For the most part, I really enjoy being retired. I have my first name back instead of a rank, I wear what I want, let my hair grow if I want and don’t have to shave on a daily basis.
But there are some times when I really wish I was still in uniform. Like now, while my old unit is deployed with the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, over to Europe.
Over the years, I never had the opportunity to spend quality time in Europe — layovers in Germany and Holland don’t count in my mind, although I did get the chance to vacation in Germany for a week once. No, the Marine Corps sent me to places like Karachi, Pakistan and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Army sent me to Kuwait, Iraq and Djibouti.
Not exactly what I would call prime vacation spots, although each of them had different historical aspects which at least made them interesting.
My fellow “Garryowen” troopers, however, are currently scattered across Eastern Europe. And while I’m glad I wasn’t around for the 2016 deployment to South Korea, I really wish I was with them for this particular rotation.
Mainly because I follow the unit’s Facebook page, and it recently had an opportunity to do something that would have been a dream for me. Heavy metal band Iron Maiden hosted members of my unit — and a few others within the brigade — during a concert they were performing in Poland.
I’ve always wanted to go to Poland anyway, as the history of the nation and the architecture in its cities have always fascinated me. But Iron Maiden has been my favorite band since I first heard their “Number of the Beast” album in 1982, and I would have dug out my old uniforms just to have the chance to meet them.
The band actually has a bit of a history with Garryowen. In 2012, our old commander Jay Miseli — a big Iron Maiden fan himself — invited the group to come visit them at Fort Hood. The band accepted, amazingly enough.
The members of the band are all huge history buffs, especially military history, so hanging out with a storied unit such as “Custer’s Own” was a treat. They even redid one of their iconic posters of their mascot, “Eddie,” decked out in an 1800s cavalry uniform, specifically for the unit.
It’s times like this I wish I had stuck around for just a few more years.
Then, of course, my knees start telling me otherwise. So a note to those thinking about getting out of the military, remember this: You may end up wishing you were still in, because cool things do still happen.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at email@example.com or 254-501-7554.