Culture Military

The moments that define you

What moments have defined you?

I’m not going to pretend like I have no regrets — embarrassing moments aside, there are things I wish didn’t happen the way they happened. I try to embrace failure, to get up when beaten down, and I don’t regret those instances. However, it’s the times when I hurt someone else that I regret — those lessons are not worth someone else’s pain.

Still, you pick up and carry on, because wallowing in the past does nothing for anyone.

These are some of the moments that you carry with you — the moments that define you. I have a few moments throughout my military career that I see now as being definitive to my current self. Though they may have been small and forgettable to some, they linger in my mind as points in time that shaped the person who is writing this today.

One of those moments was in my first year in the Army.

It was the early hours of the day in RASP (Ranger Selection), and we were running “death runs,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. There was a brief moment: just as we emerged from a section of trails where we had taken turns carrying one another, several water jugs lay before us. The cadre instructed us to carry the jugs however we could, and to run to the next point a ways down the street. The jugs were filled to different levels, and we all just picked the first one we could grab. Some sloshed, and actually wound up being worse to carry when compared to the full ones where the water inside could not move.

There were more men than jugs at the time, so we took turns as we lumbered down the road under the dim sunlight at dusk. I passed off my jug to someone else, and encouraged everyone as we pushed forward. Someone started to lag behind, and I grabbed his jug.

In that moment, I felt a surge of energy. I had already gone through my typical second wind, and even third and fourth wind. Life sprung within my withering limbs like a breath of electricity propelling me forward. I pushed my body onward, rising to the front of the group.

Of course, I eventually had to pass on the jug — this was not some ultimate victory by my strength over the weakness of others. We were a team and we acted as such, which made us successful. But schools intense schools like RASP allow to you explore the inner depths of yourself, whether you know it or not (and whether you like it or not).

This was the moment where I discovered just what “strength from within” really means. That I could push my body much, much further than I imagined and that strength of spirit is more important than strength of body (though both are extremely important). And that moment defined a part of me.

Other moments have stood out throughout my life — some from my combat deployments later, or even just a handshake from the right person at the right time.

What moments have defined you?

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Students in the Ranger Assessment Course receive motivational training from their instructors at the Nevada Test and Training Range, Oct. 3, 2014. The RAC offers Airmen the opportunity to develop and prove themselves in an intense training environment to see whether or not they are ready to attend the U.S. Army Ranger School. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler)

Featured image: Soldiers in their second week of basic combat training low crawl through the final obstacle at the Fit to Win endurance course on Fort Jackson, S.C., Oct. 1, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton

12 comments on “The moments that define you

  1. Pingback: Emotional marathons on the screen – The Freq

  2. Working on your next novel

  3. Great to see you writing elsewhere, Luke.

  4. Good article Luke. 🙂

  5. Yankee Papa

    Master Luke,

    Sometimes during our lives we seemingly achieve more than we ever expected. Two years in Africa in the 1970s the high point of my life… (Have to be careful not to have “Astronaut Syndrome” when such time over…)

    But on the physical side. In the late 1960s I was at ITR (Marine Corps Infantry training after boot camp) I was one of four trainee (we were no longer boots) platoon leaders. I had the misfortune to have been picked as such by the most junior “Combat Instructor” in the company. That meant that three days out of four, the 4th platoon at the back of the company column moving up and down fairly steep hills.

    One hill wasn’t so steep… even had switchbacks… because vehicles routinely used it. Called “Machine Gun Hill” for the simple reason that at the top was where we fam-fired the M-60 machine guns. We had the privilege of hauling guns and ammo to the top.

    For those of you without infantry experience… a company moving at ‘route step’ (not at attention, not in step) especially over rough and most especially on hills… doesn’t move anything like what you see on a drill field. More like an accordion. Starts and stops… the farther back in the column, the more that it impacts you. The “long legged giraffes in the first platoon might be moving along at a comfortable pace… but the fourth platoon might be trotting most of the time trying to keep up. (Going downhill, platoons in the rear can “slam” into platoons in front of them… especially at night… From what I’ve read… cavalry back in the day even more of a cluster f–k…remounts crashing into each other…)

    So 4th platoon “trotting” up the switchbacks… humping M-60s and ammo. I can’t remember why, but for some reason our combat instructors told us that we had to get to the top and set up before some other company following us did… so even the 1st platoon had to pick up the pace.

    Two thirds of the way up and some slim lad badly twisted his ankle. On the fly, others took our M-14s and I draped him over my shoulders like a towel… and carrying an M-60 by the carrying handle I somehow managed a (slow) trot up the hill… back of the column when we got to the top… but in plenty of time to get set up.

    At the time I simply felt a rush. Later, I was amazed. I was reasonably fit… but only 5’10” and not a body-builder type. I’ve done other things when I was scared… but that’s something entirely different. Certainly nothing “heroic” going up Machine Gun Hill… but something that I’ve never forgotten.

    These days I’d collapse after a mere hundred meters carrying a parakeet and a Derringer. (Of course I’ll be 70 my next birthday…)

    -Yankee Papa-

    • Never too old to get fit, YP. It’s only a number!!

      • yankeepapausmc

        Susan,

        Child… I see no feature here to post an image. Sad… I have a Bloom County cartoon that would be perfect in reply.

        So instead I’ll simply say that I go for walks. I certainly don’t jog… (with or without M-60s…) Having served in American and foreign military units I remember my time spent doing what you’d call “jogging…” I call it double time and I say to hell with it…

        Yr obt svt,

        -Yankee Papa-

    • Ahhh yes, the accordian effect. I do not miss that haha, being at the back of a formation like that always sucked the worst.
      But yes, accomplishing those difficult things really sticks with you. Proves yourself to yourself, feels good, and makes you realize you are much more capable than you realized. I strongly believe that we as human beings are psychologically built to live outside of our comfort zones.

      Oh and we’re working to resolve the insert image issue!

      • yankeepapausmc

        Luke,

        Thank you sir. And if and when able, ability to come back and edit… You’d be surprised how often I have to do that… (and maybe identities on the likes…)

        Best,

        -YP-

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