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)
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