Regretting My Decision to Get Out of the Army, or Not?

In October 2013, I wrote a post about why I resigned my commission with 15 years of service.  In that post, I discuss my reasons for resigning, which included:

  • I knew I would be a staff officer for a very long time
  • I knew I wouldn’t lead troops again
  • I don’t believe in the wars we are fighting
  • I don’t believe in the Jerry’s Kids Mentality in the Army
  • I got tired of the politics
  • I was born to be an entrepreneur
  • I have a huge vision for my life

If you haven’t read that post yet, please take a moment and do so.  It will make what you read below much easier to understand.

It’s been almost three years since I resigned my commission in the ARNG and two years since I resigned from the IRR.

People ask me all time if I regret that decision, so I figured it would be a great idea for a blog post.  I’ll do my best to answer objectively and honestly.

First and foremost, I am glad that I got out when I did.  I was really frustrated and angry with the way the Army was headed.   I was also burnt out and very frustrated and tired.

Sure, there are days when I miss it.  But, those days are few and far between.  The only time I really miss it is when I watch a cool Army movie or talk to an old buddy.

On the other hand, I don’t miss having a boss, driving an hour to drill or working endless unpaid hours outside of drill weekend.  I don’t miss the meetings, the politics or drama.  And I don’t miss having to run an adult day care center (for certain Soldiers).

Yes, most of my Soldiers were good, but there were a few that really got my blood boiling.  I’m sure you can relate.

Yes, I do miss leading Soldiers.  And yes, there are times when I miss wearing the uniform and doing some of the cool “tactical” things that we did.

But the freedom and lifestyle I live now are much better than they were back then.  And I am much happier.

Do I regret giving up my pension?

This really is a million dollar question.  I think my wife regrets it.  There are rare times when I think about what it would be like to have a pension at 60.  I would have received about $2400 per month in today’s dollars, when I turn 60 in the year 2037.

Would that extra money have helped me in my retirement years?  Yes. To say otherwise would be a lie.

Will I have to eat ALPO dog food in my retirement because I won’t have a military pension?  Maybe.  But, I doubt it.

I always envisioned my being a million dollar business (right from when I launched it in 2009), and if it ever does get there, then financially speaking my decision to get out was very smart.

Part of being an entrepreneur is taking calculated risks and I don’t mind doing that.

I know most people CLING to their security, but I’ve never been security minded.  I’m more OPPORTUNITY minded.

Will I go back in?  About six months ago I almost went back in.  I went to MEPS in Tampa and was medically cleared to go back in.  I was going through some tough times financially and thought it might be my only option.

But for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to sign on the dotted line.  I just remembered all the reasons that influenced me to get out in the first place, and I thought I would be a complete hypocrite to go back in, just because I needed some extra cash.

Am I embarrassed to admit this to you?  Yes.  But, I think it’s important for you to know.

At this point, I am 100% certain that I will not go back in.  I know I could still be a valuable asset to the Army, but there would be a HUGE conflict of interest if I had this site and went back in.  From the regulations I’ve read, and after speaking with some JAG professionals, I would have to either shut down or sell my website if I went back in.

Having as my business AND serving in uniform would be prohibited because I would supposedly be using my rank for private gain.  I don’t see it that way, but the Army does.

And I am not willing to give up my website, even if it means I can’t go back in.

What I’ve Learned

As I’ve matured during the past few years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.

First and foremost, we are exactly where we are in life because of the decisions we’ve made in the past.  In life, we always have options, even when we don’t think we do.

I’ve also learned that we can dwell on our past decisions or we can embrace those decisions and learn from them.  I meet a lot of people who tell me they got out and regret it.  Personally, I choose not to live that way.

Furthermore, I’ve learned that we are creatures of habit and we like to “stick to” what we know (our comfort zone), rather than embracing the unknown (even if the unknown is better).

I’ve also learned that we never really know what the future will bring.  Life is VERY short and very precious.  We don’t know if we will live 100 years or die tomorrow.  Personally, I’d rather chase my dreams and come up short than play it safe and cross the finish line, but wonder what could have been.

Advice for You

So, if you are at the point in your career where you are considering resigning your commission, I would like to offer you some advice.

First and foremost, evaluate your options.  Write down a list of things you want to accomplish in life and come up with a game plan on what it would take to accomplish those things.  Write down your dreams, goals, strengths and weaknesses.  Talk to other successful people you trust and admire and ask them questions.

Next, trust your instincts and gut!  Your gut is seldom wrong.  Deep down inside, you probably know what you want to do.  If spending 40 years in the Army is your dream, please do it.  If doing something else is your dream, please do it!  If you have no idea about what you want to do, then stay in the Army and get your pension.

Finally, always keep the door open.  If you decide to get out, consider transitioning to the IRR for a year or two until you are 100% sure what you want to do.  That way, if you change your mind, you can easily transfer back to the USAR or ARNG and still pursue your pension.

And once you make a decision (whether to stay in or get out) LIVE with the decision.  Don’t spend every day dwelling on your decision. If you get out, and dwell on your decision every single day, then trust your gut and go back in!  Once again, your gut is always right.

Final Thoughts

In summary, I would like to thank you for reading my post about my decision to resign my commission and talking about whether I regretted my decision to get out of the Army, or not.  I hope you can learn some valuable lessons from this post that you can use in your own decision making process.

Thanks for your service.  Please leave a comment below to tell me what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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15 thoughts on “Regretting My Decision to Get Out of the Army, or Not?”

  1. Really from the heart, I can tell… I think your decision to resign and not re-enlist was right for you, Sir. Sometimes, when you aren’t feeling like the position you’re in is truly meant for you, things go awry in your mind. I think being 100% content at any job, military or not, is necessary for both top performance and overall happiness, and it’s clear that maybe the military was no longer the best option.

  2. Well, I went back and read your original post so I could get a real good grasp of what you were dealing with and how you’ve come along. Lesser people would have dropped their dream and gone for the steady buck. It speaks volumes of your character. I think it stinks that you had to decide between your business and website and a pension. I know that wasn’t easy but I hope you are happy with your decision. In the end you have to own your decisions and move forward.

  3. Another thing I must mention is: maybe it is also meant to be. Whether you believe in God or not, it still comes down to the fact that I believe we all have our missions in life. Maybe your mission was to be in for awhile, but now your mission is where you are at. The paths of life lead in many directions.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Greg, I agree that things that are meant to be will always find a way. Even if, at the time, we don’t think it’s good. We don’t always like it when things turn out differently than we planned, but this usually ends for the better.

      1. You are so correct Candace. I sometimes question the way things go and then years later, I look back and see why and how much better off I was. Sometimes we just have to “roll with the punches” and realize those punches will make us stronger and wiser. There was someone who said, “What doesn’t kill you, just makes you stronger.” I have to always think of that every time I am feeling loads of stress.

  4. It takes a strong person to be as honest as you were in this post Chuck; I commend you for that. Sometimes, we as humans do not weigh all the variables. We sometimes only think about the money, but forget about peace and stress. Stress kills and if you are dead, you cannot take the money or material goods with. I have also made decisions that have cost me financially, but my level of stress dropped dramatically. We need to follow our gut instincts and then live with our decisions. I know this as a struggling writer; I could have stayed in the factory life in the cold Midwest, but Oh, how I love life in Puerto Rico, and the peace makes it much easier to write. Now back to working on my newest book: Puertorriqueños Who Served With Guts, Glory, and Honor

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I know of countless stories of the retiree who died within a year or two of retiring. Or, who got seriously ill. I think the years of stress just compound and add onto things, and if you don’t have a way to decompress, you’re in for some serious issues later on.

  5. First Chuck I want to commend you on a GREAT insight into your thoughts, struggles and decisions that put you on your path. That took some digging deep and guts to be that honest and forthright. And to me that is one of the biggest attributes of a GREAT leader and you just demonstrated that. I didn’t have the choice of resigning my commission. In the Summer of ’73 I got RIFed. The Army told thousands of Company Grade officers ..”Bye, thanks for your service and there’s the door”. Lots of disappointed guys with pissed off attitudes toward the Army. I think one of the biggest things about you describing your struggles and decisions is that its not just about resigning commission, etc You gave GREAT recommendations for any and all walks of life. These cross-roads are met by all. And what you described and what you did, will work for anyone, anytime. Thanks again for your courage and commitment, And THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, brother. GOD Bless America and ALL who serve her.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Lon, thank you for adding this perspective. Your experience has taught me a lot. Sometimes things work out against our will or what our plan was, but there is always a reason. We don’t HAVE to be bitter or have a bad attitude, it is our choice.

  6. Candace Ginestar

    Wow, Chuck – I really didn’t think about the fact that you being in would mean giving up your website. I don’t know if I would be able to stomach someone else owning something I built from the ground up, so I don’t blame you for not wanting to give this up. While I know you could have had a great military pension, since you are an entrepreneur, I think you are always focused on looking up and onward to the next thing. You had a lot of valuable experiences, but also have a lot to offer the civilian world.

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