I stand 5 feet 11 inches tall, with brown hair, brown eyes and a need for correctional lenses. These are just some physical traits, my most basic ones. They are listed on every document imaginable, like my birth certificate and driver’s license. Every person in the United States is listed in one database or another, with all of these attributes alongside his or her name. Well, all of these attributes of myself just got put into another system: The Pride of PA Battalion system.
A week into this spring semester, I joined Gannon University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. For those that know me personally, it may seem like an odd fit. I have never been a very physically active person and I tend to lack self-discipline. But those reasons are exactly why I have strengthened my resolve to be a part of this program.
The most challenging part for me is the physical training (PT). I am weak. I can’t even do one proper pushup yet. So when I walked into my first PT, I was highly intimidated. I knew I would stand out like a sore thumb. I knew I would be performing horribly compared to the others. What I didn’t expect, though, was the camaraderie amongst the cadets.
As I trudged along the gymnasium floor in what was supposed to be a sprint but was actually more of a fast hobble, I was shocked when people were shouting words of encouragement. In my past experiences, such as when I was on the basketball team in middle school, everyone’s efforts seemed to be silently judged. No words of support were ever offered. But here, with these cadets, it was a complete 180-flip. Not once in my life have I experienced such a welcoming, supportive atmosphere.
And much to my surprise again in the next week’s PT, there was always a fellow cadet running at my slow pace when we had to run one and a half miles. It was a simple gesture, and one that slowed them down. But it kept me going. It made me feel like I can do this.
It all lives through what I learned in my military science class last week: the Warrior Ethos. The Warrior Ethos states, “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
We are about a month into the semester now, and this is where I have hit my turning point. Up until this week, my uniform felt like an odd costume I donned to go to class. Up until this week, I have done my best procrastination to convince myself I wasn’t right for ROTC, or that I didn’t have time. Up until this week, I had given up on myself.
That seems dramatic, but that’s what it takes for me to have a turning point. I have to reach my very worst to see the potential of my very best. So when I let myself down for this week’s PT, I knew I could change. I knew that it was now or never to push beyond my limits, limits I had only set myself.
It will be a physically demanding semester. I will need to train and work hard to prove to myself that I can do this. But I will not quit. And I will not accept my own defeat.