Recently I had the great privilege of attending an extremely intense personal and business development course which was held in Texas. There were close to 800 of us, and with this fired up crew, it is not at all uncommon for people to get up at 3 am to go down to get in line in order to get the best seat and pay the best attention.
A young man was there who is an active duty SEAL, and was attending the conference for the purpose of planning his next step. He is married, has four kids, and just “knows in his knower” that it is time for him to move toward a new chapter in his life.
We had a few moments to chat on three different occasions, and there are no words, ever, to adequately describe what these guys mean to me, and to be able to thank them for their service. He was interviewed on stage, as well as from the audience, and the woman to my left said to me, “I feel safer just knowing he’s in the room.” I whispered back, “Try living among them! There’s nothing like it!”
It turns out this young man and I were in Iraq in the same area, but not at the same time. From a certain spot at BIAP (Baghdad International Airport), he turned left to get to his camp, and I turned right to get to mine.
The onstage trainer, while not ex-mil himself, also demonstrated his gratitude for the SEAL’s service, as did the whole room, and I came away with two analogies I learned that I would like to share with you. The first is, “Be willing to be the sugar cookie.” What in the world is a “sugar cookie?” When it comes to SEALS, it means that during Hell Week, you gear up and endure the following: You allow yourself to be continually covered by sand until you look like you have been dusted with sugar, and then you roll around in it until every square inch of your body is raw. Every one. Then, you get to add to your discomfort by adding ocean water to your sandpapered skin. Why? Because SEALS have to be able to be raw and still do their duty. Since he told the story, I have had to face down the places where in my heart I need to do the same if I am going to be any good to anybody in these wild times.
The second was the mandate, “Never ring the bell.” Again, during Hell Week, “the bell” is made available to all candidates, and they are asked the question, “Do you want to ring the bell?” While it is true that everyone of them are so tired and sore, both emotionally and physically, that the great temptation is to answer in the affirmative, that one action signals the end of their chance to become a SEAL. Ringing the bell is never an option. Again, I thought of internal places where I am sorely tempted to ring the bell if it is dangled in front of me, and as the raw emotion of “growing pains” washed over me, I kept quoting my new SEAL friend. “Never ring the bell. No matter what, never ring the bell.”
We are still free because of “sugar cookies” and SEALS who refuse to “ring the bell.” May we be worthy of their sacrifice this holiday season and always.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner