You’re a major and you’re back in the 82d–your home. And one day some SOB having a bad week decides it’s time to take it out on the world, and he shoots up a PT formation. Takes out 20 guys.
You’re one of them. 5.56 tracer round right to the gut. Range about 10 meters. And you’re dead for a little while, but it’s not your time yet; there are still too many lessons to learn. And you wake up after 5 surgeries and 45 days in a coma.
You look down at your body and you don’t recognize it–it has become a receptacle for hospital tubing and electronic monitoring devices. You have a tracheotomy, so there’s a huge tube going down your throat and you can’t talk, but that thing is making sure you breathe. And there’s a tube in your nose that goes down into your stomach–that’s how you eat. And there are four IVs–one in each arm and two in the veins in the top of your feet. There is a tube through your right clavicle–that’s where they inject the high-powered antibiotics that turns your hair white and makes you see things.
But disease is the enemy now and it’s gotta be done. And there are three tubes emerging from three separate holes in your stomach. They are there to drain the liquids from your stomach cavity. It drains into some bags hanging on the side of your bed. And they’ve shaved your chest and attached countless electrodes to monitor your heartbeat, blood pressure, and anything else they can measure. They have these things stuck all over your head as well, and on your wrists and ankles. Your family gathers around, and they are like rocks, and they pull you through.
But there’s also a guy, dressed in BDUs, with a maroon beret in his hand, who stands quietly in the corner. Never says anything. Just smiles, and looks at you. He’s there every day. Not every hour of every day, but he comes every day. Sometimes he’s there when you wake up. Sometimes he’s there when you go to sleep. He comes during his lunch break. He stays an hour, or two, or three. And just stands in the corner. And smiles.
No one told him to be there. But he made it his place of duty. His guard post. You see, it’s your sergeant major, and his ranger buddy is down, and a ranger never leaves a fallen comrade.
And you learn, through this man, the value of a creed.
(Excerpted from a speech that LTC Guy Lofaro (former USMA Military History professor) gave at a company dining-in during 2001. LTC Lofaro also taught at West Point during the mid-1990s.)