When I was 19, the Viet Nam War was raging in Southeast Asia. It was an interesting experience to get a letter that said, “Greetings, you are now inducted into the United States Army.” My basic training occurred at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I’m not sure who came up with the name bliss for the base, but I can assure you that it was the exact opposite. Towards the end of the eight-week training course, we had a week of bivouac (tent camping) at the White Sands missile range in New Mexico.
Overall, the week was absolutely miserable. My tent blew down multiple times with the nightly wind and I was constantly trying to get the sand out of my sleeping bag. During that time I was assigned as a squad leader, which meant that I was responsible for several other soldiers. In my unit was a trainee with the last name of Wilson. He was a close real-life replica of Gomer Pile from the Andy Griffith television program. Every time anyone talked to him that was not a trainee you would hear, “Yes, drill sergeant” or “No, drill sergeant.” On one of the first bivouac nights, Private Wilson asked another trainee where the latrine (toilet) was. Unfortunately, the person he asked didn’t know either but pointed to where he thought it was. About 2:00 a.m. our drill sergeant came to my tent and asked that I wake everyone to look for Private Wilson. He had never returned. We spent most of the night looking for him, without success. He seemed to have disappeared. This was unusual but not unheard of since many soldiers went absent without leave (AWOL) during the Viet-Nam era. About 10 a.m. that morning we watched a jeep drive up. As it drew nearer, we could see that it bore the markings of a general. We all wondered why on earth such a high-ranking officer would be visiting our basic training group. We were even more surprised to see Private Wilson sitting in the back of the jeep riding around with the general. Soon we watched our captain being yelled at by a very angry general. We couldn’t hear everything but it became evident that the general was accusing the captain of incompetence for not watching Private Wilson more closely. He told him that he’d better not let the private out of his sight for the rest of his basic training.
It seems that after Private Wilson asked the other uninformed private where the latrine was, he started off in that general direction attempting to find his way. Without a flashlight, he got lost and continued wandering around all night. By morning he had no idea where he was. As it turned out he had wandered out onto the missile grounds, where actual tests were being conducted that morning. Thankfully, before any tests are conducted, helicopters fly over the area to make sure no livestock have wandered onto the site. One of the helicopter pilots observed Private Wilson walking around and called base to report it. He was soon brought to headquarters and ended up telling his story to the officers there. The general was so angry that he personally wanted to bring him back to his basic training unit. After the chewing out, our Captain got a rope about ten feet long and tied it to the back of Private Wilson’s pants. For the remainder of our basic training experience, another solider was assigned to hold on to the rope while Private Wilson walked behind him to make sure he didn’t get lost.
Without a light or a map to find the latrine, this miss guided private wandered aimlessly around until he encountered great danger. We all need a guide to help us find our way so we don’t get lost in life.
Listening to the wrong people can get you into situations that you don't want to be in.
Everyone needs a mentor in life to help them reach their ultimate destination safely.
Never seek the advice of someone who doesn’t know any more than you do about a situation.
Life can be very dangerous if we don’t know where we are going.
Always seek out advice from those who are experienced and know far more than you do about a given subject.