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Friendship, the Warrior Ethos and the Path to Aesthetics…

Disclaimer:  This following blog post may strike many as vulgar and even barbaric. And might even change the opinion many have of me.  But, I try to be honest and candid in all that I write with the hope that the truth will speak for itself.  Because of this I am choosing not to censor anything and am simply telling it like it happened.

In May 2011, most of my closest jump team friends had gathered together to celebrate a bachelor party in  Atlantic City.  What ensued was not atypical of our previous gatherings– lots of alcohol, bad decisions, and general drunkenness and debauchery. A lot of crazy things happened that I won’t get into because it is of little relevance to this story. But suffice it is to say, that generally when the eight of us gather the experience usually rivals that of a Tucker Max novel. It is that way simply because it has always been that way– the work hard, play hard mantra had always existed among us on the jump team. And after spending countless holidays  jumping out of airplanes together and drinking our nights away together– there was always an excess of craziness to go around.

However, this night had something in store for me specifically. And in all honestly, I consider it to be a defining moment of my life. Even though it has taken me the better part of a year to realize it.  As the night was winding down and the group began collecting itself back into two hotel rooms, four to a room, by twos and threes straggling in at the early hours of the morning and passing out on the first available real estate– tensions began to form.  And one of my teammates decided it was the right time to pick a fight.

In fighting amongst the jump team was not an uncommon occurrence.  Generally, it was a safe bet that on any given trip or function at least one fight would break out. It would happen, it would end, and everyone generally goes back to being friends afterwards.  I had avoided these clashes of type A personalities for three years, but on this night, my number was called. It took the form of a lean and hard bodied teammate of mine who came in, very aggressive, and still very intoxicated– who shall remain unnamed.

It started of as playful teasing… but quickly escalated.

“Fight me…” he said, “Come on do it”

“I don’t really feel like it, lets just go to sleep”

“No, do it”

“I’ll tell you what, if you still want to fight in the morning, we will”

This went back and forth for some time and then it really began to escalate. After taking a few punches to the ribs and some more insults it happened…

“Dude, you’re a pussy.”

“Ok, bro, whatever”

“No dude, look at yourself.  You’re out of shape, weak, and a total pussy. You don’t belong in the Infantry. You’re supposed to have my 6′?!? I don’t think so, pussy.”

The rage took over. And I leaped out of my bed and pinned my friend in top mount and began throwing punches. Lefts, Rights, as hard and as fast as I could. All the while he was screaming at me ” Hit me! Come on, do it! Pussy! HIT ME!”  So, I did. I hit him harder– right in the face. As hard as I could with all my body weight behind every blow. Then something stopped me– I could not see my friend anymore– his face was so covered in blood. I looked at my hands, also covered in blood. And I realized he was not defending himself. He was not throwing punches back and he was not covering his face– basic stuff that we are all taught, that he was not doing, choosing in fact not to.  I got up and left the room.  I was scared… what had I done? To my own friend?

Not 5 minutes later, out came my friend, still covered in blood, chasing me down and me thinking we’re about to go for round 2.  And right at the moment he closed the distance and I got on my guard he put me in a huge embrace.  “That’s what i’m talking about!” he said “That’s what your soldiers expect out of their leader.”  He began pounding my chest with his fist… yelling at me. “I’m proud of you. You used to be a fucking triathlete. A bad ass.  GET IT BACK! ”

Eventually we both went to bed and the next morning I awoke to a hand swollen the size of a orange.  I had fractured my hand in two places… so bad that I could not do anything with it for weeks.  (On a side not– if you ever do decide to engage in a fist fight your palms and elbows are much better to use) .My friend had to get a whole mess of stitches above his left eye. He apologized about it, we had a few laughs, and went on being good friends.

 

That was only 14 months ago, and today during one of my marathon lift sessions at the gym– I realized… that son of a bitch… he got me.  Why had I gotten so mad about the things he said to me?  I’ve been around many intoxicated people and I never let anything get to me like that. But now I realize, he was right.  I deserved the things he said to me. I HAD let myself go. I had gotten fat. And I was in no shape to be the leader, man, and officer people expected– and deserved.  I was pissed because he was right.  For  four years I had been feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I had lost one of my closest friends from high school to a car accident. Sorry that I did not seem to measure up. And I choose not to do anything about it, but to just sit around in a depressed stupor, wishing I could change my life, but not actually doing anything to change it. I had become lazy.

In vino veritas… so the saying goes. “In wine there is truth”.  Alcohol loosens the tongue and people say things they would not normally say because they may be vulgar or offensive.  That doesn’t make them untrue. On the contrary, sometimes they are the truest things you will ever be told.  And on that night, my friend called me out. I’ll never know why he didn’t defend himself or why he didn’t fight back. He’ll never admit that he did those things.  But I’m sure of it.  He let me win, let me beat his ass to prove a point to me. Something he could not have proven any other way.  That I am better than I thought I was and that I do have what it takes.

That same friend eventually moved in with me, and we lifted weights 5 days a week, 2 hours a day,  for the better part of the last 2 months. We cooked together, ate healthy, and drove to work together.  What I think I realize now, that I didn’t then. Was my friend always had faith in me, even when I didn’t have faith in myself.  He never gave up on me. Not even when I probably deserved it.  He never told me these things.  He’s not that kind of guy.  But I know.  He just showed my Zyzz videos on youtube, played a bunch of house music, and took me to the gym everyday.  But I also realize he gave me the best gift a  friend ever could… he restored me.  He made me whole again and gave me back much of what I had lost.  Quite literally, saved my life. And I never even told him thank you.

 

The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not reflect the views of the Army or the Department of Defense.

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