Carry On, Recruit

I was playing follow-the-leader, but this definitely wasn’t child’s play.

The bombs were going off all around me, and gunfire zinged overhead. But I had to keep crawling, dragging the 40-pound ammunition can with me through the dirt and mud. My basic training in South Carolina was nearly finished. We were in the final ordeal to test our skills, endurance, and obedience. Each day had been challenging, and it seemed that I’d been able to meet each task and accomplish it. But I was really being pushed this time.

When I first arrived, I realized that in order to succeed, I needed to learn from those around me. Watching the people who were excelling, I followed their lead. With each new skill, I looked to see how the best men of our group worked at it, and then followed their example to develop my full potential. It was the same lesson my mother and father had taught me since childhood. They read the scriptures, and they taught me to, so I read them daily. I was shown by them to kneel and pray, morning and night. They taught me to follow the example of my Savior and live my life as He lived His.

When the going would get tough, my mother always said, “Sing a Primary song; it will carry you through.”

So there I was, with my face in the dirt, struggling through the gunfire and explosions, in the final big test of my training, and my mother’s words came to mind. I began singing, softly at first, “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me …” (Hymns, no. 301).

Suddenly, a drill instructor on the course shouted, “Recruit Letteer! What are you singing?”

I thought I had been singing to myself, but in the pressure of the moment I must have started singing out loud. Now, over the din on the field, one of my drill instructors had heard me. I lifted my face from the mud and called out, “Sir! I’m singing ‘I Am a Child of God,’ sir!”

He looked at me, paused for a moment, then shouted, “Carry on, recruit!”

And I will, I’ll carry on as a United States Marine in the Reserve Corps, and in a few months, as Elder Letteer somewhere in the world as a missionary. And when the going gets tough, I’ll just look to my example, Jesus Christ, and know how to “carry on” again.

[illustration] Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw