There’s a truth only those of us who have lived through the rigors of 26 weeks of BUD/S training know: You do not make friends from the first running or swimming evolution. You don’t even necessarily bond during Hell Week when all the usual difficulties of training for air, land and sea warfare are dialed up a notch. Or five.
The reality is, friendships don’t form unless, and until, you’re one of the 20 percent or so left standing when the physical, emotional and psychological training is finally done. It’s only after you’ve not quit like dozens of others do; or washed out, as dozens of others also do, that you begin to forge bonds with your classmates.
So we walked in among our classmates in 1978, we had no idea that some of us would become lifelong friends. At the outset, we all were nothing more to each other than the other guys who had to get up with us at 4:30 a.m. and push our bodies and minds past what we thought were going to be their breaking points. Week by week, those of us who stuck around got more familiar and comfortable with each other.
After graduation, some of us shared assignments, and over time a few of us became close friends. Some of us joined the SEALs, other applied their skills to careers like law enforcement or firefighting. But we all began to truly appreciate what BUD/S training had allowed all of us to do with our lives.
In our initial days with the SEALs, it seemed like a fun job, but as we got into it, we realized it was much more. We were doing things not everybody got to do. We’re not talking about the details of the work or the missions so much – the tactical and dangerous nature of what we did. We’re talking about the opportunity to help others – to live a life dedicated to the service of their well-being.
That’s the bond that continues to tie BUD/S Class 98 together. Sure, we swapped Hell Week stories at our 40th reunion last year, caught up on the marriages and children and grandchildren. Discussed retirement, or post-retirement careers for those not ready to head out to pasture just yet. But we also talked a lot about the meaning our work gave to our lives. Even though we rarely knew whom we had helped, and they sure didn’t know us given the sanctity of the secrecy of our service, we agreed to a man that there was nothing like the sense of purpose and accomplishment that comes with knowing what we had done benefited others in profound ways.
We talked about it so much, in fact, we decided to do more than talk about it.
That’s why eight of us have formed Beyond the Teams, pooling the mental and physical resources honed over 200 combined years of service in scores of countries to assist the unsung heroes facing physical disabilities, cultural disadvantages and practical needs going unmet because they are the “little guys.” Our battlefield is no longer the theater of war. It’s the world of fundraising.
And we can’t wait to get started.