Kathy Platoni Army Retirement Speech

US Army - July 19, 2014

Retirement . . . such an ugly word in my vocabulary. Out to pasture. Gone to bed. Removed from the work force. Taken out of circulation. Sending the old battleship out to the mothball fleet. None of these terms sound the least bit appealing.

According to Webster's Dictionary, retirement is defined as a pullback, pullout, recession, retreat, withdrawal. 

Related words include flinchrecoilrevulsiondisengagementdisentanglement, shrinking. 

Those seem aptly descriptive of the process, though God forbid that I dwindle further in size. I already have pedal extensions in my car. Go look. 

Retirement has also been defined as seclusion from the world; privacy; the act of going away or retreating. If that’s retirement, I’m failing miserably . . . not going anywhere.

Onset of old age. Hell, I’m still mastering acting my shoe size and not my age . . . .no goodness of fit there! How am I doing??

Retirement is the time when everybody calls you for crap you don’t want to do because they think you have more time.

Richard Armour states that, “Retired is being twice tired; first tired of working. Then tired of not.” Nope, don’t want to try that. I’ve mastered five current jobs and the 95-hour work week. According to LTC (RET) MP Glenda Hull, we’re all still waiting for the “RE” in tired to show up. So far I’m just tired.

Mary Brownworth attended a lot of seminars when she retired. These are called naps. Where’s my milk and cookies, damn it?
American painter Grandma Moses was born in 1860. Having lived all her life in New York's farm country, she took up painting when she was in her 70s and too frail to do the manual work of the farm. Hell, I can still jump 4 feet into the back of an MRAP, but I can’t paint worth a damn.

So for me, retirement has meant finding a new habitation to fill up the tank and further fuel my adrenalin addiction; and so I have found a new home, where police officers roam. It has been within the Dayton Police Department that I have been so very privileged to have found a newfangled place to wear my boots, hang my hat, and fulfill the need for such glorious camaraderie. And so tonight I also offer my tremendous thanks and gratitude to Dayton and Trotwood’s very finest and my brethren and sisters in blue. Bring on the SWAT callouts! My gear is already in the trunk. Bring on the SWAT callouts!

So all in all, I am very poorly suited for this thing called retirement.

On an emotional level, retirement from the Army has been an ending that has set in motion a perpetual mourning process. Dark days have ruled. I think of it more like an amputation . . . firstly of a 34-year career that I was not ready to relinquish and secondly, of spirit. Regardless, I have no choice but to adjust fire, suck it up, and drive on. It’s an Army thing. Here is the ticket, though. I was transferred to the Retired Reserve, so if the balloon goes up, Uncle Sam, please call me. Put me at the top of your list. Here are all my phone numbers. Bring all the documents in quintuplicate or however many 17 copies equals. I’ll bring the pen. Just show me where to sign. Let’s do this again. This is because being a Soldier is the grandest, most humbling, very most splendid job on the planet. It transcends everything else, beats every bit of what is good and right with the world.

But this event is about so much more about this than that retirement thing. It’s about the Warrior Ethos and the Soldiers’ Creed and the very values that have provided the most basic foundation for the majority of my life since the day I raised my hand and took the Oath of Office in September of 1979.

For chrissakes, I have boots older than most of the people in this room. (Show boots.)

Soldiers’ Creed

I am an American Soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States,  and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough,
trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy
the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

 And in the months since my actual retirement date, I learned yet another lesson. I discovered that the Soldier cannot be separated from or surgically removed from the grunt. My blood runs green. I’m a lifer.

It is about that very basic belief system that, “A Veteran - whether active duty, discharged, retired, National Guard, or Reserve - is someone who, at one point in their life,
wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including my life." Ladies and gentleman, this is what bona fide valor looks like.

It is about what is inscribed on the hero bracelets that those of us who survived the Fort Hood Massacre that reveals the mark of distinction for those souls brave enough to answer the call of duty: WHOM SHALL I SEND, AND WHO WILL GO FOR US?" Then this man, Isaiah, replied: "HERE AM I! SEND ME." It is about being ashamed to die until one has done something, many things for humanity and so I am far from done here.

Mission not yet accomplished, though I have been made rich by the voyage. And so this is the genuine reason for this epic event and tonight’s ceremony. We have gathered here so that I may honor and thank all of you magnificent individuals who sit before me here this evening. It is high time that I pay tribute to that overflowing banquet table of family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, SWOCISM members, and Army buddies who have sustained me through the years and who have actually believed in and celebrated my military service.

It is indeed a rare trait to be able to fully and genuinely appreciate the rigors and trials inherent in military service and to recognize the magnitude of the hardships and adversities and sacrifices, yet I have been surrounded and encircled by those who have so willingly done so with such mercy and grace.

Homecoming is such a desperately lonely and desolate place, fraught with the demons of war that demolish the spirit and cling to the soul. Neither have I been abandoned in the process of traveling each next 10,000 miles of difficult terrain. Life has too often been a sinkhole waiting to happen, but I never fell in. I had you as my life preservers. There is no one in this room who has not played some significant part in breaking my fall. For this, thanks and gratitude will never be sufficient.

 I would now like to take a moment to introduce to you, the long green and blue lines of the company of US Army, US Marine Corp, US Air Force, and US Navy heroes who have worn or still wear the uniform. Please stand as I call your name. If I missed anyone who has served in this capacity, please raise your hand so that I can give you a shout out too.

 . . . 

It is during the moments of abject horror, of not only the wartime theater, but sadly, on American soil as well, that true greatness so often reveals itself and where lessons that could not be learned elsewhere become the most formidable of teachers.

 It is because of the stuff of which such valiant human beings are made and what is inscribed upon their souls that what is benevolent and decent still exists. In a world gone wrong, overrun with entitlement, self-indulgence, self-promotion, greed, and ineptitude of colossal proportions, how extraordinary it is to witness such gallantry among those courageous enough to wear the uniform.

You, my fellow Soldiers, Airmen, and law enforcement officers, are the best that America has to offer. That places you in the category of national treasures. Though we comprise such a miniscule percentage of the American populace, you are the company of heroes, those remarkable souls who thrust themselves into harm’s way without a moment’s hesitation and who rush headlong towards the danger, among whom I have been privileged to walk. How blessed am I to march with those so willing to die for something than from something.

Kathy Platoni, Psy.D.
COL (RET), US Army

Kathy Platoni website