This author has been out of federal government and military service for a while now — officially about six years — and as my service in that capacity recedes into the background, I have noted two things happening in my life. First, I am accumulating a new set of experiences as a city firefighter and EMT, with all that those jobs entail. New challenges and new “enemies” — fire and heroin epidemics, for example — are supplanting old enemies like al Qaida in my limited brain space.
I spend much more time these days thinking about structure fires than I do about the hierarchy of leadership within al Qaida and other terrorist groups. No, I have not completely stopped thinking about those terrorism issues, but I am no longer an expert in them. I no longer have the benefit of receiving newly acquired intelligence on a daily basis, nor do I spend my waking hours engrossed in the subject like I once did.
Secondly, experiences from my military and CIA days have recently begun to recede back into that space in my mind reserved for things that happened “back in the day.” As that service moves further and further into the past, the associated memories have also begun to change and evolve, as I suspect they have for all veterans who have moved out of the military and national security world.
As an example of this phenomenon, take a look at this recently produced video from former Army Ranger Mat Best. You will note a similar evolution occurring within him, as well it seems (although I hesitate to speak for anyone else’s experience). The symbolism of Best turning away from the “military” version of himself depicted in the video — as he runs away from the uniformed figure into the desert landscape — is hard to miss.