Excerpt from my (in-progress) book

Post 9/11

It was mid-morning and Chyna and I were still lying in the bed asleep.

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During those days, I slept with the radio on. To the best of my knowledge that’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever done that. As I awakened and became more and more alert, I realized that the radio was airing coverage of a disaster at the World Trade Center. For some reason, I thought it may have been the anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing back in 1993 but soon realized it was not. It was happening right then. We were under attack.

I wish I could say that I got dressed and immediately went to the recruiting station to reenlist in the army, but that just wasn’t the case; however, the thought did cross my mind more than once. One of the things I missed from my first stint in the army was the honor of wearing a combat patch on my right shoulder. I had a strong gut feeling that I might wind up there eventually, but I wanted to explore other options first.

Some of the job opportunities I’m about to go over happened before 9/11, but most of them took place afterwards.

One of my good friends sold insurance and asked if I was interested in coming to work for his company. My interest was piqued when he told me how much money I could make, so I took what I can only describe as a multiple choice personality or character exam to see if I’d be a good fit for the insurance business. As it turns out, I was not. I think I was too honest for the business. Honestly. They really thought I could excel and asked me to retake the test after a little coaching, but I declined. Insurance was not for me. Besides, I didn’t want people to scatter whenever they saw me approaching.

It’s funny, because nowadays, when people ask me what I do for a living and I don’t feel like telling them “comic, speaker, soldier, blah, blah, blah,” I simply tell them I sell insurance and the conversation comes to a screeching halt.

I also interviewed for a job at a furniture store. He made a snide comment about my stuttering but seemed like an okay guy. The interview went well but ended abruptly when he said he had to go run a credit check. He went to run it and I ran the other way. I never heard back from him.

The Duck Head outlet was next on the agenda. Due to my history in retail and my exceptional customer service skills, the interview went quite well. I likely would’ve landed the job had I not snickered when the lady mentioned that her cat had just died, and they buried it in a casket.

Adrian let me borrow a shirt for the next interview at the Hilton Garden Inn. I can’t remember what the position was, but the interview lasted a good 90 minutes and was filled with positive vibes. At the end, the lady was ready to offer me the job.

“Now this position starts out at $7.00 an hour,” she said.

“Do what? Why didn’t you tell me that 90 minutes ago?” I thought to myself.

Heck, I was making $11.95 an hour at Kroger. I told her thanks but no thanks.

Leaving Kroger before landing a job was a huge mistake. If I could go back and change anything about this period of time in my life, it would be that. My mindset was that companies would be lining up to hire me, not only because I was a veteran and a college graduate but also because of my proven job stability at Kroger. That was simply not the case, but I learned a valuable life lesson. Don’t quit your job until you have another one. It shouldn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, but I did have more opportunities.

Russell Stover Candies was a great interview and took place in Montgomery at a fancy hotel, one of those with the doors on the inside of the building. I vividly remember it being the Friday after 9/11. I was very excited about this opportunity and was confident that the job was mine to lose. I was very familiar with the company from my time working at Kroger. This job started off at $31,000 a year and came with a company car. I always thought that if I ever made even $25,000 a year, I would feel like a millionaire. Millionaire or not, it was not meant to be. I didn’t get the job and was highly disappointed.

I was struggling through it all. I was getting further and further behind on bills. I had to make choices between which bills to pay and which one to let slide. Of course, I paid the utilities first. They were necessities. One time, I went to pay my telephone bill after it had been disconnected. I needed it back on ASAP just in case someone called about a job.

“My phone was disconnected this morning, so I need to pay it,” I said as I handed her my check.

“Ok, let me see. It appears they are just doing some work on that line, so it’s not been disconnected,” she said.

“Cool. Can I get that check back?” I asked.

I was serious. She gave it back. My phone was disconnected the next week.

Stay tuned for future sneak peeks as I continue writing my still yet to be titled book about this poor stuttering kid from Opelika, Ala., who’s struggled to make something of his life with a whole lot of help from faith, family, and friends. Make sure you’re signed up on this email list. These previews are just the meat and potatoes, so please don’t notify me of any incorrect grammar 🙂

We’re also getting closer and closer to unveiling the brand new jodyfuller.com. Good things are happening. 

Does saying closer and closer actually make it any closer than just simply saying closer?

Thanks for reading,

Jody

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He currently holds the rank of Major in the US Army Reserves. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Patience pays off

“I’m a very patient person,” I often say. “I just hate waiting.”

For five days last week I wore my ACUs for the first time since September. For you civilian folks, the ACU is the Army Combat Uniform. I’m 23 pounds lighter than when I last wore them, so they fit better than ever. I took pride in my look as I reported to my new Army Reserve unit at Ft. Gillem, GA near Atlanta.

I showed up the first day about 15 minutes early. There’s that old Army saying about showing up 15 minutes early or you’re late. I’ve never been a fan of that. I just like to be there on time. So, on the second day, I showed up 15 minutes late. I just wanted to balance things out.

The first day was spent filling out paperwork. They must’ve cut down three trees just to have enough paper to collect my information. The paperwork was followed by more registration online, but I could do only so much due to the expired certificates on my common access card. For you civilian folks, that’s my ID card, which is inserted into the computer for access.

I was unable to get very much accomplished due to the lack of the aforementioned access. I called to make an appointment to have a new ID card made, but they couldn’t see me until August 10. I just shook my head and wished I had a bracelet on my wrist with the letters WWPD. We’ve all seen the What Would Jesus Do bracelets, but mine would be What Would Patton Do. Seriously, how would one of the greatest leaders in our nation’s history feel about our dependence upon computers?

All in all, it was a good first day, but it was a long first day. The unit pays for a hotel room during our drills or as they call them in the Reserves “Battle Assemblies.” I still call them drills, thank you very much. I got to the hotel room, and my room was not paid. I didn’t think to get any numbers from anyone in the unit during the day, so I was not a happy camper. I needed to go home to retrieve some paperwork anyway, so this was just the Good Lord giving me some guidance.

I still felt dejected. I was also starving to death, so I went to the Cracker Barrel across the street before heading home. Since I’d not been able to check into my hotel room, I was still in my uniform. My food took seemingly forever to cook. The manager came out twice to apologize for the delay. I showed my patience and put on a happy face but was still dejected. Once the food arrived, things got better.

A few minutes later, a rather large, bearded gentleman stepped over into my space and extended his hand. The first thing I noticed was the ball cap on his head. He was a Vietnam Veteran. In his other hand, he held the ticket for the meal I was eating. “Thank you for your service,” he said. “I got this.”

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I was down in the dumps for very minor setbacks throughout the day. I couldn’t help but think of all the terrible days he experienced in that land so far away. Although I served a total of 34 months in Iraq, nothing I did or saw will ever compare to his experiences.

The Vietnam Veterans were treated so unfairly upon their return and have every reason to be bitter for the unjust treatment; however, most of them bear no resentment towards their country. Their patience with our nation should serve as an example to each of us. I am extremely grateful for this gentleman and for all the other Vietnam Veterans who served this nation so admirably.

As for the remainder of the weekend, it had its ups and downs but ended on the highest of highs. On Sunday, my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law woke up at the crack of dawn so they could be in Atlanta at 9:00 to witness my promotion to Major. The best part is that I didn’t even tell them about it until early Saturday evening, yet they still did what they had to do to be there.

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Actually, the best part was having my wife pin on my oak leaf. In a perfect Army, I would’ve been promoted two years ago, but had that happened, I would’ve missed out on this amazing memory. My patience paid off.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Operation Iraqi Freedom (11 years later)

It’s hard to believe the War in Iraq started 11 years ago this week.

(I wrote this last year for the 10 year anniversary, so if it seems familiar, that’s why)

I was a Second Lieutenant attending the Transportation Officer Basic Course at Fort Eustis, Virginia, when the invasion began.

SFC Milanio used his Photoshopping skills many years ago to do this for me.

SFC Milanio used his Photoshopping skills many years ago to do this for me.

Initially, it looked very promising as the Iraqis seemed very eager for a new day—a day without Saddam Hussein in power. We all remember the toppling of Saddam’s statue followed by the obligatory flip flop slaps to his sculpted face.

Saddam was no longer in power and was now on the run.

In July 2003, his heartless and ruthless sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a raid in the northern city of Mosul by soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.

Years later, on my third tour in Iraq, I would often see what was called the Perfume Palace, which is where Uday and Qusay committed most of their atrocities against women.

I know there is a special place in hell for them.

By December 2003, my unit, the 3rd Brigade of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, also known as the First Stryker Brigade, was at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pacesetter near Samarra, a major city within the Sunni Triangle. It was perhaps the coldest, wettest, muddiest places I’d ever been.

I remember when the news broke that Saddam Hussein had been captured near his hometown of Tikrit, just 30 miles from our location.

We were sitting in an old bombed out hangar when one of my esteemed colleagues said that he’d read where Ted Nugent was offering a $1,000,000 reward to anyone who captured or killed the brutal dictator. I quickly chimed in by saying that I’d read the same thing.

We were looking at each other like two dogs exposed to high pitched sounds when I quietly asked where he’d read that vital piece of information. It turned out that we’d both read it from the same source—the wall of a porta-potty in Kuwait.

As you can imagine, rumors were running rampant. We were in an austere environment so communication with the outside world was extremely limited.

We got to call home one day but due to the length of the line, each call was limited to just five minutes. I called my mother, but because of the time restraints and the fact that I stuttered, I let her do most of the talking to maximize the time.

Soon after Saddam’s capture, the rumors of our early departure spread like wildfire. Some soldiers were really excited that we’d be going home sooner rather than later.

Of course that was not the case. We would be in Iraq for eight more years.

After Samarra, we moved north to the city of Mosul to replace 101st.

On April 4, two of my soldiers were hit with a daisy chain IED while out on a convoy in Mosul. SPC Philip Rogers was killed instantly, while SPC Tyanna Felder would succumb to her wounds just three days later.

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A month later, our battalion lost another soldier as SGT Isela Rubalcava, known by most as SGT Ruby, was killed when she was hit by flying shrapnel from a mortar while leaving the chow hall.

The brigade as a whole would lose countless others on that first deployment.

In all, there were roughly 4,487 casualties of war during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. In previous wars and conflicts, that number would have been much higher but was mitigated by advancements in medicine, training, technology, and transportation.

Between Iraq and Afghanistan there are well over a 1,200 amputees.

Over 32,000 soldiers were wounded in Iraq alone, not to mention the thousands who suffer internally with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The American people supported the soldiers in Iraq unconditionally for the duration of the war and we are forever grateful for that support, but for many, it’s not over. The battle has just begun, and they need your help now more than ever.

You can do your part by contacting your representatives to ensure they work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to end the backlog for those veterans filing claims.

Getting involved with worthy organizations such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Wounded Warrior Project are also ways to show your support for those who served voluntarily so you or your loved ones wouldn’t have to serve involuntarily.

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Wounded Warrior

Although we did have few bad apples amongst the ranks over the years, the overwhelming majority of soldiers served in a noble manner and made Iraq a better place for its people. Of that, I am certain.

So, on behalf of each and every soldier who has ever had the honor of wearing the uniform, I offer a sincere thank you for your past, present, and future support. We simply couldn’t do what we do without it.

We’re just hoping you don’t forget about us when we’re no longer wearing that uniform.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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“The best things in life are free”

In last week’s column, I was fired up after a parent filed an official bullying complaint against a Texas high school football team for beating his son’s team 91-0. I vowed to come back for part two this week on how the anti-bullying campaign has gotten out of hand; however, I’ve had a change of heart and see no need in another rant. Life is too full of blessings for me to focus on things that have the tendency to spike my blood pressure.

In addition to the ranting and raving in my column, last Friday was significant for more pertinent reasons.

Early last week, I was asked to speak briefly to the Campus Life students at Opelika High School. I was all in, even after learning they met at 7:07 a.m. Yes, that’s 7:07 a.m. in the morning.

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I am not a morning person. In fact, one of the reasons I left Active Duty Army is because I had to wake up early every single day. I often say that I left the Army for three reasons: I hate waking up early. I hate shaving, and I hate running. Well, those were the first three things I did every single day, so change was in order. Rest assured, I didn’t shave last Friday morning and since I wasn’t being chased by a pack of wolves, I sure as heck didn’t run.

The students were raising money for a worthy cause, so it was the least I could do. They had the option of supporting any cause they so desired and they chose to support the Wounded Warrior Foundation. By God’s Grace, in spite multiple tours to Iraq, I am not a wounded warrior but have many close friends who are.

Most of the students in attendance had loved ones who’d served in the military. One of the girls wasn’t sure which branch in which her granddad served, but, according to her, he was “one of the water people.” I assume he was in the Navy.

These kids touched my heart.

They also touched my wallet.

They were selling handmade bracelets, so I walked out of there with three of them…and I don’t even wear bracelets. I’m such a sucker for kids supporting a great cause.

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After leaving these impressive young people, I proceeded toward the Birmingham VA Medical Center by way of US Highway 280 passing the sign for the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alex City en route, which got me to thinking.

I entertained a group of female Veterans at the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Luncheon at the Birmingham VA. To my credit, I made them laugh but I was overwhelmed by the love and kindness they showed me.

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Because of the audience, I waived my fee, but as I told them, nothing in life is free. I expected to be paid in hugs before they left and boy was I ever. I’d never been hugged and kissed so many times in my life.

Notice the scarf, my new favorite accessory.

Notice the scarf, my new favorite accessory.

They stated that they were blessed to have me there but it was I who was truly blessed on this particular day.

It’s an old cliché, but the best things in life really are free: love, hugs, and extra gravy. I used to include air on that list, but it now costs 50 cents at some places.

As I was driving home, it dawned upon me to contact my cousin who works at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home to see if there was anything I could do for them. She stated that many of the residents were in need of shoes.

The Campus Life kids and the breast cancer survivors inspired me to take action; therefore, I did, but I couldn’t and didn’t do it alone.

It was just an idea, but with the incredible and overwhelming support of my friends, new and old, local and afar, we raised enough money in just three days to send 115 pairs of men’s Reebok Velcro-strapped walking shoes to the residents of the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home.

As you can imagine, it takes a while to gather 115 pairs of Velcro shoes but our hope is that they get there by Veterans Day.

There are also two females residing at the home, but only one can wear shoes. We didn’t forget about them. A friend from North Carolina ordered a pair of New Balance Velcro-strapped sneakers for one, while a friend from Florida bought a pair of slippers for the other.

My friend from NC sent these my way to give to the lone shoe wearing female at the Veterans Home.

My friend from NC sent these my way to give to the lone shoe wearing female at the Veterans Home.

I received donations ranging from $5 to $337.50. Every dollar was just as important as the next and every cent will go to the home.

I was asked to speak to those kids for a reason and now we know why.

Oh, I gave my three bracelets to members of the Midfield High School JROTC who were also in attendance at the survivor’s luncheon. I didn’t need the bracelets, because I now have a pink one, along with a scarf, given to me by Evelyn, one of the survivors. She, of course, gave them to me for free.

Every one of these kids said they planned on going into the military after high school. I'm proud of each of them.

Every one of these kids said they planned on going into the military after high school. I’m proud of each of them.

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I will always cherish my gifts and memories of this wonderful day, which is proof that the best things in life really are free.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. Jody can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Freedom isn’t free

Freedom isn’t free

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I took this photo at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor in 2012.

I took this photo at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor in 2012.

Memorial Day weekend is upon is. The kids are out of school. It’s time to fire up the grill. It’s time to head to the pool, lake, or beach. It’s time to party with family and friends. It’s the beginning of the summer. That’s what Memorial Day is all about, right?

Wrong.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday which occurs each year on the final Monday of May. It should not be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, whereas Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead.

I took this pic at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.Not taking the time to reflect upon the fallen service member and his or her sacrifices on Memorial Day is akin to not taking the time to reflect upon Jesus Christ and his sacrifice at Easter.

Unlike other holidays, we don’t receive tangible gifts on Memorial Day; however, thanks to all of the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we do receive the intangible gift of freedom.

One of those brave warriors was Sergeant First Class (SFC) Raymond D. Penland.

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I first learned about SFC Penland by way of his son and my dear friend, Opelika native and resident, Steve Penland.
Raymond D. Penland was born July 5, 1921, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Although he started his senior year of high school, he never finished, but that wouldn’t prevent him from living a remarkable life.

He enlisted in the Army on Feb 23, 1940, at the age of 19.

Unfortunately, SFC Penland’s service record is largely unknown.

On July 12, 1973, there was a fire at the National Personnel Records Center, located just outside of St. Louis, that destroyed 80% of the records for U.S. Army personnel discharged over a nearly 50 year span from 1912 to 1960. Additionally, 75% of the records for U.S. Air Force personnel discharged from 1947 to 1964 were also destroyed.

None of the records that were destroyed in the fire had duplicate copies made, nor had they been copied to microfilm.

Regrettably, up to 18 million service records were destroyed leaving veterans and families alike looking for answers.

The family has no record of where Penland attended basic training, but older son, Raymond (Ray) C. Penland, through due diligence alone, has been able to obtain some of his father’s records.

After completing basic training, Penland was assigned to 2nd Infantry Division (ID) as a rifleman from 1940-42, which is significant to me, because I, too, was assigned to 2ID, albeit 61 years later.

Over the next few years, Penland’s stellar performance would allow him to rise up the ranks of 10th Infantry Regiment holding such positions as squad leader, platoon guide, and platoon sergeant.

Penland was part of the greatest generation and saw action in the European theater during World War II. While serving with 10th Infantry, he was awarded his first of two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained along the Moselle River in Northern France.

In 1946, Penland was assigned to recruiting duty in, of all places, Opelika, Alabama. His time here would be very productive.

Raymond D. Penland married Opelika native Sara H. May in Troup County, Georgia, on March 1, 1947.

Over the next few years, Ray and Steve would come along, respectively.

Also, while in Opelika, Penland would go on to earn his GED.

In 1949, SFC Penland returned to 10th Infantry where he reassumed his role as Platoon Sergeant.

He departed Ft. Benning, Georgia, for Korea in July of 1950, just weeks after the outbreak of the Korean War.

Due to the fire of 1973, the family has little knowledge of his duties in Korea, although they do know he was assigned to Company L, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

According to a letter from CPT McCaffrey, his Commanding Officer, on December 16, 1950, Penland departed the Company Headquarters with the Executive Officer and a driver in order to go to the rear for ammunition. During their return, they were ambushed by a group of North Korean soldiers, and, sadly, Sergeant First Class Raymond D. Penland was killed in action by machine gun fire.

His XO and driver were wounded in the attack.

His unit was evacuated by sea just three days later.

He was just 29 years old. He would leave behind a young wife, the mother of his two sons.

For his leadership and valor, SFC Penland was awarded two Purple Hearts, the American Defense Service Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military.

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military.

He was most likely awarded additional medals including the Bronze Star. Unfortunately, that can’t be verified at this time due to the fire at the records center.

Records show that SFC Penland is buried in what is registered as United Nations Military Cemetery #2 in Hungnam, North Korea; however, there is no evidence of him actually being there. They were intentionally hidden so the enemy wouldn’t dig up the remains for their clothing. There are 48 other soldiers buried there with him. Furthermore, there are thousands of other U.S. servicemen still buried in North Korea.

In the early nineties, Ray, retired U.S. Navy, was stationed in Japan and went to Korea on assignment. His unit visited the U.N. base in P’anmunjom on the demilitarized zone. This is the closest any member of the Penland family has ever been to SFC Penland’s grave.

His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. This Honolulu memorial is also known as “The Punchbowl.”

Penland Cemetery

I took these photos in Jan 2014.

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Korea has often been referred to as “The Forgotten War” because of the lack of public attention it received both during and after the war, but I can assure you that neither the Penland family nor the families of the more than 33,000 casualties from the Korean War have ever forgotten.

“I was 9 months old and my brother was almost 3 when my mother received the telegram. There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and wish that one day he can be brought back home and given a final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery,” said Steve.

Ray sums it up well, “Each memorial day I remind my friends that there are missing servicemen and women all over the world. They are in unmarked graves in cities, jungles, deserts, and at sea. As we celebrate our nation’s greatness, let us not forget those who gave their all for their country and may never come home again.”

So enjoy the freedom that this holiday allows. Enjoy the outdoor recreation, the barbeques, and the start of summer, but I encourage you to take a moment and reflect upon those men and women whose sacrifice paved the way for you to do so, because a true reflection of this sacred day clearly shows that freedom is not free.

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This is what Memorial Day is really about.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Life isn’t Burger King…You don’t always get it your way.

When I was in junior high school, all my buddies had name brand BMX bicycles such as Haro, Mongoose, and Diamond Back. Many of these were purchased at The Bike Shop in Auburn.

I wanted nothing more than to get one of those “high dolla” bikes for Christmas.

When I walked into the living room on Christmas morning of 1984 and saw a red dirt bike from Sears next to the tree, I was less than enthused.

I was a good kid and deserved better, or so I thought.

I remember removing every Sears and Roebuck sticker I could find from the bicycle itself.

When school reconvened in early January, I proudly rode my bike to school and chained it up at the bike rack. I recall telling my buddies that it came from The Bike Shop in Auburn.

One of my more snobby acquaintances decided to inspect my ride, and in doing so, found an isolated Sears sticker that had somehow eluded me. I played it off and told them it indeed came from The Bike Shop, the bike shop at Sears in Auburn.

That dude moved a year or so later. No one liked him anyway.

Sometimes, we simply do not get what we want and that is a part of life. Life is not always fair. We have to adapt and overcome, which is oftentimes easier said than done.

A few weeks ago, I was passed over at my first look at being promoted to Major in the Alabama National Guard.

I'll have put this patrol cap away for another year...

I’ll have to put this patrol cap away for another year…

We’ve all had that feeling of getting kicked in the gut. Well, I felt as if I was kicked in my gut, head, shin, and hind side, followed by multiple slaps to the face and another kick to the gut.

I won’t go into detail because the last thing I want to do is burn any bridges. I’ve never been a bridge burner, but I always keep a can of kerosene in my garage just in case I need to do so at some point in the future.

During the War on Terror, our military was promoting soldiers, officer and enlisted, at unprecedented rates. In the National Guard, there were two officer promotion boards a year, but that was scaled back to just one a couple of years ago.

Unlike the Active and Reserve components of the US Army, there are only so many slots within the ranks of a state’s guard.

There were approximately 50 of us vying for less than a dozen of those slots, and I know that those selected were highly qualified and deserving.

Be that as it may, I’ll put my qualifications up against any of them. I was not a happy camper.

It appeared to me that most of those selected were able to do more push-ups and sit ups than me. They could run faster, too. Yes, that’s what I look for in a leader. Too bad there’s not a sarcasm font.

I contemplated transferring to the Reserves or to the Georgia National Guard. In a brief lapse of sanity, I even contemplated getting out. I didn’t feel they deserved me.

I speak to thousands of people a year and often talk about the great honor of serving in the Alabama National Guard. It doesn’t take a marketing major to see this as great marketing for the guard. By the way, I did major in marketing in college.

I was upset, disappointed, frustrated and hurt.

During many of my speeches, I harp on adapting to and overcoming the challenges we all face in life.

Many of us are very good at giving solid, sound advice to others but sometimes find it difficult to apply that advice to our own lives.

In the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to several high ranking officers, active and retired, who were also passed over at some point in their career but went on to get picked up at subsequent boards.

As we say in the Army, “This isn’t Burger King, so you don’t always get it your way.”

No matter how hard we work and no matter how deserving we may think we are, we don’t and won’t always get our way, but that doesn’t mean we should quit or give up. It means we keep fighting; we keep doing the right thing.

When Uniroyal was hiring in the late nineties, I put in my application. I was incredibly disappointed when they never called, but I didn’t give up on life because of that setback. I continued to work at Kroger and continued to go to school.

A few years later, Uniroyal was closed, while I was a college graduate and an officer in the United States Army.

I often thank God for unanswered prayers.

I’m not planning on leaving the Alabama National Guard anytime soon, because I take no greater pride than wearing our nation’s uniform and will continue to do so for the next three years, eight months, and nine days. But, who’s counting….

PS. Thank you for the bike, mama. I know how hard you worked to pay for it, and I can’t thank you enough.

UPDATE: Two months after writing this, I was picked up for Major by the Department of the Army, which opens the door to many opportunities, but for now, I’ll remain a Captain in the National Guard.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

In honor of this National Day of Prayer, I’d like to share with you the Power of Prayer.

I graduated from college in August 2001. A month later, the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded and changed my life forever.

Before attending college, I was an enlisted man in the Army. In the wake of such a catastrophic event, I felt the need to serve once again; however, that didn’t happen right away.

Foolishly, I’d quit my job at Kroger six months prior to graduation with the rationale that I’d have no trouble finding employment upon graduation. In fact, I anticipated having a job prior to graduation. Both were miscalculations on my part.

I’d saved enough money to make ends meet as long as no monkey wrenches entered the equation. Unfortunately, the monkey wrenches kicked in the door and brought baboon hammers with them.

To say times were tough is like saying Harvey Updyke likes Alabama.

I experienced everything from an eviction to a blown transmission to harassing phone calls from bill collectors to strained relationships with loved ones. If it was negative, there’s a good chance I experienced it.

My credit got so bad that I got turned down for a paper route. Times were tough.

Along this dark journey, I’d often find myself in prayer, simply asking the Lord to help me make it. At the time, I thought it meant I was asking Him to absolve me of the challenges in my life. In hindsight, He did exactly what I asked of Him. One day at a time, He helped me make it.

I reported to Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia, on September 11, 2002.

OCS

As my luck would have it, I was assigned to Alpha Company, notoriously known as “Alphatraz”, for a grueling 14 weeks of training.

I’m not exactly sure when, where, or how but sometime early on I injured my right knee. What initially began as mild discomfort would eventually become unbearably excruciating pain.

I was hesitant about going on sick call, because an extended profile, which restricts physical activity, would cause me to miss training and to likely be recycled to another company.

The culminating event of this ordeal took place in the wee hours of a chilly Fort Benning morning as we started what was to be a relatively short road march fully equipped with ruck sacks and training weapons known as rubber ducks.

Within a matter of minutes, I was using the rubber duck as a crutch as tears streamed down my face. I was forced to abandon the march and take refuge in the truck that was following our formation.

Make no mistake about it; the pain was immense but the tears had more to do with the trials and tribulations I’d experienced over the past year coming to a head combined with a real sense of hopelessness.

By the time I got to sick call that morning, my knee was about three times its normal size. I was given an initial 10-day profile and would indeed be recycled. I was devastated.

I prayed that night. I mean, I really prayed. I felt connected in a way in which I have only experienced on one other occasion. Perhaps one day, I’ll share that story.

As usual, the lights were abruptly turned on the next morning at “o dark 30.” Upon first call each day, we had only five minutes to be standing outside in formation ready to start the day.

As I readied myself to jump down from the top bunk, I grimaced while anticipating the agonizing pain that would soon follow, but much to my surprise, I stuck that landing like Mary Lou Retton at the ’84 Summer Olympics in LA. There was no pain. Zero. Nil. Nothing. The swelling had disappeared, too.

I was astonished by what appeared to be a miraculous healing but wasn’t completely convinced so I maintained my profile for the remainder of that day.

The next day, however, I returned to sick call and convinced the doctor to rescind my profile. Although there were other speed bumps along the way, none of them involved a bum knee.

I went on to graduate from Officer Candidate School and was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army on January 10, 2003.

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my "grandpa."

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my “grandpa.”

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.

The day I raised my right hand and stated the oath of office is undoubtedly the proudest moment of my life, and without blinking an eye, I can say that it never would have happened without the power of prayer.

The power of prayer got me to and through OCS and has allowed me to serve admirably as a commissioned officer for the past decade, which includes three tours of duty in Iraq.

Prayer fuels me daily and is a whole lot cheaper than that stuff you pump into your vehicle.

Without it, I hate to think where I’d be.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.