You don’t realize the long-term benefits of military service until well after it has ended.
Mine had started after having been gleaned out of college and then having my dinner plate ceremoniously broken on the steps of our house. I had a choice to make at that point, and the U.S. Army ended up being the lucky winner.
Military service was like wading into the swamp naked at night, in the middle of July. You knew something was going to get you, just not what or when.
From the very first minute at the reception station until I signed out of the service in April 1996, I was pushed beyond what I thought were my physical and mental limits. Sleep deprivation, brutal physical tasks and mental assaults all of which would not be accepted in today’s touchy-feely world.
You were broken down, remolded and fashioned into what Uncle Sam thought that you should be. At every step, you were shown that you could go another inch, another foot, another mile, whatever was needed. What you didn’t realize is that during that process you also developed your individuality and how you would tackle things later in life.
It increased your confidence, problem solving, physical endurance and appreciation for what you used to take for granted. The more that you were taught and experienced, the more that it built you as a person and part of a team. Individuality did not exist – though ironically, it was how you got there.
The skills and knowledge you attained while serving were up to you.
You could coast through and get by with the bare minimum, staying under the radar, or you could ask for more responsibility and get challenged along the way.
You were taught that failure was not an option, but you had to fail before you learned. Most of the time, you didn’t even know what you had learned until years later when you ended up having to use it.
There were many “ah-ha” moments in my life that I can say were directly a result of what I got from the Army.
Of course, balancing a relationship during the process could be challenging without the right person in your corner. Family life could be as rigorous an experience as the military training itself. There was no local, extended family to help with kids or give you a break. It was all on us to make it work.
You only had each other to depend on and it set a foundation that was as solid as any training you received in the military.
Some people receive their life-lessons from many places and experiences, but, in my opinion, nothing else gives you a more diverse and complete preparation for what you may encounter later than a few years in the Army.
Todd Barnes lives in Sigma. He is a lifelong outdoorsman who serves as president of the Back Bay Restoration Foundation. He was among the people featured in a recent story about the revitalized foundation. It can be found at this link. Learn more about the foundation by searching @backbayrestorationfoundation on Facebook.
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