Last week I was honored to attend the Phantom Honors Retiree Ceremony at the Phantom Warrior Center. It was the first installation retirement ceremony I had attended.

When my husband and I walked into the room, I was struck by the feeling that came over me of gratitude. Gratitude for these public servants and their families who have sacrificed for more than two hundred years combined. Every service member that walked across the stage that morning had served between 20 and 33 years.

We were in attendance because our sweet friends were retiring after serving and sacrificing for this great nation for 22 years. We were lucky enough to meet this great Army family when we moved to Fort Hood in 2016.

As many can relate, our arrival to the Great Place was a whirlwind. We arrived. We lived in a hotel for 50-odd days. We got our house. We got our household goods, and then the next day, my husband deployed. It’s a familiar and all to common scenario for many families here at Fort Hood.

So back to this amazing couple. They became my family, and fast. We spent nights on the porch sharing stories. We shared the difficult moments. We celebrated the good times. We laughed. We cried. We ate and we drank. We gave thanks in November for Thanksgiving. We honored our veterans by placing wreaths at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Christmas.

As it was time for this couple to take the stage, my heart was full and my eyes were teary. I was so proud to know them. After they were recognized, friends and families flanked their sides for a photo.

There were so many people there to celebrate them. It got me thinking about what special humans they were. Friends traveled thousands of miles to be there.

I always say that your friends a true testament to the person that you are. I believe your friends are reflection of you. Well, this Army family is a shining example of what Army leaders look like.

Later that night, we attended a dinner to celebrate them. Now I had only known them for a couple of years, but those years changed my life and gave me friends I know I will have forever. In attendance, there were also friends that went back decades and the stories they shared of this Army family were filled with laughter and spoken with such love.

What struck me as each speaker got up, they shared examples of love, compassion and care this couple showed soldiers and their families.

When I think about service and the “why,” I think of so many different things; but most importantly, the greater good. This nation, the Army, the soldiers and their families are the lucky ones because they were exposed to two of the very best humans I have ever known.

Ceremonies are held monthly here at Fort Hood. So, if you have a chance to attend a ceremony for a friend or family member, do so.

Feel that gratitude. Feel the love. Be thankful. Be humbled. Celebrate their service and this nation. We are lucky to live in a country that holds those who serve in high regard.

To all those who have retired, thank you to you and your family for your decades of service and sacrifice.

To my sweet friends who head on to their next chapter, this nation is better because of your leadership, strength and courage. Our Army families know they are loved because of the time, care and friendship you shared with them. On to next adventure. We love you!

Reena O’Brien is an Army spouse and Herald Correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.

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