Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who's the guy with the beard?

As you might have heard, I recently retired after 20 years in the Marine Corps. I had a unique and very enjoyable retirement ceremony, and would like to share the story with you here.

The typical Marine retirement consists mainly of the retiring officer telling the story of the retiree's military career, saying what a great guy he is, and pinning on a medal. Then the retiree gets to talk, thanking his family, boss, coworkers, etc. Then everyone eats BBQ or chicken wings, and talks about work until it's time to leave.

Being anything but a typical Marine, of course I wanted my ceremony to be different. First of all, no BBQ. I've been to so many retirements where I ate a coleslaw sandwich (or the like), I decided to have my reception catered from a vegetarian restaurant. Second, rather than talk, I wanted to play my guitar and sing. Finally, I wanted my Marine friends to hear about the rest of my life outside the Corps.

So I invited four close friends from my "other lives" - Bull Run UUs, The Shambhala Center of Washington D.C, the Capitol NVC Organizing Team, and the Men's Council of Washington D.C. - to talk after the Colonel had his say. And there was a twist - I asked them to relate how they experience their relationships with me, rather than talk about my activities and accomplishments. My desire here was to paint a picture of a human being as well as a human doing.

It was everything I wished for - Reverend Nancy, Larry, Jeanne, and Duane all spoke from the heart, and I experienced great joy in bringing together so many diverse people in one place. This was really an opportunity to practice integrity - no chance to play any role but "I am" with people from every corner of my life in the room.

Once everyone had spoken, I had little to say. I gave flowers and gifts to my loved ones, spoke my gratitude and appreciation for all who had spoken, and performed an original song in honor of my contractor buddies (now fellow contractors). Then we ate vegetarian food, drank organic juice, and talked about UUism, buddhism, NVC, and men's work until it was time to go home.

Funny thing, all the Marines seemed to leave right away - I guess they missed the BBQ and beer.