My brother Kenneth McQuiston doesn’t have an F³ name. He’s never even been to a workout. But, he is the first man to have EH’d me. On the last stop of my active-duty journey in South Korea, he introduced me to the 3F’s. He saw me and knew I needed to join him in workouts, he connected with me and took me along to bible studies, and he became my friend.
In Junior ROTC we called it camaraderie and esprit de corps, but after a few years of ending my active duty time, I began to miss something I didn’t even realize I had. I looked for it for a long time. I looked in the North Carolina Army National Guard, but it wasn’t the same. One weekend a month, 2 weeks a year, didn’t prove to fill the empty. I looked by getting married, and by going to school, and by taking jobs. And each glimmering mirage failed to fill the void.
I went looking for it again when I saw an F³ sticker on the back of a truck window. I got really excited when I saw that F³ stood for fitness, fellowship, and faith. I knew that I needed more development in each, but I stayed a sad clown because the Nation was growing, just not close to me. Flash forward a few years and I live closer to the birthplace of F³, and so I go looking again, and I find just a glimpse of what I’ve been looking for.
I start going out regularly to workouts, and yeah my fitness improves, and I’m seeing the same guys, but I’m still on the outside, still seeking that feeling, still lacking the secret sauce. I start doing Sanctuary on Monday nights, connecting with other men who carry a similar passion for Christ, getting a little bit deeper in fellowship and faith, and a little closer to the taste. Then we did some serving and some giveaways for Christ’s Closet and in the deepened relationships I found what I hoped would end my craving. But that mental battle of being worthy of that level of fellowship, of really being in it together with a common mission was always a struggle.
Go forward a few more years and I learn about a Grow Ruck happening in Charlotte. Now I am always down for a CSAUP and my brother is leading Grow Ruck training on Saturday nights. Right there, after the first ruck, I have a realization that feels novel and profound: the Bible commands us to carry each other’s burdens.
I remember carrying my load when on active duty, but I don’t remember much about others helping carry my load. I wasn’t a believer back then and couldn’t see the others bearing my burdens with me. Collins, Brother Dan, Ski, AJ, and McQuiston all knew about the depression, the suicidal thoughts, the anxiety.
In that moment I started to really see what it was like for others to carry my burdens. I got smacked in the head and realized that I’m not carrying my burdens alone, I’ve got brothers who are next to me, who are helping me carry my weights. I got to see again, and maybe in more living color, the 3F’s and what they mean. The why we should pass it on, the why it’s important that we give it away. When we are brave enough to give it away, we unlock and unshackle other men.
I failed the Grow Ruck 24 PT test. I wiggle-wormed my way through push-ups and didn’t have the ability to complete the two mile run in the time allotted. That was no big surprise to me. When we were asked by the Cadre to bear crawl and crab walk I was ready to throw in the towel. While we were going through the water, I considered tapping out. Walking toward the Community Matters Cafe, I felt light-headed, nauseous and was cramping, ready to quit. The spiral ramp of the Muthaship seemed to never end and I was so weak I had to rest our Old Glory on my shoulder. I didn’t spend enough time carrying the coupons. I spent a lot of my time in the six just trying to keep up.
I’m grateful for my brother’s words of encouragement and wisdom at sunrise. I really needed to hear Romans 5:3-4; suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope! We had come through the dark of the night and into the morning light and I finally had hope that I could finish!
Truly my hope was born in those who believed in me and believed I could finish. Born in those who were already carrying my weight. My brother took me aside and said “look at my eyes… I believe you can do it” and so I looked through his eyes, through all of their eyes, to keep going. When I wasn’t so self-focused I could look to my right and my left and see those trudging beside me hurting like me and wanting to give up as much as me, but just like me, they kept pounding, kept pushing.
I’ve lost Brothers to war and to suicide and have lost my connection with most of the men I served with because of the burdens they bear. Kenneth McQuiston doesn’t have an F³ name, because he never made it to a workout. I let him down and didn’t help him carry his burden. He committed suicide while we were in South Korea and that really messed me up for a long time.
I didn’t find out until recently that what I was searching for was more than camaraderie, it’s a brotherhood, a family, a connection… I know that it’s hard to ask for help, and sometimes it’s even harder to accept, but we are commanded to carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) When we go it alone we deny others the opportunity to serve, to be like Christ.
Thank you to F³ Nation. Thank you for Sanctuary, for workouts, for Qsource, for all those opportunities to build the esprit de corps, camaraderie and brotherhood that I’ve been searching for since I left active duty. Thank you for the unshackling.