I loved my time in the Marines, even the tough times. Even when, as a sergeant, I had to make a decision I knew some wouldn’t like. There was one time when I was in Central America with a reserve unit that I had recently joined and in this unit was a fellow sergeant, barley senior to me, who saw me as his number one competitor. This guy was a real politician, always working to boost his popularity with the platoon by trying to make me look as if I was too hard on them. Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly tough, I was coming to this reserve unit from the active fleet and I knew it was my job as a Non-Commissioned Officer to keep the Marines disciplined and I took that job seriously.
While in Central America, one of the privates fell asleep on his post. Things like this rarely happen but in the event it does, you have to make sure it never happens again. I made the decision that he would stand that post for another hour without sitting down and he would have to report every fifteen minutes to ensure he was still awake. My fellow sergeant waited for me to leave the area and when I did, he quickly called some of the platoon over, gave a little speech and then told the private who was on post he could just go to bed. When I found out, I nearly lost my mind. I found the sergeant and a tense argument ensued to the point that it almost came to blows. I wasn’t backing down from my position and he wasn’t backing down from his popularity contest. I was angry. It just didn’t compute with my brain how anyone would want to join the Marines and choose popularity over leading a well disciplined fighting unit. It wasn’t a fun day. A few hours later a corporal who I had known from my active duty days found me sitting on a pile of ammo cans. He looked at me, shook his head, and said three words I’ll never forget, “right is right.” In other words, stay strong, everything about your position is backed up by over two hundred years of Marine Corps tradition. Sometimes you only need to know that your right in order to find the strength to keep standing.
One of my jobs in the Marines was as a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, teaching hand to hand combat skills. One of the first thing I would tell my Marines is that when you’re going into a fight, just accept the fact that you’re going to get hit, that way, you’re able to stay in the fight and not be rattled when your opponent lands a punch. If you’re expecting to get hit, you’ll be mentally prepared to get hit and be able to stay in the fight. The last of the five good Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius, once wrote, “If it’s worth saying or doing, it’s worth being criticized for saying or doing.” Even Aurelius knew, don’t be rattled by the criticism, know that you’re doing the right thing and prepare for it. Take a few minutes to reflect on how people will try to tear you down. Expect them too. If you really believe in that what you’re doing or saying needs to be done or said, then expect the punch. If you believe right is right then it’s worth taking the criticism and abuse for saying or doing the right thing.
The lesson here is to always endeavor to be on the side of right because whenever the entire world falls apart around you and leaves you, you’ll know that you can muster up the strength to stand a little longer because there is strength in righteousness and truth. You won’t always be strong enough to hold the position but if the position is built on a foundation of truth and righteousness, it will help hold you up even when your getting hit.