At Least

Packing a bag again for a few days away from home. At least it’s not months.

Explaining to my 4 year old that I’ll be gone for a little while. At least I’m leaving when he’s awake and I get to say bye for now. 

Cancelling my leave that was scheduled for six months in advance because “we don’t have the bodies.” At least I didn’t spend any money on it and it’s not use-or-lose leave that might disappear on October 1st.

Stepping onto a plane for the 11th time in 13 days. At least I’m supposed to get some down time later this month.

Hitting my maximum allowable flight hours within a particular period and then got the waiver to just fly more. At least they’re still paying attention to the rules. At least we’re not in a situation like combat where dire and urgent need trumps the regulations for routine missions.

Flying several days for questionable reasons with little chance of accomplishing the mission. At least it was with a good crew that is in the same frustrating circumstance with me, so our individual miseries have great company.

Landing each day with enough time to get home, sleep, and go do it again the next day. At least the schedule changed so I usually see my kids’ faces for a few minutes before they go to bed or before I leave for work.

At least I am coming home each day (usually). At least I am not in a combat zone, threatened in the air or hunkered down on the ground. At least my family is well taken care of, and at least my wife is unquestioningly supportive and undeservedly patient.

I often joke that “I love my job” when there are reasons to complain. At least there are parts of it that I really do love.

Not all our servicemembers can say the same. Not all of them can claim the “at leasts” that I can. My heartfelt thanks to my brothers and sisters in arms in crappier places working longer hours doing harder jobs in worse conditions. Much appreciation also to the family members, friends, and loved ones who provide that support to the men and women wearing America’s various uniforms. You all make me proud.

I raised my right hand and swore an oath of my own free will. At least I serve a nation that–while admittedly imperfect–rewards honorable service in support of lofty ideals instead of demanding subservience to the whims of a dictator or ideology.

I’ll settle for these things today.

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