You had to go through boot camp in my shoes. Initially, I was one of those who had to run wind sprints after PT because I would fall out of formation after mile two of the morning runs. So, of course when I finally shed about ten of those "nasty" civilian pounds, I could run for days and never fall out of a run. Naturally, there was a certain boost to the old ego when I wasn't considered a "run drop" and those who once ran me under the PT table were now eating the dust and sand fleas I left behind. You would have sworn I was possessed by the Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps himself. Not to say that I know if he could even run an 18 minute 3 mile run, in fact they probably didn't even have PFTs back then, but I thought it sounded good.

At any rate, there I was, "Mr. Mercury" himself, anticipating morning PT because I knew that as sure as the Sun rose that day, I would not be among those recruits who fell by the wayside. Not me, no way. It was daybreak. This particular day was our first Company Run. Every platoon, every squad, every recruit, filed and aligned, was being led by the Company Commander in the initial morning exercises. The sound off from every Marine in unison was enough to make anyone want to throw on their "go-fasters" and join us for the run. I was especially ready, because I had reserved my energy a little during the pushups and leg lifts.

When we took off, each platoon, led by their Senior Drill Instructor, was chanting their own cadence. Our Senior had pulled some new cadences from up his sleeve to try on us, which led to be pretty refreshing since we had ran "Tiny Bubbles" and "My Marine Corps color is..." into the ground. Still going strong, we approached mile two, which was my nemesis weeks before. However, now things are just grand. I was all warmed up and my peak was nowhere in sight. At that time, our Sr. decides to start rotating the squads, whereas the last four recruits sprint up to the front, shifting everyone back one place until you're the one in the back, in which you sprint to the front, and so on. We did that for about a mile. and it was definitely a defining moment. We had a few run drops during that period. I figured it was his (Sr.) way of separating the MEN from the boys. And yes, I was among the MEN.

When we reached mile four, the sprinting that we did, left me positioned up front, leading the 2nd squad. I had never experienced running in formation without the sight of someone's head in front of me. That was all the motivation I needed. I was sounding off as if we had just begun the run.

That's when my Senior Drill Instructor, taking note of my newfound exuberance said, "SMITH! WANNA BE GUIDE!?"

Without hesitation, I said, "YES SIR!"

He then said, "GET THE GUIDON!"

When I reached to get the guidon, I couldn't help but notice how overly eager the guide was to give it to me. Be that as a passing thought, I went on to lead the unit. I was running strong, holding the guidon high, when I began to realize that, as prestigious as it was, and as easy as it looked, running with the guidon was not all it was cracked up to be. I noticed that carrying the guidon restricted my arm swing, which in turn made my legs work a little harder to maintain our pace. That's when reality set in, and my runner's high ended.

While bearing the guidon, it appeared that we were speeding up. Already gauging my endurance, the recent change in pace had begun to break my will. Only a half a mile into carrying this thing, my legs were like lead and my arms weren't mine anymore. Never to be the one who lets my pride get the best of me, I looked over my shoulder at the "former guide" (who was then yelling cadence with his "newfound exuberance") and gestured to him. Please take this damn thing!

It was as if I was speaking to a complete stranger, because he didn't even acknowledge my telepathic plea, nor my grimacing facial expressions. In fact, it appeared his facial expressions gave me the impression that he was relieved that he no longer had to carry the guidon. Now, don't get me wrong, I do acknowledge the importance and prestige in bearing the colors that represent a unit that one is a part of. Hence, the Star Spangled Banner, and the raising of the flag over Mt. Suribachi. But, this damn thing was killing me! I was beginning to recollect and reflect on those weeks past. Again, faced with failing.

With the pace at a steady increase, I found myself mentally speeding up, but physically falling behind. There were so many thoughts going through my head like; why am I running aside the platoon I was once leading, and, when will someone notice that me nor the guidon for that matter, are no longer in the front of the platoon? And, most importantly, will anyone rescue it (and me) from our most certain demise?

By this time, I had fallen a good 50 feet back from my platoon alongside the ranks of the following platoon. Feeling those once familiar feelings of grief and shame, I made one last attempt to try to catch up with my platoon and assume my position. With one final burst of energy, I managed to reach the last rank of my unit. When I got up there I was carrying the guidon limply in one hand, and pumping emphatically with the other. Much to my dismay, my feeble disposition was still not enough to convince those who saw me to GRAB THE FREAKIN' GUIDON!

I had come to terms with falling out of the run, that I could live with. But, I could not fathom the idea of falling out while carrying the guidon. But... that was my fate.

When I fell by the wayside, like so many other "run drops", I couldn't help but notice the sympathy on the faces of my fellow fallen comrades, for they knew that being a run drop was one thing, but my situation was completely different. This was something they, nor I had witnessed before.

My shame quickly turned into terror. I had no idea what was in store for me once this "run from hell" was over. Would I get dug from the Company Commander himself? This would naturally cause a chain reaction down the chain of command until I finally reached my Junior Drill Instructor, who would probably give me the worst digging of all. The thought of all of this was enough to make me want to take the pointed end of that damn guidon and pierce it through my body. If only I had enough energy.

With the 3rd Battalion barracks finally in sight, I think it was fear that made my legs do something that my will had been trying to do for the last quarter mile. I began running again, and when I finally reached the company, they were already in formation. I ran to my platoon, and yes, I was still carrying the guidon. At this point however, I carried it again with prestige, honoring it, presenting it, when just paces before, I was cursing it, and nearly dragging it. What was the symbol of our unit, moments ago carried the worth of a dead branch on one of the many trees we passed. I ran to the front of my platoon, not knowing what to expect, and planted the guidon as deep as I could into the ground. As I fell into the back of our formation, I thought to myself, "I don't ever want to so much as touch that guidon again."

I guess you could say that my relationship with the guidon and my "position" as guide, lasted a very long, hot, rocky road--one that I had no intentions of enduring again.

If you're wondering what type of punishment or "digging" I received for falling out of the company run with the guidon. I guess the biggest and only digging I received was from myself, which was probably worse than any digging I could have received from anyone.

To all those who can/could relate to this boot camp story...

Semper Fi!