Now, I can finally add retiree to the list.
After 36 years of military duty, five deployments, and trips to more than 26 foreign countries, 1st Sgt. Duff McFadden has finally retired from the Iowa Army National Guard following ceremonies at the Camp Dodge Joint Maneuver Training Center in Johnston, Iowa.
After stints in the U.S. Navy, Naval Reserve, Active Army, and the Iowa National Guard, I've now laced up my combat boots for the final time. I began my military career with the Navy in 1976 and was stationed in San Diego, before entering the Naval Reserve. I joined the U.S. Army as a journalist in 1987, where I was stationed at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver, and then Fort Lewis, Wash., after serving in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I left the Active Duty Army in 1992.
I actually joined the Navy because I wanted a steady income for the first four years of marriage to my blushing bride, Janet (we recently celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary) and we wanted to get away from our families and start our life out together on our own two feet. Both of our sons were born while we were in the Navy.
However, if you'd have told me I would go on to retire from the military as a senior enlisted member, I would have laughed in your face.
My retirement ceremony proved to be a bitter-sweet one, especially since I've been serving in the Iowa National Guard since 1992, and working full-time in Public Affairs here since 2004. It always amazes me the number of lives you touch, whether you realize it or not, which was heartily evident by the number of family, friends and peers, who turned out for the ceremony.
Besides the usual retirement goodies - coins, cards, gag gifts - there were two very nice presents from my boss that particularly stood out and meant a lot to me.
I'm always talking up San Diego in my office, almost to the point where they were getting sick of it, although they were also more than willing to scratch that "San Diego itch." When my wife and I returned to America's Finest City for a visit during our anniversary in 2008, my coworkers provided a gift certificate for one our favorite restaurants there - The Red Sails Inn (which unfortunately, is now gone). After I complained about El Paso naming the Padres' newest AAA affiliate the Chihuahuas - you guessed it - they made sure to buy me a t-shirt with the new team logo on it.
By the same token, if anyone in the Guard wanted to take a trip to San Diego, they came to me for the lowdown on the best places to eat, places to see, things to do, what military discounts they can find, etc.
The first gift from Col. Greg Hapgood, my friend and boss, was a letter from the San Diego Padres extending their "sincere congratulations" upon my retirement from the military, wishing me "the best of luck as you embark on the next phase of your life." It was signed by Rear Admiral (Ret.) J.J. Quinn as part of the Padres' military program.
The second gift, was even more special and needless to say, even more impressive. Not content with just a letter from the Padres, Hapgood then called the City of San Diego to see if he could get another such letter from the mayor's office. The mayor's aide laughed and said they could do one better, and this City of San Diego "Duff McFadden Day" proclamation was the result. And yes, it was actually signed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and affixed with the seal of The City of San Diego.