D.O.R. - A Lesson in Perseverance

As I prepare my article for this week, I thought back on a letter my Dad wrote me in a time of need.  I published this letter many years back for our blog, but I wanted to bring it back again here.  Hopefully it will be an encouragement to you. -Bryan Stewart

I was thinking about quitting today.  No, not quitting; just about those who have quit or ever gave up.  It reminded me of a time several years ago when I wanted to quit.  The towel was in my hand ready to be thrown.  I was in Israel working on a communal farm near Jerusalem.  The circumstances are not important now, in fact I hardly remember what they were to be quite honest.  What I do remember is a letter my Dad wrote me via e-mail that changed me.  After reading his letter I put the towel away and squared my shoulders into my adversity.  I am grateful for that letter and his wisdom and I want to produce part of it here for those who have quit, or who are close.  This is for you…

“Here is my tale:

It is sometime in the year 1971 and a 21 year old wet behind the ears young man reads a letter from the draft board that said something like this:

"Dear Mr. Stewart, Greetings. Your selective service draft number of 34 qualifies you for induction in the Armed Services of these United States and upon completion of your undergraduate studies, you will be drafted into whichever branch of the services has need at that time.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office.....etc."

A junior in college with thoughts of going to Vet school but faced with the specter of war as Viet Nam was still in full battle with many U.S. casualties requiring fresh troops. The second letter arrived informing me that I was to be in New Orleans later in the year for a pre-draft physical; I passed it. Sometime during the fall semester at Mississippi
State, the US Navy set up a display about Naval Air and I stopped to chat with the two Lt's who manned the booth. One thing led to another and I began the battery of tests to determine my aptitude as a pilot.

It is February, 1972 and I raise my hand in a courthouse room in Jackson, Mississippi and swear to uphold a commitment to the United States Navy and enter that same year after graduation into OCS at Pensacola, Florida.
I remember the odd feeling in the pit of my gut for with all the glamour there was that same specter of war with the resultant carnage.

 

Graduation came in May of that year and I spent the summer helping lay brick for part of the summer and training horses the remaining time for a guy in Hattiesburg. The 36th week of the year I walked through the gates of Mainside and presented myself for active service at the OCS Indoctrination building. I was fit and ready to take on the world. The world exploded in the shape of one mean spirited Marine DI named SSgt Delaney. I was in my room with 2 other recent college grads and 1 Army Sergeant who wanted to fly. I could hear screaming and cursing as Delaney made his way toward our end of the building.

Bodies were slammed against the wall, others were pushed back through portals (door ways) and others were doing pushups beyond their abilities. He went to the room across from ours and I stared as I saw one young man do 100 pushups out of pure fear. Delaney looked into our room, cursed and made his way back down the passage way (hall). He then proceeded to tell about 40 or so uncertain young men who were thankfully out of his sight in about 10 rooms what he would do with us for the next 3-4 months; it was not pleasant. He said many of us would quit and go back to mama. He said some might even die and all would wish they had. He went on with more than I can remember. 

I had many thoughts that night, even of quitting for they said if we wa

nted to quit all we had to do was say three little letters -- D O R.   That stood for Drop On Request and when you did, you were quietly and quickly ushered out the door, given your belongings and your papers home. I never could spell very well so I opted to not show my ignorance and get the sequence wrong by saying something like ORD or ROD! The Army Sergeant said that the training would be hard but to hang in there for it would be worth it. I thought he was nuts -- he was not after all. 

 However, I watched from my window one day as this same Army Sergeant slowly limped down the street, away from the battalion toward the office that held his papers -- Delaney had broken him.

The physics test came back with a failing grade. I was held back a week in Indoc and had to take the tests over again. I joined class 37-72 after Indoc and SSgt Perry was our DI. Our Indoc DI was a little short Marine who had a funny sounding voice but was tougher than nails. He was tough until the specter of Viet Nam flooded his mind one too many times and that toughness ended in the front seat of a fellow Marines borrowed station wagon as he took his own life. These college grads were beginning to see a side of life that had been hidden from their view.

Battalion II, class 37-72 and I am one of about 30 other young men. Some want to fly F-4s, some have bad eye sight and will settle into the back seats of F-4s or the right seat of an A-6. All being trained to obey, all being transformed from college grads to Naval Officers. What are those initials again? DOR? Yes, and some voiced them to our Lt. only to find themselves packing their things and obtaining their papers from that office. Did I feel like it, yes. Did I, no. I could not quit something I had started, this was too important to me. I wanted to fly...I wanted to fight if need be....I wanted to patrol the oceans for submarines and gain valuable hours in the air. I would not DOR.

The philosophy of the DI is this. Treat the men that will one day lead men in a way that is opposite of how they should lead. So, if one man in the class broke a rule then the entire class was punished. If one man failed inspection, the whole class failed the inspection. 

Some want to fly F-4s, some have bad eye sight and will settle into the back seats of F-4s or the right seat of an A-6. All being trained to obey, all being transformed from college grads to Naval Officers. What are those initials again? DOR? Yes, and some voiced them to our Lt. only to find themselves packing their things and obtaining their papers from that office. Did I feel like it, yes. Did I, no. I could not quit something I had started, this was too important to me. I wanted to fly...I wanted to fight if need be....I wanted to patrol the oceans for submarines and gain valuable hours in the air. I would not DOR.

Sea course, obstacle course, latrine duty, guard duty, study, training, marching, running, screaming, competition, cursed at by the DI, made to feel that you have no value, made to wonder if this was reality, doubting your self, not knowing how to call upon God, not knowing if you would make it, challenged way past what you had ever done, trying to remember all of the rules, trying not to break any rule...the list could continue. The fear of failing an exam, the fear of failing your eye exam, the fear of failing your hearing exam, the fear of failing your psychology exam, the fear of not saluting the right way, the fear of your locker and rack not being in order, the fear of letting down your classmates, the fear of quitting and the fear of what the next day held. 

Some want to fly F-4s, some have bad eye sight and will settle into the back seats of F-4s or the right seat of an A-6. All being trained to obey, all being transformed from college grads to Naval Officers. What are those initials again? DOR? Yes, and some voiced them to our Lt. only to find themselves packing their things and obtaining their papers from that office. Did I feel like it, yes. Did I, no. I could not quit something I had started, this was too important to me. I wanted to fly...I wanted to fight if need be....I wanted to patrol the oceans for submarines and gain valuable hours in the air. I would not DOR.

Slowly, we took shape as a class. Slowly we took shape as individuals.  Slowly we made the transformation from college graduates to officers.  Slowly the change came upon us and we one day realized we would make it and DOR would not spill from our lips. We had grown through the struggles...the cocoon containing the caterpillar split open to yield the butterfly...but the struggle was not over as the butterfly has to struggle to force the fluids through the veins in its wings, so we had to struggle a bit more.

The time came when the young men who were to fly where shipped to Saufley field and the ones who were to navigate and guide weapons were moved to another barracks on Mainside. A new set of struggles as the pressure to fail was waived over our heads for those initials were still valid and could still be uttered. There were no gold bars on our collars at this point and DOR would yield us our civilian clothes and our papers and a trip back home. 

Some want to fly F-4s, some have bad eye sight and will settle into the back seats of F-4s or the right seat of an A-6. All being trained to obey, all being transformed from college grads to Naval Officers. What are those initials again? DOR? Yes, and some voiced them to our Lt. only to find themselves packing their things and obtaining their papers from that office. Did I feel like it, yes. Did I, no. I could not quit something I had started, this was too important to me. I wanted to fly...I wanted to fight if need be....I wanted to patrol the oceans for submarines and gain valuable hours in the air. I
would not DOR.

Those letters seemed to float around the base more for one by one, young men voiced them and were seen no more. "Pensacola Pressure Cooker" was what one person described this place as being -- I agreed. Memorization led to testing, flights had to be by the book or the book was thrown at you. The margin of error was slight and many young men stepped into that margin only to find themselves gathering their things and receiving their papers for home.

A Navy Captain stood as I turned to face him and receive my graduation papers and had a single gold bar pinned to my collar. SSgt Perry stood outside, was the first to salute me, I returned the salute, shook his hand and passed a silver dollar to him and thanked him. He turned as only a Marine can turn and walked away to pick up another class of college grads who wanted to fly.
 
Now, what are those letters.... that is right, you have forgotten them as well.”

This letter inspired me to “Never Quit” and reminded me to persevere through my adversity.  Life is not easy and it is unbearable at times, but God did not quit on us.  I am grateful for the example of men in my life who did not quit.  

Be resolute in your journey, and do not quit.