Over the past few days, as I conclude my long voyage of service, I have worn each of those uniforms for the final time.
I put on the Service Dress White on a hot and humid morning in Washington DC, carefully pinning on the medals, ensuring I had the white gloves ready. I
drove to the Iwo Jima Memorial adjacent to Arlington ceremony to participate in a very special ceremony.
My 22 year-old daughter, Julia, was to be commissioned in the US Navy. A slender runner in build, Julia earned honors at Georgetown and chose to become a
Navy Nurse through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Program. I had been invited to be the graduation speaker for her entire NROTC corps, and so I
stood in front of several dozen young Ensigns in the Navy and Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps, and led them in the oath to the Constitution.
Julia was radiant in her whites, and looking at her and the entire class, I saw the future - of the Navy and Marine Corps, and our nation, and indeed our
family. Julia is the fourth generation in her family line to take an officer's commission. I remember thinking that as the grizzled old Admiral sails
beyond the horizon, the bright new Ensign arrives.
The final wearing of my Service Dress Blues came a day or so later, when I paid a final call on the President of the United States in the White House. I
had come to know the President over the past four years, as a US Combatant Commander in Europe and simultaneously as the NATO Supreme Allied Commander. As
always, he was gracious, focused, and kind. Spending time with him in a one-on-one final courtesy call was a significant privilege. We discussed events in
Afghanistan, NATO and its future, relations with Russia, and a number of other things.
I had worn my Blues many times over the decades from Annapolis, and again, this seemed an appropriate place to wear them for the last time, showing the
respect and deference to our civilian leadership that is the backbone of the US military.
That left the uniform I had worn by far the most--khakis were always the everyday uniform for my many, many years at sea. I had totaled it up, looking
through log books--in the course of 37 years since Annapolis, I had spent nearly ten years underway, day-for-day, out of sight of land, on the deep ocean.
When would I wear khakis for the last time?
Too soon. The following week, after flying to my home in Florida, I put on my Working Khakis for the last time to go visit a ship in at the Mayport Naval
Station. I chose to visit an ARLEIGH BURKE destroyer, the USS CARNEY, a destroyer identical to the one I had commanded back in the mid-1990s. The Captain
and the Executive Officer (the second in command) were bright young Commanders I had known and mentored for a decade, and they had invited me to take a
tour and have lunch with their wardroom.