Friday, August 28, 2009

An Anniversary

Janis once sang...
 It ain’t much, no, no honey it ain’t much,
Oh, it’s only every little thing,
Just-a everything, everything
Ah yeah.
But Janis was talking about "One Good Man" when she sang that.  Me... I'm on about an anniversary.  This anniversary "ain't much" in the grand scheme of things but it IS "every little thing," to me.  It was 46 years ago today I raised my right hand and swore the following oath:
I, Norman E. Pennington, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
 John Kennedy was president on that day, Pat Brown was the governor of California (from whence I entered service), The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" was on its way to the top of the pop charts, and I was on my way to Lackland AFB.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive and well (today is also the 46th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech) and Watts was yet to burn.  Vietnam was buried in the back pages of the newspapers if and when it was mentioned at all, and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident had yet to occur.  America was a much different place than it is today, yet it was still the same.

I was a much different person then, too... yet I'm still the same.  But August 28, 1963 was the watershed moment in my life.  A lot of water has gone over the dam and under the bridge since that day but I still define myself as a non-commissioned officer, even after all this time.  I find this passing strange in that I was arguably much more successful in civilian life than in the Air Force... assuming one uses responsibility, compensation, and positions in the corporate hierarchy as yardsticks.  While those civilian accomplishments were obviously important to me and to my happiness, they pale in memory and by comparison to my Air Force experiences.  Funny, that.

So... today was the day we began.  Here's how we ended:

The Second Mrs. Pennington is on the left and that's my commander, Colonel Taylor, shaking my hand.  It's not a good picture, what with it being a lil ragged around the edges, but it's the best we got... sorta like my career, appropriately enough.


  1. Geez Buck, I was born a few months later.

    I remember my enlistment date every year, along with boot camp graduation and separation date too. I suspect "we" all do it, no matter how long we were in or how long ago it was. Have all my uni's packed in a duffal bag, unopened for 24 yrs.,...maybe some day.

    One small thing though, could you date the second pic?

    Congrats and happy anny.

  2. Ah, tim... I got rid of my uniforms in The Great Downsizing and Divestiture of 1999. Like a lot of things, there was simply no room for 'em in El Casa Móvil De Pennington. There are times when I wish I still had 'em, too.

    The second pic is of my retirement ceremony in late March of 1985.

  3. Happy anniversary and rich memories!!

  4. Thanks, Moogie. It's been a strange sorta day. But good.

  5. Hey Buck,
    I just got back from Fort Jackson. Our Private First Class begins his service on your anniversary.

    The green/blue wheel keeps turning, moving forward in time regardless of our wishes to just stand still.

    Have a great weekend!

  6. The Great, I know about that. When I got kicked out by the first wife, if it didn't fit into a Toyota Corolla, it didn't go. Better yet, the cops helped me load the car.

  7. Darryl: That's cool about PFC Steve! And thanks for the weekend wishes.

    Gordon: Ummm... having the cops help you load your car doesn't sound like the most fun thing I've ever heard...

  8. Buck, it wasn't the most fun event, but at the end, as the cops and I were walking down the driveway to the street, I said, "Ordinarily, I'd offer you beer and pizza."

    The female half of the police team replied, "Ordinarily, we'd accept."

  9. The 25th anniversary of my enlistment date was on Aug. 14. As, always it passed with little notice. When I retired I was disgruntled and dissapointed in what my Navy had become. From what I read over at CDR Salamander, it isn't getting any better, yet.

    With that said, I do not regret one day that I spent in the service of this great country. While I don't know that it defines me, the guy in the mirror every morning knows he has been part of something greater than himself.

    I've said it before, but it bears repeating: thank you for your service Buck.

  10. And my thanks to both of you, who stuck it out much longer than I.

  11. BR and Gordon: Thanks. I'm thinking it was a lot easier for us Cold Warriors to stick it out back in the day. I'm also thinking the guys that are in it today and decide to "hang in there" are MUCH more deserving of our thanks. Which, of course, is not to take away anything from those of us who went before. The risk was there, and were it not for time and circumstance...

    And Gordon... you did your bit, and I thank you for it. The career thing wasn't for everyone; truth be told there were many a time I was on the edge of hanging it up, myownself.

  12. Dang. Forgot to add: the snappy repartee between you and the cops made me smile, Gordon. :D

  13. History is closer than you think when you frame your anniversary like this. It reminds me of one of Lex' posts how the Master Chief retiring today was a Seaman Recruit under a Master Chief during Viet Nam who was a Seaman Recruit in WWII... etc. all the way back. "Elephants all the way down." Or turtles. Whatever.

    What BR said in his last paragraph, Master Sergeant.

  14. Buck, I think you are right about the Cold War. It gave the military, and in turn us, a clearer sense of purpose.

    My disillusionment did not start until after the Cold War ended. With no clear purpose, leadership began to focus on meaningless things that did not make us a better force.

  15. Bob: The thing I find amazing is a lot of today's three and four star generals were lieutenants and captains back when I was a young airman or junior NCO. Those guys have a helluva lot more longevity than your average NCO, LOL! And thanks for you kind words.

    BR: I retired before the Cold War ended, thank God. I've kinda-sorta watched the Air Force deteriorate (from afar) and SN2 tells bureaucratic horror stories about the Navy... so I understand where you're coming from. I kinda sorta-blame careerism and a "one strike and you're out" mentality on the part of the organization for this deterioration.


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