About Me

Pearl City, HI, United States

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Honor and The Uniform*

Cryptologic Technician Network Chief Robert T. Couey;
Second Generation Chief Petty Officer
Third generation Navy

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, May 25, 2009
as "As Soldiers, We Honor Those Who Have Gone Ahead"

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

Service in the military is a life-changing event. Whether one wears the uniform for one hitch or an entire career, the discipline, and sense of duty forever marks those who served. The veteran’s perspective is broadened, forever altered through the experience of having seen first-hand the unpolished areas of the world. That experience provided an education in reality no university could ever provide.

The military life is a hard one. Every day is an exercise in being pushed to the limits, only to discover far more capability than previously imagined. In meeting those challenges head-on, a person grows in ways that takes years to fully appreciate.

The relationships formed in such a crucible are in many ways the most valuable and enduring. Like steel, the most durable friendships are those formed in the hottest fire. That shared adversity forges links that endure across the decades.

The sign on the door announces a “reunion.” Coming down the hall, an old man, wrinkled and grey, walks with difficulty into a room filled with similarly old, gray, and wrinkled men. Then, their eyes meet. Suddenly, the years fall away. The backs straighten; the faces light up, perhaps there is a tear or two. Instantly, they are all in their 20’s again.

A reunion of veterans is not just a renewal of friendships. It is the all-too-brief visitation of youth. As the memories come flooding back, stories are told and re-told, admittedly with a somewhat carefree application of the truth. Remarkably, even though decades separate their last encounters, they pick up right where they left off, as effortlessly and comfortably as sliding into an old pair of jeans. It is good to see them, their backs straight, their heads held high; glowing with the pride borne out of service and sacrifice.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Circles and Echoes

Mother and daughter

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

"Even if we never meet or ever see each other again,
we have left our thumbprints in the thick, moist clay of each other's lives."
--Hugh Elliott

We often think about life in terms of a circle. Within that circle are the collection of experiences and characteristics that largely define us. As we move along through time, our circle crosses the boundaries of other circles, representing the interactions we have with others.

Some of our circles travel together for mere moments before moving on; never touching again. Others stay with us for decades. Those are the relationships most precious to us, for they are our trusted friends and those others with whom we share love. They become not only a part of our lives, but also a part of us. When their circle leaves ours, they take a part of us with them. And we are left a little emptier.

Life is a fluid state. Change is, in fact, it’s only stable component. As a result, the number of other circles sharing space with ours changes. When we make physical changes, such as a new school, job, or moving to a new city, we will get a whole new collection of circles. We also endure emotional changes, such as a death, the loss of a friendship or the end of a romance. In those cases, the separation of circles is difficult and painful, especially when we have to see them every day, knowing that they are no longer a part of us.

Yet, even as people leave our circles, they leave an echo of themselves behind. That echo takes up residence in the hope chest of our memories.