Thinking back on my youth, I believe that one of the best things that I did was join the military. I was like any other recent high school grad. What I had learned up to then, paled by comparison to what I had yet to learn. So the military was a good place to start.
Anyone who has been there knows that you can leave your identity at the door. The first thing they will do is make you all look the same. Then they will begin making you all think the same. My name was no longer important. I didn’t even have to remember it. It was sewed over the pocket of my fatigues. I was now simply “Airman”.
Discipline was the name of the game. Everything you did was directed by one man, and he did not take kindly to suggestions and or conversation. In fact, you spoke only when he requested that you do so, prefaced by a “Sir, Yes Sir or Sir, No Sir”. See, even the questions could be answered without a lot of rhetoric.
Somehow, I thrived in this environment. Life became a lot easier, psychologically, if not physically. All you had to do was follow instructions. And while you were doing that, you were also learning to care for yourself. You were taught to make your bed, shine your shoes, march in step, show respect for authority, understand the chain of command, work as a team, and challenge your mind and body. I came out the other side no longer the boy I used to be.
So why does this one decision stick out above any others I made back then? I think it’s because while I thought I was being prepared for life, little did I realize that I was in fact being prepared for marriage. Yup, all that indoctrination was simply to get me ready for prime time.
I married shortly after my discharge from the service, so I was still pretty much used to working with a lot of direction. This turned out to be a tremendous asset as nothing really changed. I had just be reassigned to a new unit.
Over the years, all that training has stood me in good stead. I have managed to apply my skills in such a manner as to have avoided most charges of insubordination, and have seldom been subjected to disciplinary action. Oh sure, I have lobbed a few granades of my own over the years, but none so serious as to have been considered for a dishonorable discharge, also known as divorce.
As long as you take direction well and never assume you are in charge, you can do OK. And you do not march alone. You are in fact a member of one of the largest Platoons known to man, which, reminds me of a story which I will use as a means of illustrating my point.
Once, while a large group of married couples that had recently passed on were standing around, waiting for St Peter to admit them into Heaven, they were approached by God who said “I want the men to form two lines: One line for the men who were true heads of their household, and the other line for the men who were dominated by their wives. The women can report to St Peter”.
Soon, the women were gone, and there were two lines of men. However, the line that contained the men who were truly heads of their household only contained one guy. Everyone else was in the other line.
God said to the men in the long line “You should be ashamed of yourselves; I created you to be the head of your household and you did not fulfill your purpose. Of all of you, only one obeyed. Learn from him.
Turning to the man, God said “Tell them. How did your manage to be the only one in this line?”
Quietly, the man replied “My wife told me to stand here.”
From the archives February 2015