Retirement Meditation #22: What if there is never an opportunity to retire?

Insights | Retirement Meditation #22: What if there is never an opportunity to retire?
Stars and Stripes

Author: Paul A. Carl, CHSA, CPFA Vice President, Retirement Plan Consulting, Registered Representative

The Memorial Day holiday gives our great nation an opportunity to pause and remember U.S. military members who died in service. Admittedly, my wife and I planned this past weekend for fun and as our official kickoff to summer. Two of our daughters and our dog accompanied us on a trip to visit our oldest son in Nashville, Tennessee. We enjoyed a fabulous 6-hour country music concert on Saturday, we attended church services and then a picnic with new friends on Sunday, and we visited beautiful historic Franklin, Tennessee on Memorial Day. 

On Monday, while the ladies popped into an open store front, my son and I found our way to the Visitor’s Center, gathering walking tour maps and learning about the day’s festivities. No craft show and no antique car show like we had hoped. However, we were in time for the annual Memorial Day Service. We made our way to Veterans Park and found a throng of people encircling the guest speaker (Bob Ravener, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, CEO, Author, Consultant Bob Ravener). I listened closely to Mr. Ravener’s speech about service and honor and remembrance. And I focused more closely on the crowd. Next to me stood an elderly couple who had been collecting donations for the local VFW. I watched their repeated process of holding hands, then release so he could steady himself against a street light, and then back to holding hands. In front of us stood a couple, maybe in their early- to mid-30’s. She gently rubbed his back in a circular motion every time the speaker referenced something about a fallen soldier. On the back of his t-shirt: “PTSD is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of absolute strength. PTSD is earned by doing what others fear.” The wording was embossed over the illustration of a fully geared soldier in the heat of combat. 

I thought about my father, a World War II Army Air Corps veteran who served in New Guinea and Manilla. My father-in-law, a WWII Navy veteran who served on a ship that crossed the equator seven times. My maternal uncles, Marines who fought together in Italy. I thought of stories about my paternal grandfather and his cousins who fought in France in World War I. One of the cousins returned from the Western Front and, in my dad’s words, “Came back goofy, completely messed up from a gas attack.” And I thought about my wife’s uncle – Aunt Vera’s first husband whose name my wife and I don’t even know - who died in WWII combat.

Two gentlemen, mayors from Williamson County and Franklin, followed the main speaker by reading the names of deceased soldiers. Most of the names included their dates of birth and death but a few included only their date of birth and some ambiguous ending like “World War II.” 

Some people never get a chance to retire. Whether drafted or enlisted, they fought. They fought for the United States. They fought so that my family and your family can think about the Memorial Day holiday as a three-day weekend and kick-off to summer.

To all those that serve or served, whether or not retired, "Thank you!" To those that served and never had the chance to retire, “THANK YOU!”

Who in your family history never had an opportunity to retire?

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