Jack O'Neill went to visit George the day he found out. It was convenient to have him there in Arlington.
"You'll never guess what they're doing now," he told his old commanding officer. He didn't wait for an answer. "They're promoting me. Again." They hadn't pinned the third star on his shoulder yet, but he could already feel the weight of it. Head of Homeworld Security had been bad enough- his new job would involve conducting the exploration of two galaxies, diplomatic relations with alien races, coordinating the long-awaited public disclosure of the Stargate, and last and worst; regularly liasing with the IOA. His staff had jokingly dubbed it Starfleet Command.
"It helps that the biggest threats are gone," Jack said. The war with the Ori was down to the mopping up. There hadn't been a serious Goa'uld bid for power since Ba'al. The Replicators weren't a threat in either galaxy. "But it's still quite a can of worms you left me holding, my friend. And what the hell am I still doing here, a thousand miles away from my favorite fishing hole?"
Not that he really needed an answer. The number of officers who had served out there among the stars was growing every day, but there were few with the necessary experience who would soon reach the rarified rank that Jack now occupied. He couldn't possibly let this office go to an officer without that offworld experience, even if the president was willing to let him. Jack looked across the field at the soft glimmer of white stones in the summer evening, each one marking a man or woman who'd served-- and the stars unseen overhead where men and women walked under his command. It was they who made it impossible to turn this down.
Jack took a deep breath. "I know. It wasn't what I wanted or expected or would have asked for. But--" Jack looked down at the marker, remembering the man who'd had his back, whether he stood looking down at the gate or in front of a congressional committee. "We don't leave our people behind." It wasn't a job you could walk away from. Not when your people were sometimes in more danger from decisions made inside the Beltway than they were from alien menaces. George certainly hadn't, or at least not until his health had left him no other choice.
He stared at the bland stone, inscription clear despite the gathering dusk. Lieutenant General George Hammond, devoted husband and father, opta ardua pennis astra sequi. Thanks to three months in a time loop, he could still translate that. "They choose hardship that follow the stars on wings," Jack smiled wryly. "Very appropos, sir."
One star, two, three-- that didn't matter. The fishing would be there for his rare visits. On bad days, he swore it was worse than Iraq, Antarctica and Ba'al's prison combined. But Jack had his people's backs.