Have you ever upset someone so much that they couldn’t speak? That was the (wildly uncomfortable) situation I found myself in when I told my mother that we had made our decision… I was getting out of the Air Force after 12 years, foregoing an active duty retirement and walking away to start a farm. The silence was deafening. She was mad. Mad because in her mind I was endangering my family by foolishly quitting a career that I was good at. Mad because I was turning my back on a stable job that pays extremely well in the worst of uncertain times. Of course I know that she only wanted the best for us and was/is scared for us, and to her credit there is an element of truth in all of her concerns.
Ultimately, all of her fears boil down to financial security, and to be perfectly honest so did ours. I’m the first to admit that I get paid very well for what I do, and the best of my financial situation is still in front of me. Here is a quick look at my projected income from now until I am eligible to retire with 20 years of service. These numbers are before taxes, assume no higher promotion than Lieutenant Colonel (one step above where I am now) and are at today’s pay rates (which typically go up yearly w/ cost of living):
** NOTE : The following figures are not intended to brag, cause any hurt feelings or step on any toes (and are readily available online)… but instead are included only to prove my point**
|Base Pay||Add’l Pay||Fly Pay||Total/Yr|
As you can see, whether to walk away or stay in for 8 more years of active duty is almost literally a Million Dollar Question! Granted, these numbers are pre-tax and don’t include any expenditures, but they also don’t account for family separation pay (deployments), aviation continuation bonus ($125K), or the fact that I would be receiving an active duty retirement check (1/2 my base pay) starting at age 42 for the rest of my life.
So how is it that two rational people crunch those kind of numbers and decide this is a good idea? The fact of the matter is that it isn’t just about the cash. When we dream about the farm, we envision a place where our children can grow up knowing the benefit of hard work and personal responsibility. A place where our family can work, play, and grow together. A place where the threat of deploying to dangerous places in an effort to protect/extend a government that we’ve lost some amount of faith in is gone. Yes, you can do most of these things wherever you are, but in my opinion they are a lot easier in a rural environment! But saying it and doing it are two totally different things… when it came right down to it, could we really pick up and leave?
This decision was the hardest one that either of us have ever faced. We prayed, fasted, talked it over, sought council from the wise, journaled, and prayed some more! Ultimately, when we considered all we had to gain, all we stood to escape and all that we might lose, there was really only one thing keeping us in the Air Force. You guessed it… money. The scariest, most contra-societal, seemingly reckless part about this decision is the fact that we are walking away from all that money. But our answer to the Million Dollar Question is simple. Being scared about the money just isn’t enough to justify ignoring our calling, foregoing the dream or undercutting our faith. Our God is bigger than our finances, and our faith assures us that we will be taken care of as we strive to place ourselves in the center of his will. That truth is what gives us the strength and fortitude to press forward knowing that, in the midst of financial uncertainty, God is with us and we will be just fine!