Everyone who has lived as long as I have can point to a mere handful defining moments that helped shape the person we have become. One of mine was serving in the U.S. Army and the part that may have set me on a path towards success was boot camp.
I remember the confusion, the soreness of my arms from inordinate amounts of push-ups, and the never-ending quest to keep from getting screamed at for the most minute of details, things that we all thought were not important enough to warrant such extreme measures.
One day in one of our more tender moments, one of my drill sergeants (that's what the Army called them... the Marines called them drill instructors) gave us the "meaning and purpose" speech in one of the most relaxed settings that we were to have until graduation. He told us that although it may seem like they were not our friends, there were very specific rationales behind every thing they did to and for us.
This video speaks to the very thing that this drill sergeant was trying to convey to us on that fall afternoon, in the dayroom:
I do not know the stats or how they compared to the other military branches, but it was certainly true back in my day that drill sergeants had a very high divorce rate. And while many would have liked to have been home with their families, they spent long hours on the job to see that the needs of the trainees were met.
Many agonized over their inability to be home for their anniversaries, kids' birthdays, and the other meaningful moments that don't come around very often. But they soldiered on so we could have the attention we needed.
Today, the effects of those dedicated professionals that trained us silly kids from all walks of life are still with me.
Every time I feel like giving up on something that is necessary to do but is overly taxing and difficult, I think about the many times I wanted to quit on those long hilly road marches at Ft. Sill..... and didn't. When I want to throw up my hands and give in to the elements that work to subvert my cause, I think back to the days of those dry mouths, gasping for air, and enormously weighty ruck sacks that I felt I could no longer carry.... and I use it to push me through the moments that test me.
If I could see the faces of my drill sergeants one more time, I would thank them to no end for their dedication and hard work. I would express my sincere appreciation for what they did for me...so that I could now push myself to the uttermost limit, in moments when I feel like throwing up my hands and quitting.
I doubt I ever will see them again. But to Drill Sergeant Lewis and Drill Sergeant Duncan (I do not remember their first names) of 4th Platoon, Battery D, 4th Training Battalion in Ft. Sill Oklahoma (in September-November 1976), I say many thanks. I can never repay you both for what you have done, but I can tell my story to others and never forget your hard work.