This is Navy Seal Version Number 1:
Trainee attempts and fails swimming test. Status: REJECTED.
Well I did the 100 sit ups or so, did the running, and did the “body by Adonis” thing, but failed muster to gain entry to the creme of the elite special forces of our armed services.
I sucked at swimming. So because I sucked, I became what I had wanted to become, a Hospital Navy Corpsman. I still worked out though, ran a lot and basically became a specimen.
Oh, soon to find myself somewhere past the pink Navajo style buildings of the San Diego hospital corps training site, and then to come to grips that as a corpsman, I was scheduled to duty serving as a medic to the marines. Here I was, all smart and what not, confronted with the total fact that as a result of miscalculation and presumption of safe duty on a carrier, I was on my way to becoming a grunt corpsman.
Well Hey… That’s how it rolled at least I thought that to myself as I was reading a stark message written and scratched onto the metal to the bottom of the bunk above me. “1968 Just got orders to Vietnam, I am scared shitless”.
This was from one of my kind. A hospital corpsman, that serves as the first responder for marines under fire. It made me think, not hesitate, just work out harder and be better at being a marine than a marine.
Did he die? Was he a coward? Am I a coward? It scared me.
It just makes you wonder how many push ups you have to do so that when you take a bullet from enemy fire in the chest- you have enough muscle mass to stop it? How many pull ups?
What kind of workout can you do to avoid death?
Workouts help you to not be afraid. Not be afraid of that which is unthinkable. They help you feel that you have a better chance when that bullet hits you, kind of like skipping a stone on the river, seeing how much further it bounces.
The term workout has never crossed my mind or lips as I work to recycle lost blood. Usually it is a seriously low blood pressure and the assumption/ slash/ hope, that a patient can tolerate that sort of ischemic event for whatever period of time it takes to normalize and catch up, that ends up telling the tale of pros and cons to working out.
It isn’t dying that is unthinkable, it is the manner inflicted, the intent, and purpose, that seems at odds with life itself. Go figure. Gotta go out and do unto others before they do me…
It followed me that message that I read while laying in my bunk bed in 1978. It followed me as I followed Gunnery Sargent Flores, and Staff Sargent La’Breque up a mountain conveniently named Mt. M*F*cker somewhere in Del Mar area 29, California.
It lingered as I walked point for a practice skirmish somewhere in the mountain sand of Dela Mar, walking over the ridge, and as I reached the top, trooper Moran (who actually had that Chicago gangster look going for him) ripped my belly apart with a round of automatic M-16 fire (blanks). As I topped the hill I died, and died, and once again became life exhausted. I was an ant that had met it’s match without realizing it.
It was a moment when I indeed did see another answer to life and realized that it was as insignificant as lighting a match. That is what war is. A succinct “No” to the question of life.
Anyway, that wasn’t the pressing question on my mind as my flight landed on the tarmac of the air strip shadowed by Mount Pinatubo, all of it’s future rainy season clouds, at Clark Air force base, Republic of the Philippines.
No. My mind was on other things. A sense beyond some sort of terror associated with fear of mortality, this was a new world, totally foreign to me, an expression of a non-western wind that was about to envelop but not consume me.
Just 20 and counting. And that is not an abacus of notches.