“Where is your squad member? Why isn’t he here?” 

Probably because he slept in, I thought. He should’ve gotten here on time (i.e., early) like the rest of us.

In those pre-dawn moments on the dewy grass outside of John Barry Hall on the campus of Villanova University, a lecture was underway. No professors were involved—it was far too early in the morning, and I suspect few of them, had they been awake or aware of what we were doing, took much interest in our initial training as new members of the university’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Luke McCall. Learn more about this photo. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Rather, this lecture was being delivered by one of our instructors—someone only a few years older than us—whose mission it was to get us all thinking a little bit differently about ourselves, about each other, about our future. And although it wasn’t a grand thesis on interpersonal relationships or leadership, it was a lecture that conveyed a lesson that’s stuck with me ever since. 

“I’m counting, and you’re missing one of your squad members.” 

Right, I thought. We can count too. We know he’s not here. 

“He’s late. And it’s just as much your fault as it is his.”

At first, this seemed unfair. The rest of us had gotten there on time. We followed directions and did what we were supposed to do. 

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