My Grandpa Rodgers’ health had been declining for the past few years.
In 2008, about six months after I’d separated from the Air Force, he suffered a stroke. Since I’d moved back to California after my military career ended, visiting him at the hospital in Fontana was relatively easy. Seeing him in that state, however, was not.
My final year in the Air Force–though I didn’t realize it would be at the time–started off slowly, but things would change soon enough.
My supervisor retired at the end of 2006, so another sergeant in the office took over his position. She rarely ever went over to the warehouse, spending most of her time at her desk in our flight’s office. As a result, I was, effectively, on my own in continuing to run and organize the warehouse, while my supervisor focused on other duties.
As my days in Las Vegas drew to a close, my coworkers arranged a going-away party for me… at Star Trek: The Experience.
Before leaving for the party, I checked my email, and discovered a message from the base education office. Apparently, the results of my last CLEP test had come in, fulfilling the final requirement for my Associate’s degree in Emergency Management. Effective June 1st, I was finally a college graduate.
As 2006 opened, my friends brought me along to a New Year’s party on the Strip, to help get my mind off everything that had happened over the past year.
The weekend, of course, brought new challenges to the brand new year. My dorm room shared a bathroom with the room next door, and my neighbor and I hosted a small party in my room. He, unfortunately, had too much to drink. When he insisted on trying to drive one of the girls back to her dorm, two blocks away, she and I both told him that he wouldn’t be driving anywhere that night, and took his keys away to make sure of it. His thinking process was clearly impaired, because his response was to dive headfirst off the second floor balcony at the end of the hallway where our dorm rooms were located.
In August, not long after I’d returned from summer camp with the Boy Scouts, the annual Las Vegas Star Trek Convention came around again. This would be my third year attending the convention, and this year, I would enter the costume contest.
Wearing a custom-made and fitted uniform from the movie era of the original Star Trek–specifically, the 2280s and ’90s, as seen in the films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan through the first act of Star Trek: Generations–I made my way to the Las Vegas Hilton. The contest wasn’t until later in the day, so I wandered the convention area. I’d tried to make the costume as accurate as possible. Heads turned everywhere I went. People wanted to get their photo taken with me. Some people even thought I worked at Star Trek: The Experience.
The events of the last two months clearly illustrated to me that my supervisor and superintendent were, most assuredly, not on my side. In fact, they were actively trying to find an excuse–any excuse–to build a case to force me out of the military.
I couldn’t figure out why. The most plausible explanation, according to another senior sergeant that I worked with, seemed to be that they felt threatened by how much more I knew about our job than they did: my supervisor wasn’t even from our career field and had never been trained for our primary job, and my superintendent had been in a headquarters position for several years, and the job had changed significantly in that time. Whether this was true or not, I’ll probably never know.
I started off 2004 on a high note. I was granted permission at the end of 2003 to move off base, and I was living in an apartment complex just across the street from the South end of Nellis Air Force Base. It was a one-bedroom, and it was the first time I had ever had a place that was completely my own. My dad gave me a kitchen table and chairs that he was no longer using, and I packed it into the back of my car during my visit at Christmas.