Sunday, September 05, 2010

My Gratitude For Some Life Altering Lessons

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 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.


Z said...

What an amazing post, LA..thanks for this. Got my eyes teary reading your words and your gratitude for those hard working, dedicated drill sergeants.
"I don't know but I've been told.." comes to my mind, but I only know that from the film "Officer and a Gentleman"...What I didn't know is that soldiers all over the world march to that tune and those words...a friend from BELIZ did, anyway, he told me just last week!
We owe these guys everything if they produced or at least 'honed' men like you and Mustang.
They train those who keep us safe.
Huge gratitude to them.

LASunsett said...


I do not get too teary on too many things. But when I saw the freckle faced kid and heard the Drill Sergeant talk about the purpose of his job, it made me tear up.

That freckle faced kid was me, 34 years ago (about this time of year). So I may not be too outwardly emotional, but I am sentimental.