Over my school’s winter break, I was lucky enough to visit my family at their current home in Wiesbaden, Germany. After my parents picked me up from the airport, we headed on post, and my siblings practiced our well-rehearsed routine of passing up our ID cards for the gate guard to scan.
As I pulled mine out, however, something caught my eye: the expiration date. In just a few short months, my ID card will expire–for good, I think. On my 26th birthday, I’ll lose my eligibility for TriCare Young Adult health insurance, and thus will lose my ability to keep a military ID card. I’ve been able to fend off this milestone for a while–first through going to college, then by using TriCare Young Adult after graduation–but it’s coming, and this time there’s no avoiding it.
This should have been a trivial moment. I only go on military bases a few days a year at this point, I never shop at the Commissary or PX without a family member beside me, and I’m not even on TriCare anymore. But in that moment of realization, I felt a sort of visceral shock and sadness. That ID card marks the official connection between myself and the US military, and once it’s gone, I’m not sure my relationship with the military will ever be the same.
The military has been perhaps the single most important institution in my young life, and I suspect that’s true for many of us. It shaped where I lived, who I interacted with, what I valued and wanted to do with my life, and so much more.
At this point, however, I’mmaking many of those decisions for myself, and my reliance on the military has faded fast. The vast majority of the people I work with and hang out with have little or no connection to the armed forces. I now see the army from much more of an outsider perspective, and as none of my siblings have any plans to join the military, I’m not sure I’ll ever regain that sense of belonging I once had.
My Dad is still active duty, so my family is still pretty attached to the Army,but once he retires, I’m not sure how, or if, I’ll still feel connected. The military has already left a massive and indelible mark on me, but will I continue to feel a part of that broader community once my physical connection becomes obsolete?
I know many Corvias Scholars and Alumni have already negotiated that transition away from the military, and I’d love to hear how you navigated that path. Do you still feel like a part of the ‘military’? Are you as comfortable identifying yourself as part of the military community? Is there anything you miss about having an ID card? (I know I’m already dreading not being able to use the gym when I visit my family…) Your advice would be incredibly valuable to those of us fearful of giving up our MWR privileges, so please share in the comments!