2016 post op selfie, I still have no idea where those smiley face stickers came from, but I did enjoy the humor.
I’ll put it another way. When I was a brand new Infantryman, I was horrible at rucking: my short legs and light weight didn’t stack up well in my favor. I never fell out, but I was always right there at the back, barely holding on. Luckily, while I was coming up, hazing was still highly encouraged, and my leaders quickly cured me of my weakness. Later on in my career I would participate in a number of ruck marches that could suck the soul out of anyone. What struck me as odd on these soul-trying events is that after the weak bodies fell out, it was oftentimes the PT studs that fell out next. Many times, the dudes that made it all the way were just average, with one or two studs that went all the way.
How I could pass someone with natural athleticism and long legs was something I could never come to understand. I would always think it was such a waste: if I had a muscular build and long legs I would never fall out of anything. Then one day it hit me: PT studs don’t often have to push past failure because it’s so rare for them to reach that point, and when they do, failure is so foreign that they don’t know what to do with it, so they quit. It was easy for them to be strong when their strength was doing all the work, but it became hard when it was just their minds doing the work.
In my case, it wasn’t until around six months into everything that the truth finally dawned on me during a meeting with one of my doctors: this wasn’t something that I would one day wake up from and be cured of. It was going to be a lifelong disability that I would most likely struggle with until the day I died, a personal ruck march with no end. After running around doing cool alpha-male stuff for most of your life, finding out you’re permanently disabled at twenty-eight years old is quite the blow.
It was at that moment that I knew I had a choice. I could get mad and grow bitter, and fight tooth and nail to try and convince myself that I was still a lead-slinging grunt. Or, I could accept the new me, start a new chapter in my life and figure out what my new normal would be, taking into account the limitations I was now faced with. I decided it would be a lot more practical to accept my new role in life. Ultimately, I just slowed down a little bit sooner then I’d originally planned on, but that didn’t mean my life was over, not by a long shot.