Four hundred or so days ago I escaped a logistic associate’s oversized Tupperware container and was issued to the newest teammate fulfilling the role of membership manager. I was crisp, sharp, and bright. I even had creases in my sleeves, which would make any inspecting officer proud (please overlook the floppy hood).
My owner was mediocre but arrogant although he was ready, eager, and willing to set straight to work. He was a little oblivious about his ticket aboard the pain train, but since his wild ride began, I have never been far from his side. Here’s a short list of the shit I’ve been through:
- Froze through my first Run As One in Columbus, OH in 2014 and did not defrost until the Run As One in 2015 in Santa Monica, CA.
- Listened to my owner and his fellow 2/8 Marines of Region I solve all the world’s problems after too many beers at the National Leadership Conference.
- Spent hours in integration meetings with do-gooder engineers and project managers where my threads and seams were pulled and stretched to the limit, but we held the line.
- Served as a brand ambassador on more Southwest flights than I can count (Thanks for the free flights!).
- Absorbed more bravado, cheer, and banjo beats than sooty smoke around the TR campfires.
- Traveled coast to coast, where I was thrown aside for a suit during fundraisers. No hard feelings, he needed me at 3 a.m.
- Worked, whined, and winced whilst in Washington on my first deployment. My most memorable, moving, and meaningful moments were not when I was fading in front of the glowing computer monitor or when my sleeve was used to erase David Burke’s detailed white board strategy sessions, but when I was mobilized for Operation: Humble Trooper, in Pateros, WA. I provided comfort and warmth after long-ass days of clearing debris with comrades Bob, Jerome, Jim, Jordon, Jon, Matt, and Vic. It was there that purpose, community, and identity were rediscovered.
- I was among other red TR hoodies and my lighter, thinner, less versatile but more glamorous cousin, the Grey TR deployment shirt, and our second cousins from the southern hills, the Sleeveless Grey TR shirts (the muscles of the family). Whether cutoff, T-shirt, hoodie, polo, or button down, this is our family and it felt amazing to be home.
- Represented the team at the Habitat for Humanity Conference where my TR red made Team Panda (Pat and Amanda) stand out in in a sea of Habitat Blue (although the TR red does go exceptionally with the Home Depot orange).
- Balled up and used for a pillow during Operation: Tenzing in Nepal, waiting for those deploying to funnel through LA and pick up their kit.
- Survived the hugs and squeezes from my owner’s mother in Region I and every TR member who swings by the national office, but somehow, I could not fend off the piercing puppy nibbles of Remington.
I hope my owner learns how to sew those holes, but I display them with pride. I am worn, ripped, and dirty (LA is experiencing a drought so only Navy Showers for me) but I still have something to give: comfort, pride and identity. Even when the nights become late and the temperature drops, I am there. Even when my owner is silent (which is rare, just ask his officemate Amanda), I proclaim our brand. Even when my owner thinks no one is watching, I display our sacred X.
And when the hood goes up, it’s time to get to work. See you out there!