Friday, February 22, 2013

Nine = the 10%

I graduated high school in 19--, (cannot remember) on a Friday afternoon. The following Monday morning I was on my way to San Diego, California to enjoy some summer sun and marine corps boot camp (inject your own laughter here).  Judging from that sentence, one can tell I had NO real idea what i was talking about.  Going against my provisional wisdom, I enjoyed no summer sun and even less of boot camp.  Yet, here I am today to tell a story.  Boot camp was a wonderful experience for me, when I look back.   However, at the time I was going through it- not so much.
Marine boot camp is very competitive and not just within your platoon, there is competition with the other platoons that make up your company also.  All this led to each platoon wanting to be the best on the rifle range, knowing military laws and customs, the history of the USMC, and the most physically fit individual and platoon past, present and future.  That is saying a lot considering the very long and accomplished history of the United States Marine Corps.  I was in platoon 3052, from Kilo company.   The goal of marine corps boot camp is to build up the body, mind and peoples into a single-minded unit.  We were taught to depend on one another as we were being trained to defend our country and her ideals against those who do not see life as we do. 
Occasionally, you have privates (all recruits in boot camp are addressed as privates) who do not seem to measure up to the lofty standards of the Corps or the few who cannot meet the physical requirements.  The recruits who fall into this category are called the ten percenters.  They are deemed to be the ones who hold back their particular platoon from gaining valuable points and an edge over the others in the company as we all vied to become the honor platoon at graduation.  In my platoon there were 108 guys.  Yes, 108. My platoon was also the last one to have that big of a number of recruits in them.  This was good and bad.  If everyone did what they were supposed to do then it was good.  However, if only a few, about10-12 or so, then we all suffered.  We got no extra points because of our number, but it hurt our numbers because of how many we had in the platoon.  Just think, 9 out of every 10, are putting forth the effort.  That translates to 11 out of 108 guys, the so called ten percent keeping us from perfection.  My boot camp experience reminds me of a story from the bible that speaks of another "ten percenter" who kept his group from achieving perfection but for other reasons.   Despite all my gripes and pains from boot camp I would not trade it for anything.  I met a lot of wonderful people and fostered many friendships that last still to this day.  Luke 17 tells the story of ten lepers who lived outside a village, who cried out to Jesus the Master asking Him to have mercy on them (because they wanted to be healed of this terrible physical disease).  Jesus saw them and told them to go show themselves to the high priests.  As they were heading that direction they were all cleansed of the leprosy (verses 13-14).  How amazing!!  Jesus did not say "yes or sure" or anything that would be considered hope for them.  He simply said "Go and show yourselves..."  The bible does not say how long these 10 men stood there and cried out for help or relief from the pain and agony of leprosy.  I can only presume to say a long time.  
Continuing on with the story, it says "one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and with a loud voice glorified God.  And he fell on his face at the feet of Jesus and gave thanks."   Now listen to this (or read it).  And Jesus answered him saying "Were there not ten of you cleansed?  Where are the other nine?" 
Once again nine out of ten or the ten percent.  How does the ten percent of marine corp boot camp compare to the ten percent found in the book of Luke?  Superficially, they show an imperfection that could have been prevented.  Beneath the surface, they are two very different entities.  My mates and I did not always appreciate the effort given by our "ten percent".  For some time we continued to rail against them and not make them feel apart of the platoon, which caused them to further spiral down.  However, when Jesus questioned the leper who came back and offered thanks, he said nothing against the nine who kept going the other way.  What could he say in their defense?  Nothing. 
I don't know how long those ten men were there in that particular spot praying to God and asking for help, the bible does not say.  But, when Jesus came through the town they cried out in unison "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"   They wanted to be healed.  What of the recruits who we considered to be our ten percent?  They also asked for mercy, inwardly I'm sure.  Can you really find solace in the ridicule of another person who is making the effort?  No.  The leper came back, despite the fact other nine did not.  Hurray for him.  The marine corps ten percent, despite what the others did and said to them, also kept going and never gave up.  Both showed a hope and determination that could not be measured and in the end they were rewarded for such faith.  One found salvation and the other earned the title United States Marine.