On a late sunny afternoon in September, 2002—only one year after the events on 9/11, I prepared to leave my cubicle workspace at the Program Executive Office for Simulations and Training Command (PEO STRI) in Orlando, Florida. Before departing for the exit door however, my immediate supervisor, a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) and the Project Manager for Training Devices (PM TRADE), a full Colonel (COL), blocked my “escape.” The LTC was first to speak.
“Congratulations…Major!” he announced while holding up a Ziploc bag full of Major insignia pins that once belonged to him. He extended his hand to congratulate me and was followed immediately by the Colonel.
“Yes, congratulations Major Meehan!” he added.
I vigorously and proudly shook both of the officer’s hands without even trying to hide my “professional” grin. Inside of me, my heart was doing the “Side-straddle-hop!” (Civilians know these as “jumping jacks”).
After an exchange of small talk, they departed, leaving me totally astounded. I could hardly wait to arrive home and share the good news with my wife, Trena. I was sure she would be as shocked as I was when hearing the news. Both of us could stare at each other with our mouths wide open in disbelief—one that was going to be joyful!
Two years before this extraordinary event took place; I learned that I had been “passed over” for a promotion from Captain to Major. When I heard the news, I was devastated. I was shocked beyond belief. Why shouldn’t I have been? I just completed a successful Company Command at Fort Bliss, Texas and was sent by the U.S. Army to a civilian college to earn my Master’s Degree in Computer Resources and Information Management. A follow on assignment to STRICOM (Simulation, Instrumentation, and Training Command, as it was known then) was all lined up immediately following graduation. What happened? When I shared that news with Trena, we stood there staring at each other—our mouths wide open in disbelief.
A year later, I was not only passed over for the second time, I was told that I had seven months left in the Army before they would force me out of the service. Fortunately, I had just completed eighteen years with my enlisted time accounting for seven of them and the Army had to keep me in until I reached my twenty-year retirement milestone. The second Passover was not as shocking. In fact, it was expected, which is normal for an officer that had been passed over once.
“Get your packet turned in before the convening of the next major’s promotion board!” my commanding General ordered.
“But sir, you know the situation; I have already been passed over twice!” I exclaimed.
“Do it now, Major Meehan!”
I woke up from this vivid dream and looked at the alarm clock. It was in the early morning hours of 3:00 a.m. I was not about to wake Trena from her slumber to share my dream. I’d wait until the next morning, which I did, and without soliciting much response from her.
That morning, I left for work as usual and at the end of my day in February 2002, I decided to call the Acquisitions Branch Manager to ask if it was even possible for me to submit another packet before the board. His answer surprised me while at the same time, motivated me to take action.
“Hey, you are still in the Army and have just as much right as any other Captain. I’m not going to stop you.”
When I arrived home and shared the news with Trena, she also became excited with renewed interest. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to put a packet together based on my performance this past year and pray.”
There were obstacles to hurdle to be sure, such as when the Deputy Commander, a Colonel, did not want to bother the General with something that would never happen, at least in his mind. Mustering up some boldness (I had nothing to lose), I told the Colonel that he couldn’t stop the process and that if he did not take it to the General, I would use his open door policy and take it to him myself.
He gazed at me and said, “Who is giving you this idea that you can even submit a packet?”
“The Branch Manager in D. C.,” I answered.
Fixing his gaze on me, he reached for the phone and called one of his contacts (another Colonel most likely) and inquired about my “cockamamie” idea of being promoted to Major after two passes. His eyes never left mine as he mumbled, “uh huh, uh huh, I see.”
After hanging up the phone, he looked at me and said, “Okay, I’m going to give it to him…against my better judgement.”
“Thank you sir!” I stood up, saluted, and walked out.
Later, I heard through the “grapevine” that the General even sent my promotion packet Fed Ex to Washington to ensure its timely arrival.
Four months later, the two colonels walked into my cubicle with the news of my promotion to major. The impossible happened again! With God, all things are possible.