21 July 2010

Take your Foot off the Fire-Gas

More notes from Annual Training, which took place at Camp Ripley, Minn., in June 2010:

At risk of a certain amount of sibilance this morning, I must state that soldiers are neither saints nor sinners, but simply citizens under stress. We're not perfect, and we know it.

For better and for worse, every deployed dog-soldier has his day.

Take, for example, this cautionary tale, recently told by one barracks wag--a buddy who graciously allowed me to report it here:

During Annual Training at Camp Ripley, Minn., my buddy's wife had texted him from behind the wheel of his $2,000 riding mower. "Something is clanking," she wrote.

Instant messaging isn't always instant, however: He received her message 45 minutes later. "GET OFF THE MOWER NOW," he replied.

"Too late." Soon after her original message, the engine first sputtered, smoked, then seized.

It turns out that she had used the yellow gas can, the one with diesel fuel in it--the stuff that my buddy uses to burn weeds and trash on his acreage. Apparently, his 3-year-old son had tried to ask, "Mommy, why are you putting fire-gas in the mower?" The warning, unfortunately, wasn't understood until it was too late.

My buddy was hot when this happened. He did the wrong thing. He poured gas on the fire. "If this is what you do on Day 2 of my being gone," he says he said, "I can hardly wait to see what you come up with for the rest of the 482 days!"

He called back later to apologize. "Obviously," he says.

My buddy is a stand-up guy, a role model for me and others. No question, I'd follow him in firefight. But it's important to remember that even stand-up guys can have a bad day. Downrange, the trick is going to be to learn how not let our individual bad days spark hurtful words with our spouses. Today's communications technologies make it too easy to light fires of frustration. Words can hurt. Words can leave everyone feeling burned.

I hope I can learn from The Fire-Gas Incident, to take extra care to be understanding and supportive through the telephone lines. I'm going to make mistakes. So is my wife. We need to be open to that. Name-calling and I-told-you-so's don't get anybody anywhere but miles away from each other.

At the same time, I need to remember that figuratively counting to "10" before hitting the "send" key is probably a good e-mail practice.

My Army rifle has a safety on it, after all--why shouldn't my e-mail account?

1 comment:

  1. I suggest wating a few minutes and then proof reading your message before you hit send. And he could have labeled the cans before he left.


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