'Living the American dream'

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The familiar, daily routine of driving on base to work and showing a military identification card has not changed for retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Burgess who left active duty in 2009.

After retiring from the Air Force, Burgess applied for a job in the 23rd CES to work with familiar faces. The only difference between now and then is the uniform he wore for 23 years.

"I lived in a small town and two of my brothers went into the service," said Burgess, 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron facility maintenance technician. "One went into the Navy, and another went into the Army. I figured the Air Force would be a better choice, and I never looked back. It was the best decision I ever made."

Burgess worked in supply for 11 years before he was forced to retrain into a civil engineer squadron. His first assignment was Joint Base Lewis-McChord, followed by bases in Germany, Guam and the United States.

Although the transition was smooth for him, the military is not for everyone, said Burgess.

"When I first came into the military, adapting to the lifestyle was challenging, but it's easy once you're used to it," he said. "It's the individual that makes it difficult."

For Burgess, it was the initial people he worked with who helped him realize he would be a career Airman.

"I knew it was going to be a career when I got to my first base," said Burgess. "I had excellent supervision and they taught me a lot. That first impression stuck with me.

"A lot of people don't appreciate what they have until it's gone," he added. "Military life isn't always easy, but it was great for me and I would do it again."

For another military retiree, the realization that he would stay in for 20 years came even sooner.

"I was 24 years old with a two-year degree in electronics when I joined," said retired Master Sgt. Daniel Burton, 23rd CES contract officer representative. "I wanted a career. I came in knowing I would do 20 years and when my reenlistment came up there was no doubt in my mind. I would have just signed for 20 years if I could."

After more than 20 years of service each, Burgess and Burton returned after active duty retirement to the life they know so well.

"My career was wonderful and I wouldn't trade it for anything," said Burton. "The military was all I had known my whole life and I never looked for anything else. I'm living the American dream every day."