by Jim BlumeI had the opportunity to train some young recruits upon their arrival to their Basic Military Training as one of my assignments during my years in service. During this training, we practiced marching on a drill pad, a huge blacktopped area that the trainees hated at times. We taught them to march in all directions and to do different maneuvers. We continued to train and then train some more until everyone got it perfect. We also marched everywhere we went on the base; to and from appointments, classes and to the mess hall (now called the dining hall as it sounds better than mess). Anyway, we marched and then we marched some more.
One day a young trainee asked why we marched so much and I remembered another young troop many years before, who dared to ask that same question to his Drill Instructor. Yes, it was I who dared to question the Drill Instructor. I really never got what I considered a good answer from my instructor and felt an obligation to not treat my trainee in the same manner. I explained that marching was an orderly manner in which to move troops from one place to another. Rather than just walking in a cluster, marching was orderly and also served to let others see who we were. We carried a guidon, a small flag with our unit’s designation on it; our name so to speak and everyone who saw us knew who we were. We would always be noticed as to how we marched and together we could show pride as a unit or a team.
A few weeks later on the day of graduation, this group of young recruits was going to “Pass in Review”, a parade in front of their friends, family and “The General”. Just then it hit me, what if these young folks never really perfected their marching and as their instructor, no matter how hard I tried, I could not seem to help them get it right. I knew that they were all nervous and so on the way to the Parade grounds, I decided to let them just walk…..no marching. I noticed that at first, they seemed to enjoy this kind of a freedom from the rigors of marching, and then, a rather strange thing happened. As we got closer to the Parade Grounds, I saw these young folks began to change for some reason. Right before my eyes they began to march in step, straight and tall, clearly showing pride in all the things I thought they never learned. Even though they were not restricted to the cadence of the whole “left, right, left” thing, they all began to march in step….even though they didn’t have to. They came together now when during training they had so much trouble. It boggled my mind.
As we readied to “Pass in Review”, marching across in front of the grandstand full of all the family, friends, and “The General”, I had a case of butterflies myself, worrying that these men would not get it right and embarrass themselves in front of everyone. I was like the coach and had to give them a little pep talk. I told them that I was proud of each and every one of them and that I knew that they would do their best.
The band began to play patriotic marches, like those written by John Phillips Sousa……..then it was our turn. I can’t tell you what it was or how it happened; whether it was because of the little pep talk, the patriotic nature of the music, that their families were watching, or perhaps it was due to “The General” being there, but this was almost miraculous the trainees were absolutely perfect. Then it hit me. Marching isn’t the real issue here, but the pride in being a part of something bigger than yourself.
Joining the service is a choice that people make for many reasons and when they make it, they sometimes really don’t know why. It can be because their friends went in or they needed a job, or perhaps it was because their father or other family members were in the service. After being in a while it became a huge part of my life and who I will always be. Whether we started out that way or not, all successful service members live by a set of standards or rules. These are Duty, Honor, and Country. That is why we serve and that is why during a parade or during the playing of the National Anthem, you will always see a veteran standing tall and proud, often with a tear in their eye as the flag passes on parade…….and just maybe they are thinking with pride, the day they finally got it right for “The General”.
SERE Instructor Jim Blume United States Air Force 1966-1986https://www.facebook.com/jim.blume.5
About Jim Blume – A SERE Instructor is Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. I taught military pilots how to survive, if they had a crash or had to parachute out of their aircraft, survival training on the ground in a variety of environments worldwide, how to evade capture in enemy areas, how to resist enemy exploitation if captured and dealing with the physical and psychological effects of being captured, and how to attempt escape from such environments. I also performed duties as a rescue paramedic at various times.