It was a very rare occasion indeed in Basic Training (Army) if I thought, “Wow, this is fun!” More often than not I was digging deeper into myself, looking for the strength and courage to meet the next challenge; wanting to help others find the same strength; encouraging them on and appreciating it when they did the same for me. More often than not, that “strength” was just being determined not to quit. There were no other options: do what was required or drop out. I was NOT going to be the guy who couldn’t finish Basic Training – no matter how much a particular moment might be challenging or painful. In those moments I would silently chant something I had read:
I’d like to say it was all easy – but I’d be lying. I can still clearly remember the morning PT runs, sometimes in the rain, and quite often thinking, “Others drop out; why can’t I?” I remember a 15-mile force march that I ended carrying TWO rucks and TWO weapons because a fellow soldier claimed inability to carry them anymore and the drill sergeants made it clear that either ALL of us would finish the march or NONE of us would get credit for doing so. We weren’t about to repeat it, so some of us carried the gear of those who couldn’t (wouldn’t?). My feet, legs and back were definitely aching when we were done, but the satisfaction of having successfully completed that march was a feeling few other experiences can compare to for the pure pride of the moment.
A few weeks later we did an even longer march – 22 miles – with full gear again. It was far more difficult and the temptation to quit was even greater. I remember being so miserable at the end of it that I stood in formation with tears running down my face, aching for a shower and my rack. I wasn’t the only one.
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