It has been a little over a month since my retirement ceremony from the military.
By the time one is eligible to retire from the service at 20 years, or in my case 22 years, you’ve encountered others whom you’ve served with begin to retire as well.
One thing evident by attending multiple retirement ceremonies is noticing the existential crises many endure.
You become keenly aware that “who I am” comes into question after years/decades of wearing our nation’s cloth to sacrifice and defend her way of life.
Who am I outside of this uniform? Who am I, other than Rank Last Name or Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Guardian? The military life is the only life I’ve known. I spent my childhood and teen years as an Army child and then joined the Air Force at 18 years old. After 20 years in the Air Force I transferred into the military’s newest branch, the Space Force, where I had to adjust my identity from Airman to Guardian.
There are many articles online that depict the tale of the veteran. The one who, after a brief feeling of excitement soon after transitioning, a period of post-separation angst and anxiety descends. Some feel alone and isolated, in search of purpose. The military emphasizes “in-group” identity, where an individual prioritizes the values and norms of the group over their own. In the Air Force, this was one of the core values of Service before Self.
As I prepare to step away from military life, I am reminded that my identity is not rooted in my military service, yet it is rooted in Jesus Christ.
How often do we do this as Christians? We proudly wear our titles of professional, mother, daughter, wife, or even our own measures of success. We proclaim our identity as Christians, but do we truly recognize the peace we have as being a child of God? John 1:12 reminds us, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”. And though our positions and titles may change, God is unchanging. (Malachi 3:6). We can stand fast and have hope in the gift of our identity in Christ.
I might not be Chief or the Senior Enlisted Leader anymore, but I’m always Esther, a daughter of the king. Our identities in this world are temporary, stand firm in your eternal identity in Christ.