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ould you ever in your right mind make a bet where, if you lost, you'd have to clean and shine any serviceman's boots for free, whenever he told you to, permanently? I didn't mean for it to happen, but it did.

In 1984 I started a tour at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn, Germany. One of the sergeants in the MSG Detachment there, Rick Kondash, ended up becoming one of my best buddies.

One day we started arguing about a magazine picture of a German policeman subduing a rioter with a special hold. Rick knew it was a good hold. But I was cocky and knew better.

We made a bet: If I couldn't get out of the hold, I had to clean and shine Rick's boots whenever he wanted until the end of my tour. You guessed it: Soon I was squirming on the ground and couldn't move! The first pair of boots came 45 seconds later. Rick wouldn't wear a pair more than once without making me shine them.

A while later, Rick's tour was up. I was sorry to see him go, but looking forward to no more boots! Then I got my first lesson about wording bets carefully: I had agreed to shine boots until the end of MY tour, not his. Rick got to choose his replacement, and he chose THE ENTIRE BONN MSG DETACHMENT!

I was one busy boot shiner, but you can't welch on a bet, so I kept on shining. I tried getting out of it a few times with new bets, but just made matters worse. I ended up having to clean and shine ANY Marine's boots -- past, present, and future -- permanently.

My tour ended two years later. I was off to Berlin for the next tour -- sorry to leave my detachment buddies but REAL happy to leave their boots. But it didn't take long for some Army MPs in Berlin to find out about my boot shining duties, and they wanted in on it. So one night, after some Black Russians, SGT Rissman got me to make that bet all over again! But this time if I lost, I had to clean and shine any serviceman's boots, regardless of branch of service, permanently. I lost.

Who knows how many boots I've done since 1984 -- it's surely into the tens of thousands. The most I've shined in one span is 52 pairs in four days; maybe that record will fall one of these days!

Now I'm back home in the States (Arlington, Virginia) and I get lots of packages of boots in the mail every week. I make pick-up and delivery runs around town more than I want to think about. But I'm stubborn about not welching on bets! My buddy Rick taught me a lot back when I needed it, and I take pride in reminding him that I haven't welched yet!

Semper Fi!

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