to focus and keep going, and remind me that there were things I needed to keep doing when there was a danger of losing myself in loss.
But that said, I can honestly say that retirement someday will be nice. I’ll know I did what I could, gave what I could, and no one can say the lesser for it. I still get a lot out of those weekends away, but those coming worry-free months of free weekends, well… it’s been earned.