With hands sweating, breath panting, and hearts pounding, we went on the attack. It was the fight or flight response in action as we charged each obstacle one at a time over and over again. When it was over, heads held high, we were the better for it.
Amnesty CrossFit, located in a converted church in the sleepy Great Lake city of Oswego, NY, was my introduction to a lifetime’s worth of fitness and exercise.
I thought exercise was a solitary thing, something you did alone. For this reason, running on a treadmill, lifting weights, swimming laps, or completing pushups was something I did not like to do. By pushing beyond our boundaries alone without the encouragement of friends, many may easily give up. That was my trend; I would join a gym, work out, and after a month drift away from exercise. However, that Friday during Eagle Leader Camp was different. I found out how much we could push those limits if we chose to with courage and the teamwork of other Eagle Leaders.
And so the weekend went.
Whether it was a sunset kayak ride, a dragon boat ride, yoga, a lighthouse tour, or a gentle hike along SUNY Oswego’s Rice Creek Field Station, Team RWB’s Northeast Region Eagles worked in unison while remaining authentic to themselves.
By learning each other’s ‘perfect day’, we found out how much we mattered. One dreamed of ending veteran homelessness, some ending emotional pain, and another simply lying naked on a beach. For me, reliving a moment when I first climbed a mountain with my Team RWB family at Lake George would be my perfect day.
According to American scholar, author and researcher Brené Brown, “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” With a fractured and polarized world, ever-present and looming wars, and deadly massacres, Brown’s message of being worthy of love and belonging is more important than any other message.
We showed love and belonging during that weekend at Eagle Leader Camp.
For example, when our kayak instructor dropped her mobile phone in the waters of Lake Ontario as she was safely guiding us onshore, we stood as a team searching for that phone; One of us even dove in head first. Alas, no phone was ever found that evening.
And so the weekend went with acts of love and courage, the Eagle way.
At the end of the long weekend, so short for many of us, with hammocks strung across trees like spiders in a web, we reflected on our shared experiences and said our farewells.
As we stood in our inner circle of friends, with sweaty hands and pounding hearts, we tearfully closed our eyes as other Eagle Leaders circled around us and showed their gratitude for us by touching our shoulders, confirming we were worthy of love and belonging.
So, what did we learn during our Eagle Leader Camp weekend? What were our take home lessons? Certainly, the meaning of being an Eagle Leader was reinforced since our last time spent at Eagle Leader Academy: Empathy, Authenticity, Genuineness, Loyalty, and Effectiveness. But, for me there was an even greater lesson, a game changer so to speak, and an eye opener. When I was medically discharged from the U.S. Army in 1987, I thought I let my fellow soldiers down. The military takes pride in never leaving another behind. It took me years to fully recover from a debilitating mental illness, one that saw demons, real and imagined, lurking behind every corner.
My mental health suffered, my physical health suffered, and my emotional health suffered. It wasn’t until I found out what I was capable of as a writer and journalist, that I finally saw the light – being genuine to others and authentic to myself.
Team building and shared experiences at Eagle Leader Camp reinforced my sense of belonging that was lacking for so many trying years.
Today, I am a better man, role model, and Eagle Leader. Today, I continue my journey of health and happiness, self-worth and self-esteem. For that I am grateful to Team RWB. Thank you for being in my corner.
“Many people spend too much time trying to be the captain of someone else’s boat. Learn to be a lighthouse and the boats will find their way. Thanks for letting me learn to be a lighthouse.”