Saw some great pictures of your R-Day on social media. Thought of you this morning when I went to the gym and you were headed to PT with your new friends, the First Detail Beast Cadre. I also had in mind some other people.
In Kansas there’s a rising high school freshman working out for football. He doesn’t know it yet, but in a few years he’ll see a TV commercial that will make him think about joining the Army. Six short years from now he’ll be a SAW gunner in your platoon and, beset by Georgia heat and humidity, he’ll want to fall out of a grueling road march. Then you’ll stride by, sweat-soaked and smiling, and you’ll say, “Looking good! Is that thing getting any lighter? Keep it up!” And he’ll wonder if your feet hurt too but he’ll decide he does not want to let you down, and when his squad leader says, “On your feet!” he’ll get up.
Out in Hawaii there’s a Sergeant celebrating her first re-enlistment in the sunshine inside one of those 1930’s quadrangles. Years from now a Sergeant Major will ask her to become First Sergeant of the company you command, and she’ll take the job because the word among the NCOs is that you know your stuff, you listen to your leaders and you don’t take yourself too seriously.
There is a nine-year old in New Jersey whose uncles and grandfathers all served. In a decade, on a no-name road, maybe someplace in Africa, he’ll piss his pants when his convoy is ambushed and the windshield right in front of his face flies apart in bright pieces. But then he’ll hear your voice on the radio and he’ll see you and a platoon sergeant giving the signal to advance, and he’ll remember the drill for “react to near ambush,” and he’ll move out, weapon shoulder-high.
Right now there’s a kid growing up in LA, and he’ll be the first of his family to graduate high school. One night you’ll spend a few hours together waiting on a dawn rendezvous and looking up at a billion desert stars. You’ll both talk about why you joined the Army, and the darkness and the ridiculous hour will make it easy to be honest, so he’ll share something with you that even his buddies don’t know about him. You won’t know what to say, so you’ll be quiet, and later you’ll realize that was the best answer.
Someday, sooner than you think, you’ll be a captain, and you’ll sit at your desk with an MP arrest report on one of your NCOs. And he’ll tell you about his marital problems and his money problems; and even though you suspect it’s really a drinking problem, you’ll do your best to be fair, because you’ve got to think about what’s best for him and his family—and also how you’ll do what’s right for the morale and discipline of the whole unit. And you’ll remember something another NCO said to you, that you ”get paid the big bucks to make the hard calls.”
Right now there’s a family in Florida expecting a little girl, and she’ll grow up to be a TV reporter for a local station, and she’ll call you one day and ask if she can interview you about your recent retirement after a career in the US Army. And as you watch her walk up your driveway, you’ll wonder how you can possibly explain it all, how you can capture even a fraction of your experience. You may or your may not be satisfied with how the interview turns out, but know this: if you do your duty, and you do it to the best of your ability in all the million little things as well as the few big things, you can look back with some pride on how you served your country.
So don’t feel sorry for yourself. Pull up your big-girl or your big-boy pants, help your buddies, and get ready to be the kind of leader those soldiers deserve.