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Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Feel Naked

Thursday was an ending for me.  As my retirement date of 1 September approaches I found myself driving towards the headquarters of the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) in Arlington, VA.

I've never really talked about it before in the blog, but for the last nineteen years of my thirty year Coast Guard career, I've been a special agent in the Coast Guard Investigative Service


My career took me to places all over this country and the world, places I never dreamed I'd see.  I walked several times through Moscow's Red Square, wandered under the locks of the Panama Canal, visited the base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  I've inhaled the dust of Iraq, frozen in the snow of Finland.  I've enjoyed some time off in London riding the "Tube" (subway) and had my bags lost in France (twice) and Italy (once).  In the states I've watched the sun rise in Key West and set in Alaska.  I've seen the inner workings of Congress, viewed the devastation of Katrina.  Sometimes I wonder which causes greater damage, hurricanes or Congress...

Before you think I was a tourist, no, I actually was working.  I've investigated many crimes and put many criminals in prison.  I've spent days on surveillance of bad guys, living in a car, or a building or even the bushes.  I spent over four years on the security detail for two Coast Guard Commandants and worked hard to ensure not only their safety, but that their precious time was never wasted as they traveled.  That required some of the longest hours I ever worked in my life, but was the best assignment I ever had.

It has been a whirlwind of a career, and now it's over.  I had to go to HQ and turn in all my equipment, body armor, handcuffs, raid jackets, my gun, holster, magazines and ammunition.  Other documents, handbooks and miscellaneous stuff. 

But the hardest thing to turn in was a black wallet that has been in my back pocket all those years with my badge and credentials in it.  It became as much a part of me as my clothes and shoes.  Now that pocket is empty and I feel naked when I sit down or out of habit, reach back and make sure the wallet is still snugly in place.

I am pleased, though that CGIS HQ is retiring my badge (it is pretty worn and tarnished) and credentials and having them mounted for me on a plaque.  I won't have my badge and "creds" in my pocket any longer, but they'll look really nice on the wall in the Journey or some day on the wall of another house.

I've seen some amazing things, met some wonderful and not so wonderful people, rejoiced over some hard won victories, wept with others devastated by tragedy.  There are days I wonder how I was ever so lucky to have had the honor to serve this country as a special agent.

I owe so much to Marti, who kept the home fires burning as I was gone so often.  She raised our kids and managed much of our life without me.  She often had no idea where I was or even when I would be coming home.  She hurried to my side on one occasion when I was rushed to the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia that I contracted in Mexico and caused my lungs to collapse.  She supported me through thick and thin,  I couldn't have done it without her.  I look forward to spending our days together traveling this country and seeing all its beauty hand in hand.

So it's finished. I have lots memories and stories that will be good to tell around a campfire.  Some of them are even true. ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

24 comments:

  1. Thank you for you service and dedication.
    You've earned hopefully, a long interesting retirement exploring this wonderful country.
    Hope to see you on the road,
    Fred & Jo

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  2. Well now a new adventure will begin - that of full time RV-ing. My DW - Melissa and I wish you and your DW years and years of happy and interesting travels. Hope our paths cross some day! I'll teach you how to use a palette knife!! :>)

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  3. Wow, very nice story about your past life! I'm sure you carry some nice memories in your mind's eye. Too cool that they are going to retire your badge for a keepsake. One more step towards that goal :)

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  4. Thank you, Paul, for your outstanding service to our country. And thank you also to you, Marti. (You know the saying: "Behind every great man is a great woman.") I'm sure the finality as you end your career is bittersweet, but we're ecstatic for you as you begin the next chapter. We look forward to hearing many more of your CG stories around the campfire!

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  5. Well done Paul and Marti!!! Paul you will find that while this is a bittersweet time, there are nearly countless interesting and different chapters ahead of you. The secret is to be contented as you transform your way of life from career humble servant into a man devoid of a timetable. Good luck with this new phase of your life. I sincerely hope our paths cross down the road!

    John
    relaxedrush.blogspot.com
    connectedtothevinephotography.blogspot.com

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  6. I went to Justice School in Newport, RI, in 1988 with some wonderful Coasties. Thank you so much for your incredible service! :)

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  7. Wow, what a life you've had! Congratulations to both of you. I sure hope we cross paths sometime on the road...

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  8. I can hardly wait till we share a campfire and trade some yarns. Congratulations on your retirement and thanks for the service you have given your country and by extension our continent.

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  9. The getting retired part is always the hard part. Since you have a plan for the next phase, you will quickly become acclimated to your new journey- no pun intended.

    I hear you on the being sick in strange places, I once had to threaten a supply boat captain with bodily harm to assist me in getting out of the Ivory Coast when I developed severe heat exhaustion in lieu of a local hospital.

    You were not by any chance involved with an investigation at MSO/Group Philly in the early 90's. I called you guys in on that one.

    Congrats and enjoy the rest!

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  10. You've had an exciting life. It's time to move forward into your next one and it sounds to me like it will be as exciting just in a different way.

    We've done a lot of traveling with best friends. He was a special agent for the government so we understand a little about the life change. My girlfriend held her breathe on his last day that someone wouldn't take a shot at him.

    Good luck and we certainly hope to share that campfire with you too.

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  11. Sounds like you had an interesting career. Thanks for your service and thanks to Marti for her support. I can certainly identify with the "bittersweet" feelings. You'll always be a member of the Coast Guard fraternit whether active or not.
    Syl

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  12. Wow! That's certainly more interesting than anything I did. But then again, I'm not that adventurous. Thanks, Paul and Marti, for all your sacrifices for our country.

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  13. Congratulations on your Retirement and many, many thanks to both of you for your service.

    Now, we can't wait to get the houses sold so we can get together around the campfire and hear all the great stories of your interesting past and plans for your future travels.

    Life is a Journey...enjoy the ride:o))))

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  14. Congratulations on your retirement and thank you both for your service to our country. I can't wait to hear some of those campfire stories in person. It will be fun to try to decipher "fact from fiction".

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  15. Well you sure can keep a secret! Think I'm going to call you Special Agent Paul from now on. NO can't do that, those initials would be SAP. But can we tandem travel so I'll feel totally protected?

    Seriously, it sounds like a life much more interesting than most of us had. And much harder to retire from. Bittersweet I'm sure.

    And you are right that Marti was a fantastic back up so you could have both a great family and a great career. Hats off to you both!

    Should you advertise X-Special Agent's house for sale? Might bring in THE buyer. We're anxious to see you on the road. And maybe just follow you around!

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  16. Congratulations on retirement and a big thank you for the work you did. I retired from the Feds but unlike you, I was so glad to turn in my badge that I danced for joy. However, my badge was just a badge, not a special agent type. And I know the men and women who are special agents for the IRS feel the same way about their job. Such a feeling of accomplishment for them and for you. Now it's time for you to relax and enjoy and make your wife happy. (Tee Hee)

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  17. Paul, I got to know you about 13 years ago, and though you scared the crap out of me at that time, I knew you were someone special! Both my husband and I have been blessed by knowing you. As sad as we are to see someone as special as you leave the CG, we are equally as happy because we know there is an awesome adventure ahead of you! I can't wait to follow your travels.

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  18. congrats on all your years of service!..and you are so right to thank Marti for keeping the home fires burning...behind every great man is an even greater woman!..
    one day our paths will cross and we can hear a few of those stories around the campfire!!

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  19. Congratulations,,,,,,and don't let our busy life scare you... Now that your retired, don't look back. Your right its OVER....Now, relax and enjoy!! Thats what makes it all worth while. Do what you want to and go where you want to! That's what we did for 16 years of full timing. Now old age is setting in,,,,,Now is when its about over,,,,Now is the time to sit down and think back about it all......When you get old like we are getting, not when your young as you guys are...If you ever get in the Black hills in the summer or near North Ranch near Congress, Az.in the winter look us up. Staying busy has been what kept us alive and so happy over the last 16 years....and will probably do the same in the future, when it is really finaly OVER!....ENJOY!!!

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  20. Congrats on the retirement!!! May you both have many many years of safe happy travel. We retired in June and we're trying to learn how to 'slow' it down after so many years in the corp world...we're practising hard...hope to be on the road 'almost fulltime' soon...
    take care enjoy and be safe
    Elaine

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  21. Retirement can be bittersweet, however now you can look forward to your next adventures!!! I too retired from 30+ years of Miitary and Las Enforcement, the key is to remember the past but live in the present. Some folks find that hard to do when they retire. Congrates and enjoy!!!

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  22. Wow Paul. I was enthralled by your post today. John and I can't wait to sit around a campfire with the two of you and hear your stories! I bet you have a few books and some movies in you!! Thank you for your service! And thanks to Marti for taking care of the fort!

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  23. Congrat's Paul. I truly enjoyed the post. It sounds like an exciting career... and now you'll have to find a substitute purpose... perhaps explore your creative side. Have you thought about writing?? With your experience I'd think you'd have no shortage of material to draw on.

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  24. Howdy Chief,
    Thank you, sir, for your service to our country and to your wife, also..

    May y'all have many happy adventures and exciting experiences in the future.. If you ever venture out to the 'dry' wilds of Coleman county,TX,
    y'all are invited to the RunningStar Ranch for a rest stop, cup of coffee and supper with the 'best' cook in Texas.. Going west we're on the 'cut-off' from I-10 to I-20 or vice-versa. On the starboard one direction, port in the other... Come on by..

    Smooth roads, clear skies & balmy breezes !!!!!!!!!!

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