Guest Post by Donna Zephrine: First Time Experience In the Military

Guest Post by Donna Zephrine: Donna is an Iraq War Veteran and an accomplished writer. A full bio can be found at

First time experience in military

At Hunter Army Air Field in Georgia I was responsible for conducting physical fitness training (pt) for a group of over 150 soldiers in a unit.  At the base soldiers are randomly assigned to conduct the pt of that day and I was told in advance that I will be in charge.  Just like we did every day the group met in front of the barracks for check-in and then I took over to start the pt session.  You instruct the company to get into position and you begin the exercises.

We do pt everyday so I had a general idea of what it was all about and I was able to see how each solider led the company in their own way.  I was a little nervous at the beginning because I was not accustomed to leading such a large group.  It is a much different experience following the leader than being the actual leader of the group.  I really just did not want to mess anything up and was hoping that the group would get something out of the pt session.

I was given a manual of the pt to go over prior to conducting the session so I reviewed it to make sure I had all of the commands correct and the formations.  I knew this would be an activity that was a little bit out of my comfort zone so I wanted to make sure I was well prepared so I focused on the manual so that I could lead the company.  I was nervous that I was not going to remember the commands which would cause me to freeze up in front of the entire company and would have to live through the embarrassment of a squad leader having to step in.

I had the company get into formation, I was standing in front of them as they faced me ready to take their next instruction.  I was nervous at this point because all eyes were on me as they waited for their next command.  Finally I yelled “Extend to the left, MARCH,” as that was the first command I gave after the company got into formation.   The soldiers then turned to their left with their arms to their side and began marching following my orders.  I was relieved to see my first order being followed and I got more comfortable and confident that I was going to be able to get through this.  I then took the company through some warm up exercises like the calf stretch, chest stretch, hips and neck all to get the blood flowing since it was 5:30 A.M.  Next I began some calisthenics to warm up, we starting with the side straddle hop, knee lunger, push-ups, sit-ups, engine, and flutterkicks.  It gave me a lot of confidence to see the company following my directions as I continued to give them their commands.  I was hesitant to start the workout but as time went on I got more comfortable and knew that this was something I could handle and excel at.   Once the company completed the calisthenics I then bring them through a cool down in which we I took them through a lot of the same stretches we did during the warm up.

I appreciated the fact that my squad leader platoon sergeant trusted me to lead the company.  While I was nervous I knew I needed to step up and lead the company and show the sergeant that he made the right decision to trust me to lead the pt.  I received positive feedback from the soldiers in my platoon as well as the officers that were participating.

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Charlottesville, Virginia August 12, 2017

Collective Collateral Damage

Readers: Please excuse my ignorance, I didn’t properly research before I wrote, I just reacted.

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Collective Collateral Damage: Charlottesville Virginia, August 2017

Collective Collateral Damage                                        

August 12, 2017

Did you die today in Charlottesville Virginia

even just a little?

Did you kill

just a little?

Did your voice ring out clear, full and righteous

across the miles that stretch between us?

Did mine?

What was your intimidation; weaponized words or a gun?

I drew you to me across state lines

fist to orbital socket, I heard the satisfying crunch

of collective moral injury,

this IS us

we shout into history,

an exponential number of voices shout back,

“the worst thing you can do is to lose hope.”

Posted in America, American Dream, Elusive Dream, Justice, Our Democracy at Work, photos, Poetry, Social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment