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On Top of the World

On Top of the World

I was on the top of the world. I’d just been promoted to master sergeant, and my colonel, a man I really admired, pinned on my stripes and made me officer in charge of the transportation section. An officer was normally placed in this position, and I was the first enlisted person to hold the billet. My commanding officer said he had faith that I could handle it.

Three months into the job, things were going great. The Marines were doing well and staying out of trouble, and my vehicle readiness was at 95 percent. Things couldn’t have been any better in my personal life as well. I had been married about a year, and we’d just welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our lives. Life was good.

November brought the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, and everyone — including myself — was looking forward to a good time. On the night of the ball, however, our daughter had a high fever, so my wife decided to stay home. I was really worried, but I went on to the ball because my Marines were waiting and it was my appointed place of duty.

Once I got to the ball, I was having a good time. Things got even better when my commanding officer pulled me aside and told me I was doing a great job and he was very proud. He then bought me a drink. My Marines were also buying me drinks. I’m not sure how much I had to drink, but after a while I was feeling really good. Things then took a drastic turn when, about two hours into the ball, I got a frantic phone call from my wife. She said our daughter had gotten worse and she was taking her to the hospital.

I didn’t know what to do. I knew shouldn’t drive, so I ran out of the ball and tried to get a taxi. No luck. At that moment, there were a thousand things running through my head. I was really worried about my daughter and feeling guilty about going to the ball when I knew she was sick. I didn’t feel drunk, so I got into my car and started to drive to the hospital. About 10 minutes later, flashing lights appeared in my rearview mirror and my life was changed forever.

I was arrested for driving under the influence, and the staff duty officer had to pick me up at the police station. I’d never felt so bad in my life. I’d let down my colonel, who had put so much faith in me. I’d let down my Marines, who looked up to me. And I let down my fellow staff NCOs. Most of all, though, I let down family and myself. That bad decision changed everything in my life. I went from the top of the world to not even wanting to get out of bed.

When I look back on that night, I wish I’d never gotten behind the wheel. I had so many options, but my judgment was clouded by alcohol. I was so lucky I did not hurt anyone.

Recently I attended a course at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and learned a lot. Perhaps the most important thing I took home from the course was how we can apply risk management to everything in our lives. Had I only thought about all of the risks and different ways to approach them, I could have saved myself and family a lot of pain.

Always remember that there are alternatives to drinking and driving. Just take a moment to apply the risk management process and you’ll come up with a better option. Drinking and driving is a choice. Don't you make the wrong one!

  • 1 September 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 11009
  • Comments: 0