“The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world brother.” Charles Dickens
In the mid-nineties, I was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, for a couple of years.
It was by far the worst assignment of my military career, which includes multiple tours in Iraq, and had no positive impact on my life whatsoever. It was a worthless stop along my military career.
Or was it?
Two weeks ago, while teaching a resilience class in Mobile to my fellow guardsmen, I was contacted by a member of the Opelika Character Council about serving on their committee.
Naturally, I thought they’d contacted the wrong Jody Fuller, but upon further review, they had the right guy.
The City of Opelika became an official “City of Character” on April 3, 2007, when the Opelika City Council unanimously adopted the resolution, because city leaders in both the private and public sector decided that character building was an important piece of our community’s development.
There is a different character trait each month and the intent is for each of us to promote the monthly trait amongst our family, friends, and workplace.
Character traits for 2013 have included civility, integrity, and courage, while punctuality, discernment, gratefulness, and joyfulness will close out the year.
Endurance, the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity, is the character trait for the month of August, which brings me back to Ft. Sill.
Although it seemed like a couple of years, I was actually only stationed there for 15 months.
Prior to this assignment, I was a medic stationed at Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center, the largest U.S. hospital in Europe. We provided care for soldiers, their dependents, and retirees. We also had real world missions where we took care of patients ranging from the Army Rangers from Somalia to civilians injured in a mortar explosion in Sarajevo.
It was high-speed stuff. I was making a difference. Life was good.
Upon arrival at Ft. Sill, I was assigned to a field artillery unit and immediately knew that life was no longer good, although I did get really good at picking up trash, cutting grass, and handing out ear plugs and foot powder.
We spent a lot of time in the field where the extremes of hot and cold resulted in misery. The relentless wind only made it worse.
I once pulled KP for 39 straight hours while in the field.
In April 1995, we, the medics, were on call to provide assistance at the Murrah Federal Building, site of the Oklahoma City bombing, but were never called upon.
Later that summer, my battalion was on tap to deploy to Guantanamo Bay as part of a humanitarian mission to support more than 20,000 Cuban refugees; however, that mission was aborted for the battalion, as only one battery was needed.
Two medics deployed with the battery, but neither of them was named Fuller; he was assigned to baggage detail.
I always did my job and remained hopeful, but it just seemed like a complete waste of time.
I could go on and on about the hard times at Ft. Sill but will cut it short just as my time there was. Fortunately, my commander authorized a 90-day early out for me after I was accepted into college.
Finally, there was good fortune.
On Sunday, I drove onto post for the first time since May 24, 1996, and have been here all week.
As I stroll down memory lane, I realize that this place wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time.
I served with some great guys who I’m still friends with today.
I really liked my First Sergeant, too. He would give me a hard time about my stuttering but it wasn’t mean spirited. I’ve always had trouble with words beginning with the letters “F” and “S”, so if he knew I was alone at the aid station, he’d call me on the phone just to hear me answer, “First and Seventeenth Field Artillery, this is Specialist Fuller. How may I help you, sir or ma’am?” As if I didn’t have enough trouble with, “Hello.”
“I’m just messing with you, brother,” he’d say in the midst of laughter.
In hindsight, I can tell you that my time here was not a waste of time, because endurance builds character. In fact, it is one of the 23 traits of character in Army leadership.
Romans 5: 3-4 says it best: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
And with hope, all things are possible.
That’s what I’m talking about, brother.