Sorry, Sergeant, But I Backslid a Little...

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EDITOR'S NOTE: TIME Daily writer Frank Pellegrini, at a ripe 27 years, has taken a leave of absence to join the Army Reserve. He is undergoing basic training — boot camp — and then will spend time in an Army journalism school. Given the difficulty the forces are experiencing in recruiting young people these days, we think his experiences and impressions are worth sharing. Here is the eleventh missive; others will be posted as they arrive.

Yes, Drill Sergeant, I backslid. I did maybe a day's worth of push-ups and sit-ups the whole time I was on leave in New York. I slept till noon almost every day and ate way too much delicious private-sector chow. I even went to bars, on several occasions, although for official reasons I won't divulge here what I might or might not have consumed while I was inside. (Never showed my military ID at the door — just in case you were in there watching.)

After two weeks my gut is sagging and my back is sore, just like before, and when you see me try to run again you're sure to be wagging your finger at me along with all the other relapses. I ate Raisinets. I read magazines. I made phone call after phone call without even asking permission and got, well, very well reacquainted with the lady of my life, and I'm having extremely mixed feelings about trading this world back in for yours.

But I spoke well of you, and of the Army life, and when I met those two Danish guys that were dodging their mandatory service back home I gave them such a frowning. I talked about you everywhere I went — New Yorkers find boot campers almost as interesting as the stock market — and a couple of them were ready to sign up by the time I got through. I met a drunk guy with an eyebrow ring who'd gotten booted out of Ranger school for failing a drug test after a weekend's leave, and five years later he still wishes he hadn't. (Don't worry, I'm clean.)

There's no regret in me that I became a soldier. So what if not as much of it stuck as I'd hoped? I'm walking taller, I call all the little old ladies ma'am, and I always take my hat off indoors. I miss you too, Drill Sergeant. You've got three weeks to get this backslider back into fighting trim. And maybe this time I'll figure out how to do it by myself.

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Sorry, Sergeant, But I Backslid a Little...