Time to cross that bridge
I will always remember the last day I coached girls’ high school basketball. It was the last game of the season, and we were going against an undefeated rival team — Redlands East Valley High School. During the season, the young ladies on my team fought every game to the end. They won some remarkable games and lost some nail-biters, but they never gave up.
The season prior to my coaching the girls had a very scary record and lacked motivation and dedication. On this night as the team sat quietly in the locker room, you could sense the energy. The team knew it was the last game I would coach them, so it was important that I give a speech that I hoped they would carry with them throughout their lives. I leaned up against a locker and just looked at the girls and smiled. I knew we had come a long way and had been through more drama than a daytime soap opera. If you have ever coached girls’ sports, you know that one has to learn quickly that listening is the key and to never ever have that shocked looked. It just leads to more conversation. My assistant, Mica, who was a star player on the varsity team and later went on to be an outstanding college player, was in the locker room. I remember saying to her just before the speech, “This is it. I just hope I have the right words.” She smiled and said, “You always do.” I took a deep breath and gave the speech.
“In life everyone will cross a bridge. That bridge may be big, or it may be small, but no matter the size of that bridge, the most important thing to know is that when it is time to cross it things will be different. Never look back; always look forward. Believe in yourself and stand for what you believe in. Basketball to me is like life. Some days you will have good days, and other days may not be so grand. Everything takes practice and a lot of perseverance. I will never forget the journey and what I have learned. I will take it with me and apply it to my life.”
I didn’t intend for any of the girls to cry, but it happened. Because of that speech and during that time in my life I learned a great deal about who I was and what I was capable of doing. I was on top of the world. I had taken a team that was nothing and brought it to a place where it had a chance of beating the best team in the league, and they did.
Years later, I am sitting in CIF awaiting my name to be called to turn in my equipment. Any soldier will tell you that the process can go either way — downright terrible or unbelievably easy. Most of the time when you hear someone telling another person that he is ETSing the next words out of the other person’s mouth are usually, “Have fun at CIF.”
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my military career — the things I have done and accomplished. So as I sit in my chair in this big open warehouse where soldiers come to in-process and receive their initial gear while others are there to turn in their equipment so they can ETS and move on into the real world, I ponder the speech I made almost six years ago. If you are wondering how I remember it all, I have it on videotape. The bridges I have crossed in my life have always brought a wide range of experiences — some bad, others wonderful. Looking back at that speech and looking at my life right now, I am about to make my way across one of the biggest bridges I will cross.
The other day my psychologist asked me some questions about where I was in the clearing process, making my way to my next destination.
For most service members, clearing might not mean anything, but to me it does, and my psychologist helped me understand why I was feeling the way I was. In short, I had been spending hours and hours cleaning my gear even though over the years I had always done proper cleaning at the end of the month, eliminating dirt and dust from piling up. Every day I wanted to make my way to CIF I just paused and thought, “I am not ready. I need to do more.” Some may think of this as a compulsive cleaning issue, but it was more than that. I knew deep down that making my way to CIF would bring me to a bridge that would lead me to somewhere I wasn’t completely emotional ready for. As my psychologist explained, turning in my gear would represent my time serving, the things that I had worn in combat and in training. As much as my life in the military has been an experience that I wouldn’t want to happen to anyone else, I still have a tiny pride that just maybe I could shake what was going on with me. The reality of the situation was that it was no longer time to fight a war in a far off country or go through the daily grind, but rather fix my mental and physical wounds that are so deep and need healing. I tell myself seemingly more times than not, “If I don’t face my demons now, they could forever control me.”
While at CIF, I happened to meet some really great people and learned that I wasn’t the only one moving on in life and facing challenges. In the following weeks, I will make my way to where I should have been two years ago. Once there I hope to find the resolve to rectify my life and by doing that be a responsible father to my daughter, Madison, who will be born in just 30 days, and also be a husband to my wife, Alicia, who has been there every step of the way. I finished up at CIF, but not without some bumps here and there. I know that the people at CIF deal daily with soldiers, and the stresses are sometimes immense.
I want to say thank you to some of the people who took time to listen to me while at CIF and helped me get through the process. First and foremost, the floor supervisor, also Jessica the manager, and my fabulous and funny turn in lady in lane 9, Kassidy. I have started my journey over that bridge. I don’t know what will happen, but as usual, I will bring everyone along for the ride. Enjoy!