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Reflections on Veterans Day

Thirty years later.

Any regular reader of this blog knows, due to my references to the U.S. Army, that I am a veteran. Nov. 15, 2021, marks my 30th anniversary of exiting the military That’s right: Nov. 15, 1991, was my last day in the service.

A few thoughts:

  • I did not carry the military with me into civilian life. Initially, my biggest fear was standing up in a meeting and introducing myself as Major Holdeman. While I am proud of my service, that era is behind me. I fully understand a full colonel or general officer having a COL (Ret) in their signature block. Maybe it is because I retired as a major that it is not important to me. I’m proud of my military service, but I’m not defined by it.
  • Why a major and not a colonel? I certainly made some mistakes in my 20 years of service, but one of them was not being disloyal to my commander. How can loyalty be bad, you say? A subordinate, in the military and as a civilian, is to give their bosses their best advice, even when the boss doesn’t want to hear it. Then when the boss makes a decision, perhaps contrary to what you personally recommended, you are to support it like it was your idea. Trust me on this — it doesn’t always work out well — but, I sleep well at night, I was truthful and I was loyal. I was not a yes sir, yes sir, two-bags-full brownnoser.
  • The Army was a great training ground for me as I transitioned out of the military service and into emergency management. This is especially true for disaster response, operations, training and exercises — not to mention planning. Mitigation, on the other hand, was a new term to me and many emergency managers in 1993. I remember one saying, “Mitigation, it sounds like litigation!”
  • If I could wave my magic wand, I would require every high school graduate to have two years of civic service. No deferments, no Harvard. They could go into the military or another government-sponsored activity, like the Civilian Conservation Corps, teachers aid, etc. We have become too focused on self, with little focus on service.

Now off my soap box, it is the start of a new day and another year of not being in the military but applying the lessons I learned there to my emergency management duties.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.
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