Revisiting perceived failure lets us gain perspective on the weight of strategic choices.
The wif and I went back to a place I have not visited in 20 years. We were invited to the base where I served in honor of 35 years to my unit’s founding.
Going back was overwhelming, to say the least.
This was my home as I struggled to be an active member of my team despite the constant shooting pain from torn ankle ligaments.
I was never the fastest, strongest, or best at anything. But I was so determined to be part of something bigger and more important than myself.
And despite my drive. My desire. My belief that I was doing the right thing pushing myself beyond all limits. I failed.
I saw the medical facility where I was told that I needed surgery to fix my ankle. The unit commander’s office where I was told I could not go to officers course until I undergo surgery.
I saw the offices where I helped revamp the unit’s sniper combat doctrine to include advanced camouflage techniques including the first Ghillie suit, helped establish maneuverable sniper teams in response to the wave of violence of the second Intifada, and worked to trial different platforms, sights, scopes, and more.
I visited the staging area where I prepped as an independent sniper to work with some of those teams in the field.
And it all flooded back. That feeling of not having completed something.
The weight of that failure has weighed heavily on the last 20 years of pain.
We often don’t know when we face strategic choices. Choices that are life-changing.
I knew when I volunteered for SOG Maglan that I was making such a decision. And I was prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice for my beliefs.
Little did I know the choice to push despite the daily trauma of my destroyed ankle would come with the price of daily never-ending fire burning along my legs.
But I knew the strategic significance of going back to the unit after 20 years. I was going to visit a place that represents failure and pain.
I worked my butt off to be part of this unit. I gave and gave.
And believed that I failed because my body failed. And because I was forgotten. Forgotten by my former team members. Forgotten by my unit.
And when we got to the base, I faced it all again.
But, with some help from the wif, I’m beginning to understand.
I wasn’t a failure.
I was forced to make tough decisions without understanding the depth of the ramifications.
Today I understand those decisions better. 20 years can do that.
It was good to go back. I hope to go back again. And again. And eventually, hopefully, find closure.