Senior, sometimes I forget where I came from. They're changing this place. No more cursing at the students, no more fuckery to be had in the shop. We're like...professionals now.
We always were before.
I never got to thank Senior Banto for the warning. I owe you guys too much, and now I don't know where you went. For the transmission in the truck, for the beer. For setting me up with Allie, even though I balled it up.
Most of all, thanks for giving a shitbag a chance.
What they did to you wasn't right, forcing you out like that. It took me damn near six years to figure out what happened, and I would have done the same.
The reason behind you and you alone taking the fall was a river muddied by Clinton, Albright, my own immaturity. I know now, having seen the events again through the perspective that only half a decade can bring.
You did what a Chief is supposed to do, you defended your people for better or worse and then accepted the responsibility when others lacked courage and conviction.
Damned sense of duty. If I was a quitter I would have thrown in the towel years ago. You motherfuckers can take your Helo Master Plan, your COMHSMWINGPAC, your mandatory degrees and shitcan it all.
I busted my ass for you clowns for twelve years, now you want to change the rules of the game on me? So, Mike, thanks for playing and we realize that we told you if you gave everything in your life that was valuable we'd take care of you in the end.
But see, that's not the way things work anymore. We're all about looking good on paper see. We don't want technicians anymore. We don't want mechanics anymore. We want a bunch of dipshits that can't troubleshoot worth shit, but they sure do look good for our college graduation statistics.
The other day, my new XO was going through my service record and evals. Right in the middle of all this, he looks at me and says:
"Real middle of the road guy, aren't ya AT1? Never really done anything special have ya, but nothing really bad either. Huh. Kinda of a zero, dontcha think?"
"I guess, sir."
The day that Senior Wendell retired was one of those painfully bright southern California days, sunlit heat mixed with the lingering coolness of early morning fog. This was to be a ceremony in which I would not participate, here I would sit as a guest.
Later, I was invited to join them at the Chief's club on NAS North Island. Something of a big deal for a wiener of an AT2 who smoked too much, worked too hard, shot his mouth off a little too much. Chief Dowen and I are talking about a gripe on one of the birds when Senior Banto comes orbiting around the open courtyard to where we are standing.
"You see the back of Ron's shadowbox?" He asks, something significant bouncing around behind his eyes.
"No, I didn't."
"C'mere." We walk over to where all of the doodads and whatnot from the retirement ceremony are laid out on a table. It seems bizarre that an entire 23-year career can end and yield nothing more than some framed ribbons and a neatly folded flag. Senior Banto gently lifts the box up, leans it forward and points to a small brass plaque on the reverse. There are words engraved there, they read:
There is no justice. Just us.
Someone taps me on the shoulder and I turn to find myself facing the atypically somber Senior Wendell. "And Yurei, you're one of us."
Thanks Senior, thanks for the trust. I'll do my damndest not to fuck it away.