Saturday Reflections: Boxes of Dust

I was wracking my brain this morning trying to remember my first real “Sergeant” I had in the army. I found out something, on accident I might add, that made me go back and dig through all of my US Army records and prompted my question. The US Government owes me more retirement under the retirement system which applies to me.

Her name was was Sergeant First Class (SFC) Carol Mohs. I liked her a lot. She was patient with this newly minted Private and showed me the ropes … so to speak.

Old Sergeants never die they just smell like they did and their advice is worth the stench.

I remember, when I was still in uniform dispensing the same time honored wisdom to new Privates she gave me. Only once did I ever have to be all “Sergeantly” with a couple of soldiers. Failure to salute an officer is a crime punishable by flogging in my book.

Old School
Standing tall and looking good!

Anyway, back to my story. SFC Mohs took me all over the place with her, showing me everything there was to see at the old 34th ID HQ. She even introduced me to the Commanding General at the time, who she happened to be on a first name basis with!  She was great. I was lucky to have known her.

One piece of advice always stuck in my head and never failed me. It is something I’ve gone back to, time and time again, and it still serves. She said, “Private Nowak, never … under any circumstances, you understand … never throw anything the army gives you in the trash. Put it in a file and at the end of the year put the date on it and put that file in the basement.”

So, in order to get credit for this time in my pension, I needed to produce my US Army orders to show the powers that be how much time I needed to be credited. All time served under what is called Title 10 service. So, down to the basement I go.

In the back of the room, an old apple box, sits in the corner. The sides are held together with multiple layers of tape and the box is normally covered in about an inch of dust. Over a few weeks I have gone through that box … line by line … page by page … looking for anything which will substantiate my claim to adjust my retirement. I found what I was looking for, but I also found tons of other things. Here is a partial list.

  • Love letters from my then fiance (wife of almost 21 years)
  • An old stationary book, used to hold stationary, I bought when I made my first trip to Norfolk.
  • A list of fellow squad members from the old 147th MI BN with phone numbers and addresses
  • A ship information sheet (USS Vella Gulf) for a tour I took while she was at port
  • Bunches of required financial statements I filed which pertained to college
  • An old ID card given back to me when I entered active duty
  • Promotion orders from E-1 through E-6
Picture2.jpg
They let an army guy tour the USS Vella Gulf

I think it’s fitting that this Memorial Day weekend I am going through life as a young soldier all over again. In some ways, it helps me remember the wonderful people I served with over the years. Military people are the greatest people in the world. The best ones lead by serving others. Being a senior NCO doesn’t mean you have people supporting you, it means you support those people below you. That is the lesson I learned from SFC Mohs.

And, in case you are wondering, the total amount of time I can add to my retirement credit is around 9 months. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when it comes time to retire, I know I’ll be glad that I went through that box. And to SFC Carol Mohs, who I lost touch with after she retired, I’d love to give her a great big ole hug. It was her advice which made this trip though memory lane possible. I didn’t know it then, but she was serving her troops as a leader and her advice still serves me today.

The United States Army has given me everything I have today. It made me who I am. This Memorial Day, think about the freedoms we have which were won by those who took an oath. That oath is to put their lives on the line for their fellow countrymen/countrywomen. NCO (non-commissioned officers) do not rise to their positions because they want to order people around, but they rise to that position because they want to serve others and see a world larger then their own.

-Your Humble Servant,

Formerly Staff Sergeant, Bryan Nowak

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