Most people understand that when you decide to make the military a career, it’s going to be hard on your body. It’s part of the deal we make with Uncle Sam; especially so for those serving in the combat arms of their service. Now if we’re lucky (and we work at it), we’ll make it to the end of a military career in one piece and without too much wear and tear on our old ass. Yes; aches, pains and some worn out body parts are unavoidable, however I contend that other than a real disability, you can still maintain a surprisingly high level of fitness at any age. Not always easy to do, but not as hard as some people may think either. I offer a recent example of why this is important for anyone who wants to continue to live life fully for as long as possible.
Over the past two weeks myself and an active duty Sailor deployed to Antigua to train some of their Army, Coast Guard and Law Enforcement personnel. The instruction was classroom only, focused on Force Protection, LOAC, ROE and some basic leadership topics. They were good students and the classes went well. We enjoyed some perfect caribbean weather and a relaxed schedule that allowed us plenty of time to see the island. Antigua is well know for its warm clear water and seafood and we got to do a fair amount of snorkeling. (My training partner doesn’t dive, so we were limited to snorkeling).
Taking advantage of this we went out a few times with the intent of gathering some lobster and conch. However the pickings were pretty weak around the close in reefs. Our students told us we needed to get a boat and go out to the more off shore reefs. Despite some promises, a boat was never produced. So a few days before we were scheduled to depart, I suggested to my partner that we just swim out to one of the reefs that was off shore from the base we were staying on. We had been told that this was especially good hunting as that area was off limits to civilians, but we had permission to go there.
He begged off as the the water between the base pier and the reef was about 60 feet deep and at least a 1/2 mile out as years ago the British had cut a deepwater channel for their larger ships. I had made open water swims of over a mile (yes, it had been awhile) before and I didn’t think this would be an issue, but he wasn’t that confident in his swimming ability so he decided he would rather stay near the pier. I was determined to try for some lobster and conch so donning my gear and grabbing a mesh bag I headed out alone. The water was crystal clear and piss warm with no current to speak of and I made it to the reef pretty quick.
From there I made dozens of dives to depths of up to around 20ft off the reef to gather up a bunch of conch but, despite a lot of looking, no lobster. After a couple of hours I had completely filled my bag and decided to head back. Now in case you haven’t done it, swimming with about 20lbs of conch isn’t easy, (they don’t float). It was a pretty tough and slow swim back. A couple of times I considered dumping the conch, but thinking of how good they would taste, I swam on.
Eventually I got back to the pier where my partner was waiting, empty handed. With some ice cold beer we cleaned up the conch and the next day the chow hall made us an awesome stew from the fresh conch meat and we had enough for our whole class. The obvious fact here is that if I hadn’t maintained my fitness at a high level, this great little adventure would have never even had a chance to leave the pier, (or I could have drowned on the way back) and this is just one example of how I’ve been able to take advantage of many opportunities like this over the years and that is not by chance, but a conscience choice.
The main point here to consider is that we will all make a decision on how we want to live our lives. This can be a un-conscience or conscience decision, but you will make it, one way or the other. You may decide that there are some things you want to experience and you know they will require a high level of energy, health and fitness to really enjoy. To choose this option will take some effort and discipline to get and stay in the condition you need. The second choice is easy, just kick back and become a spectator. No effort, no pressure, just relax, let other people have the fun. If that is good enough for you, fine, however It’s not for me, nor do I think its for most of the people reading this.
At age 56 I’m not going to deploy back to Iraq, but there is many things I want to do yet and they involve mountains, oceans, bikes, skis and kayaks. Not Tv’s, computers or hammocks. If you feel the same way, make a conscience choice and get your ass in the shape you need to do what you want to do. My book can help show you the way and honestly t’s not that hard, but you have to make the choice. BTW shining a chair with your ass isn’t a real choice for guys like us, but I’m guessing you know that already.
Be safe always, be good when you can