'Showing up' half the battle

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jay Ostrich
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
The American spirit is alive and well.

You need look no further than a previously unknown Spc. Zachary Boyd, 19, of Fort Worth, Texas, who reminded us not only that our latest generation of combat veteran carries the grit and perseverance to succeed on the battlefield, but that service before self can come at the most inopportune times.

His actions on May 11 reminded me of the often-imitated credit card commercials that go a little something like this:

Ticket to Afghanistan: $0

BX Flip Flops: $2

Novelty boxer shorts: $25

Kevlar body armor: $800

Fighting back radical Islamofacists from an austere Afghanistan mountaintop while wearing pink boxers and flip flops ... priceless.

You see, Boyd was fast asleep in his quarters when a Taliban attack bucked him awake. Rather than sit around wondering what to do, Boyd rushed to a rampart and helped his fellow platoon members repel the attack.

There was one catch though: Boyd took up his post in pink 'I love NY' boxer shorts and shower shoes which was captured by civilian photographer David Guttenfelder, whose photo appeared on the cover of the New York Times.

Boyd would later call his mother, Sheree, and share he feared losing his job for his actions if President Obama had seen the photo.

During a speech in New York City, Defense Secretary Robert Gates would allay his fears.
"Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip-flops has a special kind of courage," said Gates. "I can only wonder about the impact on the Taliban. Just imagine seeing that: a guy in pink boxers and flip-flops has you in his cross-hairs. What an incredible innovation in psychological warfare."

All joking aside, I'll challenge the more important takeaway from Boyd's brave boxer battle is to be reminded that moments to capture the essence of service before self do not come at the most opportune times.

It's easy to display core values when it conveniences us. But the true test comes when we have things we would rather be doing with our time and yet we reach deeply into our hearts for the perseverance needed to do what is right, not what is easy.

So the next time you are given an opportunity to volunteer for extra details at a time you would rather be having fun with friends and family, remember Spc. Zachary Boyd, his pink boxers and his indomitable commitment to service before self.

Hopefully, it will be a reminder that showing up is always half the battle.