Ever run into someone when you least expect it? Whether you’re on temporary duty to another state and you run into a long-lost training buddy or you’ve had a permanent change of station and you run into your old commander’s Family at the commissary.
Whether you like it or not, when you say goodbye to someone in the military, it’s not the last time you’ll see them.
Just recently I went TDY to California. While there I literally bumped into my drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, S.C. who was the coolest guy around. He was from Compton, Calif., and at the time, my last name was Compton, which automatically made me a target for his humor. He would repeatedly sing the rap song “Straight outta Compton,” every morning at formation and even though I’m not a morning person, he always managed to get a lil’ smile from me at 4 o’clock in the morning.
But, while on TDY to Missouri, I ran into a drill sergeant who scared the living daylights out of me from basic training. He would repeat the saying from ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ “One, two Freddie’s coming for you …” I happen to be extremely afraid of Freddie Krueger, so it didn’t help matters that he would stand on the podium and just stare into the formation with his beady eyes gleaming in the moonlight.
At a fellow comrade’s memorial service, I ran into an advanced individual training drill sergeant who was incredibly tough on all her female Soldiers back in the day. She held all her female Soldiers to a higher standard and didn’t care how long it took you, but you would eventually see your potential by the end of any task.
I remember I didn’t want to get too muddy during an obstacle course, she was sitting on top of the rope climb and saw me and another female trainee high crawl through the shallowest part of the mud puddle. She came down that rope faster than anything I have ever seen, yelled at us for being sissies and made both of us redo the obstacle and low crawl through the deepest part of the puddle.
Most people never see their drill sergeants again and some are very thankful for that. But to me, it’s always nice to see a familiar face in a place so far away from home. And it’s nice to see how different they are from their time in uniform with you.
The drill sergeant from Cali? Still in Cali, working with at-risk youth. He’s using his people skills to help children in the ghetto rise above their struggles and succeed in life.
The scary drill sergeant? Not so scary, he’s actually a pretty funny guy with three little girls who have him wrapped around their fingers. It was cute to see the softer side of a man who made me do push-ups until my arms felt like jelly when I called my canteen a water bottle. It’s funny now, but back then it was the worse mistake of my life.
The tough female drill sergeant? She’s the sweetest woman you’ll ever meet. She looks out for those around her and cares for each and every one of her Soldiers that she came into contact with. And you know what? She’s gone to every one of her trainee’s memorials who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Throughout your military career, you will meet some of the best people in the world. You’ll struggle together, bond, and succeed together. And always remember, there are no “goodbyes” in the military, only “see you laters.”