When I retired early from the CIA, I had no real concept of how hard it was going to be to transition from 35 years of government service to working on my own. I had no idea how it would feel to stop being at the forefront of the “action” of conflicts abroad and efforts to protect Americans from genuine threats to something more visible, but considerably more mundane and with less immediate impact.
On the other hand, my family and a few friends would be able for the first time in my life to get a better understanding of how I spent most of my career or at least the part from 1998-2015. They were finally able to look behind the veil of my vague descriptions and explanations for my absences from family events over the years as some senior officials recounted some of the events of my career. I missed the ceremonies and gatherings after my unit returned from Afghanistan in 2001/2 and Iraq in 2003/4 as I was off on other missions and my roles on those conflicts remained classified. After the ceremony, some of my family said they now understood why I was gone and that for the first time seemed real.
It was the first time my parents ever attended an official function for my careers in the military or the Agency. We have some funny memories of my Dad, pictured in the wheelchair. Witnesses claimed his hair was flying back as they flew through the halls of that vast building as he was being wheeled on two wheels of the chair as they tried to make it from a tour of the CIA’s museum to the ceremony on the other side of the headquarters. Dad passed last month, but I was grateful that after so many years of my parents trying to be supportive of things they did not quite understand about my life and lack of communication, they were able to get closure.
That ceremony marked the end of that portion of my life; and I cherish the memories of the adventures, missions, and people from that time. But that was not the end of my story, merely the end of a chapter. Now I seek to take those experiences behind the veil of secrecy and turn the lessons learned into information and actions that help people face the threats of violence in our world. I like to say I mentor shepherds for a world full of wolves. I felt satisfaction when I helped remove a threat to America; now I get even more satisfaction from helping people like you embrace the confidence and peace of mind that comes from being aware of the dangers and being prepared to meet them wherever and whenever they appear.
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