The Amazing Spirit of Enlistees

Last week, I attended an event in the beautiful city of Huntington Beach, California.  It was the second annual “Battle Shark Challenge” hosted by the United States Army.  The Army invited new enlistees from southern California to come to the beach to compete in small groups in such activities as:  push ups, sit ups, tug of war, football, Frisbee, rock wall climbing, a 2 mile run, throwing grenades (fake ones, of course) and carrying a “wounded” soldier through a mine field (blindfolded).

I participated in everything except Frisbee and football.  My team of 6 won the push up and sit up contests, and we also won the activity where you had to carry a “wounded” soldier through a mine field.  Everyone was blindfolded except the leader who had to give instructions.  The first time I played the wounded soldier; the second time I was the leader and we beat the previous best time by over a minute.  We lost the tug of war, and I wasn’t able to throw my grenade further than the closest-in target.  I did the run, however, in less time than that required to qualify for enlisting in the Army, but they still wouldn’t take me!

It was an amazing experience to meet about 1500 young men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for you and me.  I was impressed by their spirit, tenacity, good humor, self-respect, hard work, and commitment.  These are certainly NOT the types of kids who spend their days on Facebook or Twitter.  You have to be awed by how unique and special they are.

Families came out to show their support, although it was very sad to me when one young woman came up to ask me how to handle her parents, who won’t talk to her since she enlisted.  They didn’t show up for this event either.  Shame on them and shame for them.  They missed an opportunity to see their child elevated in her own spirit and in our eyes.  I told her that I’d be her surrogate mother, and that she now owed me a Mother’s Day card.  We hugged a lot.

Frankly, I just wanted to hug them all.  I AM the proud mother of an American combat infantryman…very proud.  I am saddened for any parent who chooses to shun their child because they’ve made the selfless choice to defend all Americans.

That’s why we have to support them all.  Whenever you see anybody in uniform, shake their hands, buy them lunch, and/or tell them you’re grateful.  It DOES mean a lot to them.