POSTED: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 5:20pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 11:40pm
Fort Bliss, TX (KTSM) — Wednesday, at Fort Bliss, 27 soldiers retired. Their service totals more than 600 years. It's the only career most of them have known, military service.
"It just opens up the next chapter of my life," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Valdez Jr.
He served as a helicopter pilot for most of his 25 years in the Army.
"It's bittersweet," he said. "The thing that I'll miss the most is flying the Apache".
Now he and the 26 other retirees must move onto another job and career. Although, Valdez will most likely remain a helicopter pilot. Whether or not he stays in the Borderland is the big question.
"The arrival of military retirees to this region is unambiguously good," said UTEP Economics professor Dr. Tom Fullerton. "Whether its Otero county, Dona Ana county or El Paso county, it adds to the income base of the region ".
Defense sector cutbacks and military force reduction over the next three to five years are decreasing the number of positions in the higher ranks, forcing some who want to continue in the military to retire.
"There are a lot of people that retire here and then stay here," said Major Joe Buccino of Fort Bliss.
Whether they stay or go, the transition is a big one.
"I thrive on not knowing what's going on tomorrow," Valdez said.
A future of uncertainty, certainly full of possibility.