And then there was one.
I learned early on in my Army days that you can’t stop Father Time. Just keep your head focused on the task at hand while the sand flows south, and embrace whatever comes at you. It’s their game, their rules, and you’re playing by them. Which pretty much sums up 035’s life at this point.
The Cadre flip a switch at the 24 hour mark. The yelling quells, our new tactic is silence and monotony of moving heavy stuff long distances. 035 even took his limited entertainment opportunity to share with us what he really didn’t want to do anymore, the Sandbag Mover. As if we’re married to our original plan or forced into someone else’s script. Life doesn’t work like that, neither does Selection.
"So you wanna go to the water and have a Welcome Party?”
“...Yeah...I just can’t wait for the Sandbags to be done with.”
So, of course, I went to the Cadre and said “I know we’re scheduled for water operations, but he needs more Sandbag training. He actually just told me that’s exactly what he doesn’t want.”
They smiled back smiles of “more Sandbags it is.”
“Cadre, I stepped in dog sh*t on the hill.”
“035, do you wish to voluntarily withdraw from Selection at this time”
“Then continue the Sandbag Mover as outlined by the Cadre.”
And it was hard not to crack a smile.
Miles and miles and Sandbags and more and eventually night fell and with it, hopes of warmth. 035 was still going strong, none of us thought he would crack, but you never know. The wrong thing happens at the wrong time and it gets inside someone’s head and then they’ve had enough. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again.
And then it was time for The Long Walk.
And the end is near and everyone knows it. But we’re not at 48+ hours yet and there’s no guarantee of when it’ll end, emphasis on the +.
Big Daddy told 035 he was going to take all the Sandbags to the top of the hill, again, and he wasn’t happy about it, at all.
But first, at the bottom of the hill in the river out of the river face down stand up crawl get your ruck above your head on your belly on your back. Too slow, 035, the next task will be your favorite. The Sandbag Mover, get all of them up to the top of the hill. Time starts now.
It’s pretty much the usual thing most of us do on a perfect Saturday afternoon. Right?
48+ hours of Welcome Parties and Good-Bye Parties and Sandbag Movers and Devil’s Miles and when the human spirit is still alive, it’s a good day.
“Roster 035, Congratulations on completing GORUCK Selection, the toughest endurance event in the world.” And I got a little choked up when I said it because it’s a raw moment where Mark had validated whatever his reasons were for being there, and we’re all better, now, for knowing him.
I gave him a big hug and so did all the Cadre and so did his family.
And then the celebration began, which is what I hope everyone is doing today, on Thanksgiving. Here are a few tips how to do it right:
The beers and the music and the chauffeured ATV rides up the Hill of Death. Because we can, right Cody?
The food by the fire, all you can eat of course, the cornhole and conversation that leads to bets and dares and being spoonfed. OK, maybe, but definitely not by James.
And then, something happened which I don’t recommend at all. Out of nowhere, Mark quit. “I gotta go get some rest, I’m about to pass out.”
But Mark, you were doing so well. Nobody quits on the party before it starts. Tired but not dull, he had a jab, “By the way, whoever said the beer after you finish Selection is the best tasting one in the world is full of sh*t, I had to choke that one down.” And I felt like John Goodman in The Big Lebowski, lecturing the Dude after he said to f*** the tournament.
Stony and Kling both tried to catch Mark’s quitter disease, but were promptly re-summoned for festivities. Such as Jaala’s training, which never seems to stop. Rumor has it, she’ll be back, so will a few others whose time was cut short this go round. Fingers crossed.
The bluegrass band showed up and the temp dropped, but not to worry, we had hand made knitted beer coozies. What else can you possibly ask for in that particular moment to help you with your frosty cold beverage? Nothing.
Nick climbed the roof and got serenaded by mostly the moonshine, but then the band chimed in, too, and the lights stayed shining and the football came on in the garage and I don’t remember exactly how Selection faded to next year right there in my dad’s house in Bellbrook, Ohio, USA.
But with smiles on all our faces, it did.