"Yes, drill Sergeant!” I shout before flopping to the ground to do another round of push-ups. "Eighteen, niinneeteen, tweeennnty!" Pain from my chest, arms, and soil stained hands escape through beads of sweat trickling off my nose.
Without opening my mouth, I scream on the inside, "I don't know how much more I can take of this is!" As quick as I let that thought entertain my mind, I reflect on what my grandfather told me before leaving for basic training. Now, back on my feet and with a fresh coating of dirt peppered on my uniform, I receive a shot of excitement when I hear, "DISMISS!" echo throughout the columns supporting the barracks.
"Pvt. Dryden, you're from Tennessee, right? Is it always this hot in the South?" ask Pvt. Spurgeon from California while reaching for his canteen. Even at night, it feels like a sauna.
"No, not always” I recall. I remember hearing something a few months ago about El Niño, El Nina or something with an "N" affecting the weather." Maybe if we call Al Gore, he can persuade the drill sergeants to not work us so hard in this Georgia heat!
Like Old Faithful in Yellowstone, water suddenly spews out from Pvt. Spurgeon's mouth, temporarily cooling off my face. We share a quick laugh before heading into the barracks.
A few hours later, the two of us gather around a bench outside with our boots and shoe polish in hand with the hopes of creating a shine worthy of signaling "SOS" to any over passing planes. All the sudden Pvt. Spurgeon looks up and says, "I don't know if I can handle all the yelling and push-ups! If another drill sergeant gets in my face, I’m going to punch him!” After a few seconds of staring at the boot in his left hand, he added, "I'm thinking about going AWOL tonight!
“Is it really that bad?" I ask.
I then share a talk I had with my grandfather before leaving for basic training. "Papaw Billy told me how tough the training would be. He also told me that some guys would try to leave." Notice that I said, “try.” All those who went AWOL were caught and punished. Not only did they not get to go home, but they were scarred throughout their military career for this one mistake.
My grandfather went on to explain that basic training was like a miniature war in itself. Each day we will be faced with obstacles, such as yelling and push-ups. Yes, these things may seem rough at the time, but they are temporary and just things that will help us to be better soldiers. As we go to sleep at night, we should remember that we survived those small battles.
"This is the most important part" I said.
Sitting outside in his rocking chair sipping on a glass of iced tea while the cicadas serenaded us, Papaw Billy took his left hand and placed it on my right shoulder. He said, "When times get rough and it gets to where you feel like you can't take it anymore, think of Jesus and what he endured on Calvary's cross so that mankind may have eternal life in heaven and an everlasting peace inside, all because God loves us."
He also told me that no matter how rough my situation may seem, for me to always remember the fourth chapter of Philippians, verse thirteen, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. King James version."
As soon as I got that out of my mouth, "Lights out in five minutes!" rang throughout the campus.
I don’t know why people use the expression “bright and early” because it’s still dark when we have to line up for formation. While bending over admiring my boots, I felt a hand tap my shoulder. Pvt. Spurgeon with a big smile on his face, especially this early in the morning said he needed to tell me something. “What you said yesterday made sense; what Jesus did and the strength that he gives us. This really isn’t that bad compared to those fighting overseas. And, it's nothing compared to being crucified on a cross. I asked Jesus last night to give me the strength to get through this and to forgive me of all my sins."
Out of excitement, we embraced in a hug, which was separated by a thunderous, "Pvt. Dryden and Pvt. Spurgeon, drop-down and give me twenty!"
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