Here is the big issue that I have been dealing with since I've been here in Germany. I've been in the Army for six years come 8 August 2011. I joined when I was a month away from my 40th birthday. I look back now and I wonder what I was thinking. I was old enough to be the father of most of the others that joined when I did. But even being twice the age of many I was still better fit physically.
When one first come into the Army they are assigned a rank according to their level of education. The highest rank you can be right off the bat is an E-4, Specialist. I had an Associates Degree so I got to be an E-3, Private First Class or PFC. If you had a higher level of education you were an E-4 Specialist and encouraged to become an Officer which required a higher level of training. Anyway, after I finished all of the required training I was assigned to the HHB 1/145 Field Artillery at Camp Williams in Utah.
After I was there for a few months I was promoted to a Specialist. I didn't really have to do anything to get that promotion, that comes with time. Here some five years later I am still a Specialist. By now I should have been promoted to a Sergeant and I agree, that is where I want to be. In order to have that rank I am required to go to special training, but that is only if there is a "slot" open for me to be promoted to. And if there were a slot open it may be in another Unit and it may be another job which would once again require more training. As I mentioned, change in the Army isn't pleasant for me so I have stayed with the same Unit. I have since changed jobs but my job is in an E-4 Specialist slot so any chance of promotion is nil. I also really like the guys I drill with once a month and they like me and to me it is about serving my Country not the money or rank.
Fast forward to the present. I am now 45 almost 46 and am still a Specialist. When I am seen from a distance by other Soldiers they see the age before they see the rank. The right hand becomes ready to salute me because from a distant my rank looks like that of a Lieutenant Colonel. I've actually had people salute me and I kinda liked it. But as the Soldier gets closer and is able to see that I am only a Specialist there is no acknowledgement and most of the time not even a look. I also see the quizzical looks and puzzled minds thinking "Why is that old man still a Specialist?"
It hurts me deeply when those looks come my way. How I ache to be promoted to a SGT and to gain a bit of respect. What hurts the most is not receiving the respect for my age. In the Military is all about the rank, age has so little to do with it. I recently found out that any chance of promotion will not be mine until I go back to my unit in Utah which is another year or more away.
For whatever reason this is my lot. This is where Heavenly Father wants me. And though it humbles me to the dirt I accept it because I know I am where I am for His reasons which are beyond my understanding and being a Specialist is going to serve His purposes.
There is a song called "Better Than I" that has been the theme of my stay here in Germany. "For You know better than I. You know the way. I've let go the need to know why. For You know better than I." Certainly Father knows better than I.
I was given a blessing once that said "Be humble in all that you do. Humility is a virtue. Cultivate it and be willing always to subordinate yourself and your desires to those of the Savior and to those of you fellow men, wherein it is righteous and appropriate in the framework of the gospel to do so".
My goal now is to be humble and accept me as a 45 year old Specialist. Once I accept me then it won't matter if others don't. I get to choose how I feel and how I will respond to those around me. All that matters is what Father thinks about me. And I know that He thinks very highly of me and loves me more than I can ever comprehend.