T-603 Days and Counting

I decided to check my enlistment contract for the US Army today. Why? I wanted to figure out how long I had until my initial 8 years is up. See, even though I’m not on Active Duty, I’m technically still in the Army until 8 years after my enlistment date – though classified as Inactive Ready Reserve during the remainer of my non-Active term.

I have 603 more days. You would think that, after those 603 days are up, I’m free and clear, right?

It’s amazing the things you realize after it’s too late to do anything about them…

Army enlistment contract (C)(9)(c): “In the event of war, my enlistment in the Armed Forces continues until six (6) months after the war ends, unless my enlistment is ended sooner by the President of the United States.

–> Thankfully, Congress hasn’t issued a formal declaration of “war” since World War II. I’m not sure if that is how this contract uses the term, but I hope so. Otherwise, everyone enlisting in the US Army is technically on the hook until the end of time.

Army enlistment contract (C)(10)(b): “If I am a member of a Reserve Component of an Armed Force at the beginning of a period of war or national emergency declared by Congress, or if I become a member during that period, my military service may be extended without my consent until six (6) months after the end of that period of war.

–> After leaving the Active component of the US Army, I entered the Reserve component (603 more days to go). Unlike a Declaration of War, Congress declares states of national emergency all the time – about one every nine months since 1976, most of these for the purpose of restricting trade with certain foreign entities under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Most recently, in 2008 Congress declared an emergency citing North Korea and the risk of proliferation of weapon-usable fissile material. Thankfully, these states of emergency can only exist for two years. However, since Congress seems to declare a new one every nine months, cascading “emergencies” can effectively lock any soldier into perpetual service. It’s not that I think this will influence my term of service, or that I will be called back to Active Duty at any point. I could, though, and that is disturbing.

There are other clauses similar to the one above. But I think this last one is the most disturbing. In effect, once you enlist in the Army you are never technically free.

I don’t regret enlisting. OK, a little bit of me does. I really want to see my kids grow up, and after two tours in Iraq I think I’ve earned the right. Anyway, I don’t really regret it. Even knowing everything I know now, I’d still do it again. I enlisted to serve and that’s what I did. I’m proud to have had the opportunity. It’s the almost insidious nature of the contract that weighs a little on my soul right now.

I’ve written and erased a couple dozen paragraphs in the last hour. I can’t really put into words what’s going on inside me right now.

The world is a dangerous place and I thank God for all the people working to keep me safe while I throw birthday parties for my little ones. What’s more, I loathe the evil in the world that requires brave young men and women to sacrifice so much so I can do it. The thought that the evil won’t subside, or these guardians of our way of life won’t get their well deserved rest…

603 days just can’t pass fast enough.

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