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I’m sitting in the cafeteria at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. Jenny and I are waiting on news of Rocco’s surgery. I’m feeling pretty damn good about it. Maybe I’m just kidding myself and my psyche isn’t processing what is happening. I’d prefer to believe that I am that confident about the surgery and Rocco’s physical toughness.

I couldn’t help but wonder, in the weeks leading up to this day, why it was happening. (If you don’t believe in God, or that there is a greater purpose to life, you may as well sign off here.) Why Rocco? What was God trying to teach me about life? What was he trying to teach me about love? About sadness? Potentially, about loss? What was he trying to teach me?

Before long thoughts of the Marine Corps came to the forefront of my brain housing group. One of my commanding officers, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Lee Miller (now a Major General), had a handsome, almost grandfatherly appearance. Graying hair matched gray blue eyes that were always smiling. A ruddy complexion centered by tight lips with the corners turned up as if he was always on the verge of a full-blown grin combined to make him look so damn approachable. It made you feel as though you could walk up and slap him on the back while asking him, “How’s it going”, as if he was one of your buddies. Hold his haze for a moment and it didn’t take long to see it wasn’t your buddy you were about to slap on the back. Those were the smiling eyes of a man ready to die, if needed, at a moments notice. The grandfatherly smile was more of a, “You ready to go? Because I don’t give a f##k”, countenance that proffered a silent challenge to friend and foe alike.

When he sat me down and let me know I’d be taking over as the Maritime Special Purpose Force Security Platoon Commander he did so with a caveat. “No superstars. I don’t believe in stacking the deck or creating all star teams”, he said. “You get what you get and make it work. You will take 2d Platoon, Golf Company”.

We weren’t hand picked for certain skills that we possessed and it forced us to rely on each other. One man’s strength had to compensate for another’s weakness. There was no vetting process. There was no indoctrination to see if we “had what it took”. We were Marines, by God, and that was going to be good enough.

We more than made it work. We excelled. Throughout the 6-month pre-deployment “work-up” we trained and suffered together, mercilessly. We completed field ops that required over 48 hours of nonstop movement. We sent thousands of rounds down range. Hundreds of man-hours were spent in helo’s and screaming down fast ropes into airfields and onto the decks of ships. Obstacle courses and physical training sessions were our only respite from the tactical training. Day in and day out we pushed each other past our self-imposed limitations. Through our success and failure’s and victories and defeats we grew to trust in one another. We didn’t know what the future held and what adversary we were going to face. We did know, to our very core, that together as a team, we could overcome any obstacle in our path and accomplish any mission assigned us. LtCol Miller knew what he was doing. 2d Platoon Golf Company, a group of regular infantry Marines, became the all-star team.

This got me thinking of the UNLEASHED, and WOD WAR V, and athletes in Gyms Full of Iron across the country. Regular Joe’s and Jane’s from all walks of life enter though the doors and they become all stars. They spend months and years training together. Countless hours are spent pushing themselves to further and further limits. They perform thousands of reps together under the bar. They ascend and descend ropes hundreds of times. They jump, they sprint, they squat, they press. They struggle and strain. They support one another.

They pick each other up and dust each other off when the training doesn’t go as planned. They celebrate the small victories that are barely perceptible to the causal observer. Through a daily baptism of sweat, blood, and effort their faith in one another is deepened and galvanized until they stand ready, as one, to take on a challenge. Before long they have a crew and they find themselves confident enough to tackle challenges they wouldn’t have done in the past. More a result of their team’s belief in their ability than it is a result of their own self-confidence, it is the real beauty of what happens when there are no-hand picked teams. There is no draft. There is no selection process. There is no test to pass. You join a gym and you get who you get as your training partners. Yet time and time again, year after year, teams are formed and each member becomes a superstar accomplishing unimaginable feats.

Similarly, my Marines from 2d Platoon, Gold Company, went on to do amazing things. They returned to Iraq and fought bravely performing feats of valor that inspire and motivate. Some gave up everything for their brothers. Others went on to become fathers and business owners, husbands, and lawyers, and policeman, and financial counselors and everything in between.

Rocky is out of surgery. It was a success. He and Rex were born about 3 months early. They have been faced with challenges. Thus far they have overcome them all. Rocco’s heart is going to be fine; it was minimally invasive surgery. I don’t know what God is trying to teach me. I don’t know why Kraken #1 has to deal with surgeries. Frankly, I don’t care about the reason. I am reminded, however, as I look at him that you just get what you get. All you can do it deal with it. With enough blood, sweat, and effort, and when needed a helping hand, you will become an all star.

Semper Fi, Coach Robby


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