Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nobody Likes a Quitter

I detest quitters. Nothing gets my blood boiling more than hearing a 19 year old young man or woman tell me that they "can't" while on a PT run. During my time in this gun club, I've witnessed just about every variation of quitting that you can imagine. One of my least favorites is a young man or woman falling behind during a PT run. Do they think that they're fooling anyone?

More often than not, those that fall behind during a run are simply quitting. They experience a bit of discomfort or fatigue, and they choose to slow down. With a bit of "motivation," they usually speed up. In other words, they were quite capable of running faster, but simply chose not to. Quitters.

One early morning, our company assembled on the PT field for our weekly Company PT Session. One young lad (we'll call him PFC Lawson) had tried all week to get the medical folks to put him on "light duty". He was unsuccessful. The medical personnel had caught on to his act. His only physical ailment was a weight problem, and an aversion to physical activity. I was thrilled spitless to see him at PT.

As the gray of morning began to sneak over the horizon, the First Sergeant took charge of the company formation and we began our run. As the air, thick with the Okinawan humidity, began to warm, steam rose from the pavement of the well worn road. We trotted along at an easy warm-up pace, and all was well. As the air warmed even more, Lawson began dropping back. I could see the sweat running off of his pale, soft body. I imagined him in civilian clothing, walking through a supermarket. I could almost see him grabbing frozen bags of pizza rolls from the low-slung frozen food bins and thought, "I'd never guess that this young man is a Marine. He looks like a doughnut shop addict."

I couldn't understand how a young man that had made it through boot camp could allow himself to deteriorate into such a sorry condition.

I dropped back a bit in order to encourage the young man. He was huffing and puffing, and made every attempt to show me that he was truly struggling. The rolls of excess pounds on his waist were bouncing up and down as he stumbled along. His green tee-shirt was soaked with sweat, and was pasted to those rolls on his waist. He had a look in his eyes that reminded me of a child pleading for a piece of candy that wasn't allowed before supper.

At this point, many people would be inclined to ask, "Are you ok?"

I already knew that he was ok, since he had been looked over by the medical section the afternoon prior. Instead of inquiring about his health, I asked him, "Do you like being a quitter? Do you like being labeled by your fellow Marines?" "Get your butt up there Lawson!"

"I can't," was his feeble reply.

I'm willing to bet that my blood pressure skyrocketed at that moment. He had uttered the words that I hate. He had staggered into the no-man's land of lazy, spineless quitters. He had admitted to giving up after facing only a wee bit of adversity. He had flipped my switch from "nice" to "mean sumbitch."

I ran right next to him as I yelled into his ear; "Get your butt up there NOW Lawson. If you don't, this run will last until the freakin' sun goes down. I will run your sorry butt until church lets out on Sunday!"

The look on his face transformed from that of a pleading child to that of an injured puppy. "NOW numbnuts!"

He sped up. He caught up to the formation of Marines, and seemed like a man transformed. He held his head higher, adopted an air of confidence, and kept pace with his peers for the rest of the run. It was like ancient magic, producing a prince from a frog...well, not really, but you get the idea.

"You see that Lawson? You could run faster! All it took was a little effort and dedication on your part!"

I quoted Fight Club as I playfully smacked him in the back of his mostly bald head: "Like a monkey, ready to be shot into space!"

He wasn't anywhere near the end of his necessary personal journey, but he had taken a crucial step forward. All it took was a bit of forceful motivation. Ahhhh, the satisfaction of seeing a quitter take a turn for the better...good times.

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