Have you contemplated retirement but you're not sure if it's the right decision? I write this from a military perspective but it can apply to anyone.
Someone (several people actually) once told me "Val, you'll know when you know". I didn't know what that meant until "I KNEW!". I loved the Air Force. I still do. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for my people in the Air Force still to this day. However, my husband and I had decided with his busy schedule, having moved our daughter three times in 5 years, our parents getting older, the fact that if I was to be promoted again, I would have to move my family again. Now, as you know military children are resilient but it just wasn't something we wanted for our daughter. In February 1, 2020 I decided to "hit the button" and request retirement. It was a truly bittersweet moment. We did it together on the couch in our living room and I may have shed a few tears. Leading up to this event, we talked to our parents and siblings and they were on board. It would give me and my daughter more time to spend with her grandparents. You see, my initial plan was to retire out of Georgia. However, I was promoted and the needs of the Air Force come first. I was pulled from a special duty assignment (that I loved) and moved back to my regular Air Force job (that I also love) which resulted in us being transferred to Florida.
February 18, 2020 my dad was hospitalized, it was not to be something serious and he was out within a few days. On March 4, 2020 I had surgery on my left leg, a 4 compartment release fasciotomy. It was intense but I healed pretty quick. The pandemic started on March 11, 2020 and I was the Public Health Flight Chief at Eglin AFB. Life got pretty intense pretty quick. My team and I were working 16-18 hours a day, not seeing our family and completely mentally exhausted. Our first positive case was March 17, 2020. That's when the ball started truly rolling and didn't really stop. I had THE BEST team to help get through this. They were incredible. My dates are starting to blur together but in March, we found out my father in law had cancer, we had started our initiation to purchase our business. At the same time, my dad got extremely sick and was hospitalized again. Again, at the same time, we found out we had an assignment to Kadena....What do we do? We got an assignment because we would no longer be considered Join Spouse which means us staying together and our daughter and I would be following my husband as dependents. The tears hit hard with both of us. Both of us being extremely close to our fathers, we took a big step in purchasing Beyond 214, and now an assignment? Why? We just kept asking. We prayed about it and talked to leadership. Thankfully, my husband has fantastic leadership and they were able to make some moves and we were able to stay here. We will forever be grateful. We truly cannot thank them enough. March to June were intensely busy. From March to June COVID was still going strong and my dad spent a total of 120 days in the hospital. I had put in three exceptions to policies to travel to see my father as his prognosis was looking more and more grim. My leadership continued to decline my request, "because of covid and I couldn't see him anyways if he was in the hospital", because "he wasn't sick enough", and "nobody is getting approved". This resulted in me being B I T T E R. I went to work and still did my job everyday with a (mostly) smile all the time. When inside I was asking myself WHY, why am I continuing to give to something that can replace me. My family can't replace this time away from me. I'm missing waking up with my daughter AND putting her to sleep. My husband was teleworking, doing full time dad, and making sure I was doing ok. I just didn't understand because I have always fought for my people to get things. I fought for one of my airman to go see her mother before she deployed. That was a huge fight during COVID but ultimately, it happened. Her mother had cancer and for me it was important for her to see her prior to departure. There's obviously so much more to the story as to how it happened and all that but the ending is, she was able to see her mother. Yet here I was, unable to see my father who was getting sicker and sicker by the moment. I had lost complete faith in my leadership. It was eating me alive. Fast forward to June, I had requested another exception to policy through other avenues and it was approved June 4th. My dad coded on June 3rd. My dad was resuscitated despite his DNR. Thankfully, I was able to fly out immediately. I was able to be there to get my dad set up at home and stay with him a couple of weeks to attend all his follow up appointments. As my dad's health started to decline and I wasn't able to go, my husband was going to go for me. His exception to policy was signed within 3 hours. That's what I'm talking about. Pandemic or not, take care of your people and they'll take care of you!
I had my second surgery in August 2020 on my right leg this time. This one had some complications that took me out longer than the initial two weeks. This was not easy for me. I was still assisting work from home, thank goodness for technology!
As I write this, I know and feel in my heart that I made the right decision. I'll leave with this, if you're contemplating retiring, what are your whys? Have you written them down? Why you want to retire? Why you want to stay in? It can be rough. In the last couple of weeks alone, I have had people ask me why I chose to retire. I've been asked several times in the last year+ since I "hit the button" why I didn't just stay to make chief, and I always say the same thing, F A M I L Y. That's why. So again, I ask YOU, why?