It's the year 2008. The housing market hasn't crashed. Yet. Obama is getting ready for his second term in Office. Gas prices are around $3.00 a gallon, and I'm sitting in Fort Benning, GA, wondering why I made this horrible decision.
You see, I was 20 years old at the time, and I had decided I wanted to DO something with my life. See exotic places. Do something crazy. Joining the Military was my "rebellious act" that took me from my small-town existence and threw me face-first into the world of men.
Back to the story.... So I'm sitting here in the sweltering heat of a South Georgia Summer, and I'm literally sweating more liquid than it's humanly possible to take in. Sweating from places that sweat shouldn't come from. And I'm from Alabama. I thought this would be a piece of cake. Summers in good ol' Bama are hot, humid, and horrid. You walk outside, and before you can even get to your car, you're pouring sweat. God forbid you get in before the A/C is turned on.
Anyway, let's just say I wasn't ready. In high school, I was what you would classify as a "geek." I was not only a teacher's kid... I was the child of TWO teachers. Double the expectations. Double the letdown. I played soccer from 9th to 11th grade, and if you know anything about the South, you'll know that wasn't the "cool" sport. Football was the cool sport. I was in decent enough shape, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong.
When I joined the Army, I let my recruiter talk me into joining the Infantry. Even with an ASVAB score of 94, the idea of jumping out of planes, fighting the bad guy face to face, and carrying big guns that shot big bullets was highly alluring to a 20-year-old kid. So that's what I did. I joined the United States Army Infantry, I signed an Airborne School contract, and I was shipped right off to Fort Benning, GA, where I learned the difference between being a man and being a boy.
At this point in my life, joining the military to be all I could be was, in my mind, the worst decision I ever made. I was constantly yelled at, forced to drink more water than a fish, run harder than a marathon runner, and trained constantly for the inevitable deployment to the Middle East. I had had my head shaved, and since I wore contacts in the regular world, I had to wear what was known as BCGs in the Army. That stands for two things.... Ballistic Combat Glasses.... or what we called them, Birth Control Glasses. Cause there's no way any woman in her right mind would speak to you when you're wearing those.
So, I'm sitting here with a 60 pound rucksack, a 30 pound machine gun, 120 pounds of ammunition, and my squad leader yelling at me to move faster. You could say I was regretting my decision.
But now, when I look back at that time on Sand Hill, I wish I could go back. That was the first time in my entire life that I truly found out what I was made of. It wa the first time in my life that I had found true brotherhood. I had realized what real camaraderie was. These men stood beside me when I screwed up. They had my back when I made a mistake.
They pushed me harder than I ever would have pushed myself. They forced me to accept my role as a man. To give up on those boyish ideals. To step into my boots every morning with the idea that... I really am worth something.
Would I be like the ones that gave up? Quit on their dreams? Stopped pushing forward when the finish line was closer than they even knew?
Would I quit on these men? Leave them to fend for themselves when they had fought for me so hard?
No, not this guy. I pushed myself even harder. I made myself get up, get to it, and get the job done.
I came out of Basic Training having lost 40 pounds of fat and gained 18 pounds of muscle. I went from running a 19 minute 2-mile to running a 14-minute 2-mile. I went from being able to do MAYBE 10 push-ups to being able to knock out 100 without breaking a hard sweat. And most importantly, I learned the most important lesson of my entire life....
When you want something bad enough, don't give up. The finish line is closer than you think.