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Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

TEN LIFE LESSONS THE ARMY HAS TAUGHT ME |

April 30, 2007

TEN LIFE LESSONS THE ARMY HAS TAUGHT ME
Name: @WR
Posting date: 4/30/07
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog url: walterreed.blogspot.com
Email: snapshotdc@gmail.com

1. Always have a notepad, pen, watch, knife, and flashlight on hand.
In life, as in the Army, there are always unforeseen events. An important note needs to be taken, you need the precise time, something needs to be fixed, or you just can't find your way. All these items are small and cheap; lifesavers when you have them, deal breakers when you don't.

2. Have a copy of everything. If it's important, have two copies.
If it has your name on it, then you need a copy. If it affects your health, paycheck, or other element of well-being, then you need two copies. Records get lost, computers crash, and sometimes people just need to see a piece of 80 bond under their noses to get anything done.

3. Make friends wherever you go.
It doesn't matter if you are there for 20 minutes or 20 months, make friends. Inevitably, you will see them again. You will go to where they are. They will go to where you will be. And at the end of the day friends are the only ones covering the front of your position.

4. Make an SOP. Know the SOP. Work the SOP.
Civilian. Military. It doesn't matter. There should be a Standard Operating Procedure for daily life. Often we don't have fulfilling days or lives because "we just don't have time" and that is because we often don't have good processes. On the battlefield there is a place for everything, and everything in its place. There is a rote routine (often personal) for everything from showering in the morning to they way we check our gear. We do this because often there are times when there is no time, but the task still needs to get done. Routine accomplishes this, and we accomplish more when we have a routine.

5. Sleep.
Sleep is one of the things in life we don't appreciate until we aren't getting it. Sleep recharges us, heals us, and lets us put a new perspective on the world. If it was bad when you went to sleep and it's still bad when you wake up, well then I guess you weren't missing anything. If by chance it's better when you wake up, then apparently the world doesn't rest upon your shoulders. So take a nap, Atlas.

6. Don't go cheap.
I didn't grow up with money. I have learned to make due with what is available. There are times, however, that you can't afford to go cheap. Whether it be getting the brakes fixed on your HUMVEE or your Ford, get it done, get it done by a professional, and get the warranty. If you are buying shoes (speaking from personal experience) don't get them because they are cheaper. Get them because they are comfortable and durable. If you don't, it'll be more than your wallet that will hurt.

7. Find humor everywhere.
I have been in some pretty crappy places, some pretty crappy situations, and yet forced myself to find some humor, somewhere. It helps you cope. It takes the sting out of the painful, awkward, or otherwise difficult moments in life. And humor is one of those conversations you can have with yourself, because you always get your own jokes. As a side note, as much as it may pain you, never ridicule someone for their dark sense of humor. We aren't them and they aren't us, and we are all just trying to get by. I think Plato put this in perspective best by saying, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle."

8. Don't tolerate oppression.
To quote someone more intelligent than myself: "First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me." Stand up for what you think is right. In the end if you were wrong, so be it.

9. Tell your Story.
Battles are decided not only by the Soldiers on the field, the armament, or the weather. They are also won and lost by the lessons learned from prior battles. We learn these lessons because someone told their story. As a young Soldier I was a sponge for knowledge; it was before the current age of mass communication. Older Soldiers told their stories in hopes that a single silver strand of wisdom would be gleaned and be passed on. It is part of what we contribute to society. When we can glean wisdom from the lessons others have learned, we can avoid repeating the hardships by which they gained that knowledge. And by sharing our lessons we are helping someone else. That is one of our greatest contributions to humanity.

10. Never forget.
Never forget who you are. Never forget what you have done. Never forget where you are. Never forget what it is you want from this one life we have. Never forget the people that stood behind you in support, beside you in camaraderie, or in front of you in adversity. Never forget to write home. Never forget that someone is missing you. Never forget what you have learned. Never forget to share what you have learned. Never forget anything; lest you forget everything.

Comments

Yep, this is all true. You and others have learned so much, and because of you...we have learned also. Thankyou so much for your service!

Excellent advice. I hope many will take note of it.

such a great post!

keep safe

I know most of it, never listed so well and ready to send off to those that don't understand, thanks. If they didn't disarm me at work my Leatherman would be on my belt, but then somehow I always have a few blades and tools with me anyway - I am built like that. Will work on the friends thing, that is a battle winner...

Always remember these two, also. 1. Never hesitate; and, 2. Always have a backup.

Got your post through my Military.com daily e-mail. As a civilian (but raised in the AF), I wholeheartedly agree with your life-lessons. I already embrace most of them (2 or 3 of them I am going to work on), but it was nice to be reminded of them again. I printed them, distributed them to friends and family, and posted one on my desk to keep as a daily reminder. Thanks for your contribution, and your service to all of us.

In your Ten you exhibit the wisdom of a wise old one. May the lessons be learned by the young and even the not so young.

Thank you for the ten rules. Never I have I found more accurate and well thought out pieces of advice.
I especially understand and can relate to the need to pass on hard won wisdom to our future borthers and sisters in arms.
Well done and thank you again for passing and explaining these fundamental truths.

Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your 10 valuable life lessons. I arrive late to the Sandbox, just today, by way of Canada, and I look forward to your future postings.

The army teaches life lessons which have heard from my grandfather as well as read it in this article now. The lesson that caught my eye the most was number two. My father always told me to keep two copies of a document on which my name is written, no matter what it is for. In the past three years of my life, I have learned to always make and keep friends n- matter where I go. That has always helped me out and I know I have a place to stay no matter where I go! Since I am a person who loves to sleep I know exactly what number five is talking about. Where ever I go and whatever I do, I always try to be positive and have the most fun that I can get out of it, which also is mentioned in number seven. All in all I think that all of these ten points mentioned here are some of the most important lessons in life. However, I think it is very sad to have to know that some people have to go to war t learn those lessons!

Those are great life lessons you have learned. I guess it is true that the army teaches you things that you will use and take with you all your life. These lessons are ones everyone should learn throughout their lives. I believe the most important lesson is number ten to never forget. Sometimes life can be so hectic that you lose sight of who you are.

I chose to read your blog because of the title, and my natural curiosity of how war affects everyday life while at war. I have always assumed that it requires you to be very self reliant and as well as always be alert. The quote in the sleeping section was very intriguing:
“If it was bad when you went to sleep and it's still bad when you wake up, well then I guess you weren't missing anything. If by chance it is better when you wake up, then apparently the world does not rest upon your shoulders. So take a nap, Atlas.”
I was interested in this quote because it reminded me of something that I had learned in previous philosophy classes about Taoism and a philosopher named Epetictus. Epectitus always said that if something is out of your control there is no need to waste any energy trying to fix or change it; it is out of your control. This bit of advice has kept me very level headed in times of great tension and stress. I believe that an attitude like that, not confused with carelessness or negligence, is something that can be useful in war. Staying level headed while having to make life or death decision can be the difference between life and death. I admire the way you rely on what you need and use everything as efficiently as possible. The great discipline that you demonstrate is very commendable and something that I can only wish I develop one day. If there was one thing I could ask you it would be what motivates you to be so diligent and disciplined, was it how your parents raised you, or something that you developed while at war? Everyday people of my age and generation think that they have it tough with classes, homework, sports, but the amount of diligence it requires to deal with those issues are nothing compared to what you are dealing with. Everyday I wonder what drives people to do what they do, especially those at war.

The ten things that you have posted that you learned from the military caught my eye. I feel as if these ten factors are things that everyone could use in everyday life. The fact that it is coming from you, someone who is in the military is a wonderful thing. The fact that you should always carry a notepad, pen, watch, knife, and a flashlight intrigued me the most. I think most people wouldn’t event think to keep these items on hand, and how you explained how significant they are, made me realize that it is helpful to have them on hand here in America in everyday life, as well as in Iraq fighting in a war. Your perspective on the ten things you learned is phenomenal. People don’t realize the little things until they don’t have them anymore. I feel as if the advice you have gained and shared will linger on with me for the remainder of my life. I never actually took the time to think about the things and appreciate them. I hope many people to come will take the advice to the head as I did. I would state which of the ten influenced me the most, but that wouldn’t do any justice, because all ten of them were great advice. Thank you for the post. It is well appreciated and considerate. I hope all is well out there. I also hope you are able to come home safely to your family. I just would also like to thank you for what you are doing for our country as well as our people. It takes courage, and I feel as if you have both courage and knowledge. Just want to let you know that the work you are doing isn’t being taken for granted. It helps to know that, and to have a total stranger thank you, means you are truly appreciated in every aspect.

Sincerely,
Treyci Robinson

Very well written article. I just moved in my new house and got a chance of reading you blog. It is quite interesting one. All the ten things about army is just like a surprise for me. Thanks for posting ! Kudos to you !

Thanks for this post! I printed them, distributed them to friends and family, and posted one on my desk to keep as a daily reminder. Thanks for your contribution, and your service to all of us.

You have summed up everything so beautifully. When I was in the army I used to sleep only 4-5 hours of sleep divided with by the shifts at times. Believe me I appreciate sleep now.

I like this,Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your 10 valuable life lessons. I arrive late to the Sandbox, just today, by way of Canada, and I look forward to your future postings.GooD Luck

Always was interested in this theme! Those are great life lessons you have learned. I guess it is true that the army teaches you things that you will use and take with you all your life. These lessons are ones everyone should learn throughout their lives. I believe the most important lesson is number ten to never forget. Sometimes life can be so hectic that you lose sight of who you are.

An informative blog! There is a rote routine (often personal) for everything from showering in the morning to they way we check our gear. We do this because often there are times when there is no time, but the task still needs to get done. Routine accomplishes this, and we accomplish more when we have a routine.

I'd be interested in hearing. The TOS seems rather clear that it is not unless expressly approved by Amazon. I guess if the library got it in writing then they would be ok.

I think that it is too good, that you have posted this kind of article, keep on posting more like this.

I am glad to talk with you and you give me great help.

I'm always in accordance with all these lessons about lifestyle from the military learned, I often attempt to learn about it and every time I am increasingly sure that the military life forge real men.
However, the next step is try to make conscience of it, in these days there a lot of useless people who delayed our progress, and you can work or progress with them, on the contrary, them delayed you and you never find that body unit, what can we do about it?, what we need to do?

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