One of the points of military boot camp, in the late 80s, was to inflict mass amounts of mental and physical stress on recruits to break their individualism in order rebuild a team mentality to benefit the United States. Everyone was “broken” by our Drill Instructor without apology. Everyone had to be broken down and rebuilt without exception.
The Drill Instructor’s job (at the time) was to make the weak of mind and body quit in boot camp; otherwise, they would fail the United States in combat. Just after the most grueling week of boot camp (week four or so), our Drill Instructors mustered us inside the barracks one morning. They roughed us up for thirty minutes or so by making us hold wooden rifles out and away from our bodies with an outstretched arm (in five- and ten-minute intervals). It hurt and the pain was real.
I broke down at this very point … I broke down like a baby. We all did. We all seemed remarkably empty of soul and spirit after this particularly sadistic exercise. It was like that, absolutely like that. Part of the old me died there that day, not in a good or bad way, but the individual in me had been destroyed. The DIs did it by design in order to reprogram you to meet the needs of the military team.
After being given the order to secure the wooden rifles, we mustered inside the center of the barracks. The DI had a boom box with him and he hit “play” on the cassette tape player. Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” blared out from the speakers. At that very moment, there stood some 80 grown men, all sobbing uncontrollably, huddled around the U.S. Flag hoisted aloft by the DIs. We all stood together no longer as broken humans, but reborn as Americans.
Happy July 4th.
Wayne Ozmore is a combat veteran of operations Desert Shield/Storm/Provide Comfort. He has spent more than 34 years as a GOP activist, beginning at the age of 10.