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.