Column – Army veteran freed five years too late

Kenny Lindberg

I was honorably discharged from the military nearly one month ago, and it still hasn’t sunk in. I don’t know how long it will take, but it feels surreal.

It feels unbelievable. I have never truly appreciated my freedom as much as I do now.

I was an active duty combat engineer, or minesweeper, for the U.S. Army between 2001 and 2004. However, because of a little known and rarely publicized clause, I wasn’t discharged until March 24, 2009.

This clause is known as the Individual Ready Reserve, and allows the military to call up soldiers after they leave active duty. This can be done as late as five years after one has left the military.

Recruiters will tell you that you’re signing up for a three or four year enlistment. Very few know prior to enlisting that all enlisted soldiers, regardless of what their contract says, sign up for an eight-year service obligation.

I actually asked my recruiter prior to signing any documents what the number “8” represented in my contract, and I was told verbatim, “Don’t worry about that, that’s a typo.”

That typo represented five years of ducking desperate army recruiters, countless letters, orders sent and rescinded, and years of knowing that at any time in my life, for any reason, I could be called to serve again.

This clause is absolutely ridiculous.

You should not be able to ask someone that has already fulfilled their initial military obligation to serve again, after five years of inactivity, simply because recruiting numbers are down.

So much happens over the course of five years. I’m nearly 50 pounds heavier, and have a completely different outlook on life.

Granted, the military needs to have soldiers that they can call upon in case of national emergencies, but those soldiers should come from either the < ahref=””>National Guard or the Army Reserve, not the inactive Individual Ready Reserve-a completely different entity full of soldiers who thought they had fulfilled their duty.

I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid to serve again, and I have definitely considered rejoining many times.

It’s the idea of not knowing, and the fear tactics used by army recruiters that just makes life so difficult.

I enjoyed my time in the Army. I was stationed in Bamberg, Germany, and I was a member of the invading troops of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. I’m a proud patriot and I love this country.

The military changed my life, taking me from the 18-year old boy I was into the man I am today. I would gladly do it all over again, and I will continue to recommend that others serve as well-but the military does have its flaws, and this is one of them.

Every time there has been a troop increase in Iraq or Afghanistan, I’ve received phone calls, telling me that I can either join now and secure a good job with bonuses, or I will face the very real possibility of being called up, since the military is mobilizing people left and right.

Well, the lies, the harassing calls, the censorship and the uncertain future…they’re all over now.

Freedom has never tasted this good.