I just spent two very long fulfilling days teaching a free Registered Maine Guide Course to 26 Maine Veterans in support of House in the Woods with support from the Cole Land Transportation Museum. I spent a lot of time designing a course that could support such a large group, and give them the skills they would need to go down to Augusta and pass the test with the state of Maine. There were a lot of late nights of preparation, and as the first day approached there was a lot of self doubt. Those of you that know me may be raising an eyebrow at that, yes I wasn’t sure I could do it. You can’t fool these guys and gals, you have to be authentic or they’ll see right through you.
The course went fine, learning occurred, and I am 100 percent confident that they all, if they choose to take the exam, will pass. But that’s not really what’s important. At the very beginning we went around the room and everyone introduced themselves to the group. As the introductions went on I could feel a giant release of tension in the room, collectively we all realized we were around our people. We were in a place where it was ok to have a little morbid humor, to poke fun at each other, and to crack a jokes that would make a normal person cringe. Jokes like, “what is a dutch oven?” “hint, it’s not when you fart in bed and pull the covers over your spouses head.”
As we went along I had a conversation with a few guys that were in Fallujah at the same time I was. I haven’t talked about Fallujah in a long time. I’ve haven’t been in Fallujah for 10 years. I’ve thought about it plenty, Fallujah never leaves you. Surprisingly it was nice to talk to someone who got it, who remembered the streets, the smells, and the lack of all things decent except each other.
During the second morning several students individually came up to me and said they were really enjoying the course, it’s something they wanted to do for a long time, and that they appreciated what I was doing for them. That was a great feeling. To have someone truly, and honestly thank you for helping them. I don’t know if they had any idea that what we were collectively doing was helping each other.
I closed the course by challenging the room to pay it forward. They’ve been given an opportunity to use the skills learned to help another veteran, or a veteran organization. They have an obligation to do that, we are our own greatest strength as veterans. I finished by saying, “we are responsible for us.” I truly believe that. I’m very happy with the end result, and it has nothing to do with the curriculum. I hope they all go on to earn the Maine Guide Patch that I proudly wear, and they realize how lucky this country is to have people like them. -Semper Fi