My first year as a county counselor I was a little nervous about having an increased level of responsibility for the first time as Boy’s State. One thing that calmed my nerves was meeting the Marine that would be assisting me that year. Sgt Marko brought the professional demeanor of a solid NCO, but he also brought the experience of being a Boy’s Stater. His passion for the program and his desire to teach and motivate made my job a lot easier, and made me know that the Citizens of our County were getting a great experience. We worked together for 3 years and I will always be grateful for the opportunity. I’ll never forget the County winning the best marching award due in large part to his hard work. Here is his take on his Boy’s State experience and the lessons he took away and subsequently shared each year.
Where it began?
The spring of 2008 I started the interviewing process for becoming selected for Boys State. At that time I didn’t know it was a process that would have an impact on me for the rest of my life. I still remember heading off to the local fire department, where I sat in front of a board of men I had seen in the community but was unsure of their role. After being interviewed and them explaining the program’s impact, I became very excited to attend this one-week political adventure.
I had always had an interest in politics, from school changes to government elections, but this was my first introduction to the political process. It is not just the political process but the history of our country, who we are, where we come from, and where will we go? When my bus left for it’s hour trip to the SUNY Morrisville Campus. Excitement filled my body. I ended up learning three distinct lessons that have carried me to where I am today.
My first lesson learned was also from the first election I participated in. It is also one of my most excellent experiences I took away from Boy’s State. I was selected to be the party chairman for my city of about 35 other boys. I began to unite our party behind others to get all of our people to support our candidates. The lesson I learned was that when people are organized then real impact can be made because we all speak with one voice, then that one voice is loud, clear and concise. Meanwhile, when there are many voices, it is loud and incoherent. Let’s dig into what one voice means for a moment. Think of a time you were in a large crowd pre-COVID-19. Maybe it’s in an auditorium for a sporting event or assembly or perhaps at a fair, and there are all these voices drowning one another out. Occasionally a voice breaks through and catches your attention. Still, you never really get what they are saying. Now think to when the game started, the chants began, and it was powerful and booming; you feel it in your chest. Now you see, hear and feel the power of speaking as one and being unified under a banner.
As the week progressed, I moved to the county and up to the state level, organizing our platform, gaining momentum and growing our influence. I saw that a small example with just a small group turns into a revolution for the rest of the week! There is an old saying, “A smart man learns from his mistakes; a wise man learns from others.” I hope you learn from my lesson above and place it truly in a powerful position in your life to make an impact on the world.
However, there are two other lessons I’m not sure anyone other than experience can teach you that I learned that week. First, you must go through great frustration, pain, and be uncomfortable to reach the top of any field. Secondly, “You aren’t trying as hard as you think you are”. These lessons were learned from a Marine that was in charge of the physical training, discipline, and drilling of my county, Sergeant Warner. Another critical part of Boy’s State is the United States Marines, and Sgt Warner showed us no mercy to work through the pain that was being up early, cleaning with attention to detail, and setting the example of pure dedication to a task. Over that week of early mornings and long days we were held together by the accountability of that Marine, and NO ONE dared to test his authority. Through his guidance, I believe he made us reach our potential and see how much more we could give.
Where did these lessons bring me?
After graduating from high school, the service ended up calling my name, and though I did my shopping around, it was the United States Marines that won my commitment. Perhaps it was that impression Sgt Warner gave the year prior that I wanted to emulate, the poise, confidence, and leadership he demonstrated that I felt like I needed to chase.
Well, 11 years later and I am still a United States Marine, those lessons for myself and the application to teamwork have brought me through some of my most difficult times of being a Marine and carrying out the mission that called me. It changed my thoughts on authority, that though I can direct my Marines to do tasks, I applied that first lesson of unity that I saw the best results. I saw what being challenged, uncomfortable, and pushed would allow me to do. That was having a successful career at an accelerated rate due to my performance and always saw that I had more to give and never quite tried as hard as thought I did, so I became more efficient in what I do.