One day…I will become a Green Beret.
When I started chasing the dream to become a Green Beret, or Special Forces soldier, it seemed so difficult. Impossible, almost.
Day 18 or 19 of the Special Forces selection process was typical. Three other soldiers and I had to carry a telephone pole approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) through the back woods of Camp Mackall in North Carolina. I was exhausted before the first rays of sunlight. We slogged ahead, one heavy step after another. Soon I felt sore all over. Skin was hanging off my feet. My legs and back were giving out. Most of the other candidates had already quit, and I was barely hanging on, questioning why I was there. I remember as if it were yesterday praying, “God, please let me get a compound fracture of my leg so they will know I am hurt. Please!? Because I cannot quit.” And I didn’t. Somehow, I stayed in the ring. I made it. I earned my Green Beret.
One day you can decide to take a great step of faith. Or wait. Two days. Three days…then? One day never comes until you decide it will.
A few years later, I dreamed again, this time to become an officer and lead what is called an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA). An ODA is a small group of warriors (7 to 12) who have been trained in a variety of special skills that include weapons, demolitions, medical and communications training.
I became a captain and was assigned a team with some great warriors. But leading these warriors was not easy. It was a challenge that consumed me.
On 18 July 2003, in Kunar, Afghanistan, I was travelling in the lead vehicle of a three-patrol convoy. We were returning to our small outpost in Kunar when – BOOM – an explosion went off behind me. An improvised explosive device (IED) had hit vehicle two. That moment would change my life forever. One of my team members lost his leg, another lost his arm and another would suffer from traumatic brain injury. That evening, I went to one of my dear mentors, Command Sergeant Major Buzzsaw DeGroff, and cried. He held me like his son. I was 35 years old. It was just one day – but a day in which I had to push through great pain, great anger, great loss and great fear. Could I do this? Did I have what it took to lead Green Berets in battle?
One day, after you’ve reached the top of your game doing exactly what you thought you were meant to be doing – poof – you realize you were wrong.
I realized one day that being a Special Forces team leader was not in fact why I was born. It was a part of the journey, yes. But the final chapter? Not even close.
PA for today?
Dare to dream, and do.
TOGETHER WE TRANSORM
Be good. Do good. Be with.
4 thoughts on “Day 305…One Day”
Our dear brother, Jim. Thank you for your sacrifice and your commitment…then and now. Thank you for answering the call to a higher mission. Now on a different battlefield, with new teammates aligned with some former teammates for a bigger purpose. What a humble honor and joy to serve With you! The best is just ahead.
This will be a great month, and I so look forward to it. Thank you for what you gave, and will give all of us in your sharing in the days to come.
Day 305 puts me in somewhat of a dilemma. I can respond to Chet’s day 305 or I can respond to Kirk’s day 305. To be objective it would probably be best to respond to Chet’s Day 305. I am familiar with one day, pretty soon, tomorrow, I am afraid, and if only… type concepts. At the time I used them they were logical and justified not taking any action. My conscience was clear. Dreams! I have always been a dreamer, maybe to a fault. Since I am not very analytical and tend to listen to my heart more than I should, I will respond to Kirk’s day 305 and not pretend to be objective. Kirk’s mom and her side of the family held me partially, if not mostly, responsible for Kirk joining the army. I suspect his military journey may have gotten started near the end of his senior year in high school. I suggested to him that he was going to graduate in May and that I would give him until September 1st to find something to do, a job, go to college, start up a business or whatever, but on that day I was going to throw his hat, chaps and spurs into the street.. I also assured him that I would help him and support his efforts no matter what it was. Prior to September 1st he made an appointment with my secretary to see me in my office. He revealed to me that he had joined the army. We had a conversation that was pretty heavy. We held each other and cried. Not for the first time and not for the last time We talked of the dreams his mom and I had for him, one of which was for him to get a college degree. He promised he would, but not right away. So began his journey to becoming a Green Beret. Over the years we became closer than we had ever been. We spoke of the Great Spirit of all Eagles, and of ancient warriors, of Spartans and of Hecate and of death. So he became a Spartan. I often evoked the Great Eagle, or the gods of war, or the Buffalo to take me to him in my dreams. The battles he fights to day are not life threatening. They are soul threatening, spiritual battles. Many of his adversaries still hide in the dark and the demons still haunt him. He is the best part of me. He will become a better man that he was a warrior because he feeds the good wolf now. My heart and my son are the same. I dream of him often.
What a beautiful illustration from a warrior who has learned to harden his core AND soften his heart. You have the heart of a lion – you are our BTL love cat. Dangerous – but good. Thanksgiving comes in the right month for us to be grateful for the rest of your writing. Thank you that your “one day” is today not some day.