Your Spirit Will Always Adapt – Army Life Lesson #3

Your Spirit Will Always Adapt – Army Life Lesson #3

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I’ve never been so cold.  The chill set deep in my bones and there was no relief in my near future.  There was no running water out there in the farmers field, my temporary home in the war torn countryside of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  I was relegated to using chilled baby wipes in attempt to keep my body clean.

I was fresh out of Officer Basic and the newly minted Platoon Leader for the 2nd Platoon of the 536th Military Police Company out of Grafenwoehr, Germany.  I woke up that morning, in the unforgiving hillsides of Bosnia, in an ice cold tent with my new Platoon Sergeant.  He looked at me with suspicion.  His new Lieutenant had arrived late the night before and I could tell from his gaze, that he was not thrilled about breaking in another green officer.

He gruffed at me when I attempted to engage in small talk with him.  He went about his morning routine and ignored my attempt at human interaction.  Later that morning, I toured the camp to get my bearings.  My boots sank in the cold and slushy mud as I stumbled my way up to the highest point of the camp.  I looked around at the landscape and spotted a few houses, on the hillside, that were torn and dilapidated as a result of heavy gunfire and fighting that raged there only months before we arrived to separate the Muslims and Serbs from each other.

I felt my weakness and fear take over, as the weight and gravity of my situation and responsibilities overcame my thoughts.  My soul trembled in fear.  I wasn’t sure I had what it took to lead my platoon.  I wasn’t sure if I deserved to be in this position and I was definitely unsure of my ability to endure the daily grind of my new life out here in the middle of nowhere, far from home.

I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I contemplated my situation.  I was positive that I would fail and panicked at the thought of even trying to head back to my platoon’s campsite and do my job.  There was no comfort for me that morning and for a few weeks after, until one morning I woke up to my Platoon Sergeant’s voice “Do you want some coffee, sir?”

“Sure, Sergeant thanks.” I responded and crawled out of my cot and into my chilly boots.  I smiled as he handed me a hot cup of coffee, for I realized that I was in my own routine now.  My military training kicked in and I discovered that I did have the skills necessary to lead my platoon.  My body became used to the cold and I bonded with other officers and several soldiers.  Over the next few weeks, I became a part of my unit.

I quickly adapted to my new life in Bosnia and thrived as a young Army Officer over the next ten months while deployed there.  I got used to not showering the first month or so and eventually got used to the ice cold showers when the Corps of Engineers finally built us a shower facility.  My mind eventually adapted to the long hours spent on missions with my soldiers.  I adapted to the lack of sleep and daily consumption of prepackaged meals while traversing the pothole riddled back country of the mine laden Serbian territory that had become my new home.

It was tough for me those first few days after I arrived to my post in Bosnia.  My mind was filled with doubt, and fear coursed through my veins, but eventually it subsided and my mind, body and spirit adapted to my situation.  I look back on those times in Bosnia with fondness and remember the strong relationships I formed with my fellow soldiers from all walks of life, but most of all I remember the feeling when I discovered that I belonged.

Never underestimate your ability to adapt and overcome.  The human spirit has a near infinite capacity to adapt to almost any situation.  All you have to do is believe in yourself, give it some time, and give God a chance to show you His love and compassion.  If you find yourself in a situation that seems hopeless, take heart for your body is adapting and soon you will discover a new level of comfort that you never knew existed.  Trust me.

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  1. Thanks for sharing. My son is in 10th grade and is starting to look at schools. We received a letter from West Point and remembered you had went there. He is not sure about the Army. How did you know that is what you wanted to do?

    I will be attending the TPPA Conference in March again. See you there.

    Leann Wilkerson

    1. Hey Leann, I look forward to seeing you in March. I’m was always fascinated with the military and knew I wanted to experiencing it and I’m glad I did. I went to West Point for my running and formed lifelong friendships that are just as strong today as they were 20 years ago. In fact, I’m flying out to Colorado in a few weeks to spend the weekend with several of my West Point classmates. The West Point experience with what you learn, the friendships, and the network is unmatched and I would recommend it to everyone. You should take him out there for a visit to check it out yourself!


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