Running Sitting on the Back Porch
J. D. Pendry
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning
The end is where we start from. - T.S. Eliot
Some of you old war-horses might think this is a little sappy, but I've been where you are headed shortly, so stand at ease and pay attention.
The last time I sat on my patio at Fortress Myer, the rap music blasting out of the
NCO Community club vibrated me right off the bricks. Good thing the landscaping timbers were in place or I would have vibrated around the street like the players on one of those old vibrating football games we had when I was a kid.
Sitting on my back porch (those came before decks) here in Wild Wonderful West Virginia on Easter Sunday I was already primed with all of the renewal thoughts that come with the season. The Dogwood and Azaleas are in bloom, the grass is ready for the first pass of the mower, old squirrels are chasing young ones, Robins and Sparrows are chirping (fairly relaxing compared to Fort Myer's Hip-Hop) and caterpillars are lounging in the sun. Although there are fewer caterpillars now. My wife declared a critter-free zone around the back porch so she unleashed chemical warfare on them. The back-yard, at least that part of it in the critter-free zone, is littered with caterpillar carcasses and those of other unlucky varmints who were not particularly skilled in chemical warfare defensive practices.
I left West Virginia in 1966 with my family. It was an economic decision at the time. In order to support our habits of eating and living indoors my father, like many others, headed for Northern cities and factory work. There were many firsts for me in Chicago. I saw the first body of water where the other side wasn't visible - Lake Michigan. I saw for the first time buildings so tall they seemed to disappear in the clouds, corner news stands that had more comic books than I'd ever seen in one place, endless blocks of stores and restaurants and schools with more kids in them than the entire county where I grew up.
Although there were many things exciting for a youngster in the big city for the first time I missed the country life. Five years after my arrival in Chicago, at a time when joining the Army was not popular with most young people, I left for Fort Ord, California and Army basic training.
Over the next 28 years, my typical family of 1 wife and 1.5 children moved just like the average Army family did, once every 2.5 years. Like everyone, we professed to hate every one of those moves. The truth is however, the excitement of those moves to different places and the opportunity to do different jobs and meet new people is what kept us around for so long. That great big olive drab family we called the Army removed most of the uncertainty from those moves. The thing consistently delivered was change and the opportunity for renewal.
When the Army ran out of new places for me to go and things for me to do, my family and I decided it was time we picked a place. If you believe in coincidence, there was much of it that came together in a very short period of time that caused us to end up in a place that wasn't even on the list of possibilities - West Virginia.
Many of you are reaching that point where you'll be moving on from the Army. During the first year, expect to question yourself often about did I pick the right place? The right job? The right time? Will I get fidgety in 2.5 years? Will my family and I be happy here for the rest of our lives? You'll ponder all of those things then one day you'll be washing the car, mowing the lawn (unless you retired in El Paso) or maybe just sitting on the back porch and you'll come to realize that
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. -T.S. Eliot
There is a quality life waiting for you after the Army. I found out it's right where I left it. I hope all of you have the same good luck.
© J. D. Pendry