Bidding Farewell to Arms

For the past year, I could only provide a frustratingly long answer to the simple, frequently asked question, Are you still in the Army?

When I commissioned as an infantry officer in March, 2000, my contract specified four years of active service and four years in the inactive reserve (I.R.R.) — a name on a list. During graduate school, my answer was simple: Sort of. I’m still a name on a list.

At the eight year mark, I would have been allowed to resign my commission and irrevocably separate myself from the military, but my number came up at the seven year and two month mark, mobilizing me, as the letter said in all capital letters, “FOR 545 DAYS UNLESS EXTENDED.”

Of course, the military had the right to do this according to the contract I signed back in 2000. I was not a victim of new policy. I either knew or should have known — can’t remember which.

The 545 days came and went and I returned safely and soundly from Afghanistan’s Kunar Province to Iowa City where I began reassembling my life. . . .

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