This past Wednesday, at 5:00 AM, Tazzy decided he needed to conduct a sniff-a-thon in the pet area of our condo. Out we went into the still, very hot and very humid early morning air, a jarring reality that immediately took me back 47 years to a similarly shocking early morning in Ft. Polk, Lousiana where I began a great adventure as a raw recruit in the United States Army. It was equally hot and humid as I stepped off the bus at 2:00 AM and delivered my soul to a drill instructor who apparently was not enjoying the morning any more than I was.
This was not today’s kinder and gentler Army. Sgt. 1st Class John Petrarca was not a man to be trifled with. I have yet to see another human being who could scream a chorus of profanity at such a volume level for a sustained period of time. The Senior Drill Instructor was masterful, intimidating and incredibly observant. His opening performance would make today’s rappers look like alter boys. We were standing in a line of sorts, 4 ranks deep, tired, sweaty, hungry and convinced that whatever circumstance resulted in our shared misery was the work of Satan himself. The Drill Sergeant was stripping what little dignity we had left and wrapping it in plain brown paper to be shipped home with the civilian clothes we had on our backs. When Tazzy finished his nature break we hustled back inside the air conditioned comfort of our home where a cup of coffee fueled my already busy memory of yet another ingredient in the recipie of what I am.
The military was and is a great common denominator. That it builds character is a given, teaching you that it is entirely possible and, yes, beneficial, to work for someone who you do not like, doing something you do not want to do, in a place you do not want to be.
There are many terrific young people out there, folks who are motivated to succeed, make a difference and endure adversity to become successful. There are many who are not…..like the folks who are offended by anything that sniffs of adversity and who engage in such benign nonsense as hunger strikes and blocking highways to make a point they can’t define on their best day. My advice to them is succinct. Suck it up buttercup, or settle in for the long ride to mediocrity. This world isn’t getting any easier and I can guarantee you will be off put by something every day you are not in a drug induced coma.
Years ago, in the Hell’s Kitchen that was Ft. Polk, Louisana, in the middle of July with chafing sand in unimaginable places, we came to the realization that survival under circumstances that would test the dead can happen…..And I like to think we were better for it. It was hot Wednesday morning…….but I smiled.
I have seen it hotter……….