“Smile, it gives your face something to do between catastrophes.”

Kermit the Frog

Summer, 1970

San Diego, California

I’m about to star in my first movie. The other stars are Darren McGavin, Earl Holliman, and Jan – Michael Vincent. The movie is called TRIBES and you can watch it on YouTube. It’s about a hippie who gets drafted into the Marines during the Vietnam War.

When you sit down to watch the film, look closely at the Marines marching in the background, running the obstacle course, and practicing hand to hand combat. That’s me, part of Platoon 1079. And we are being led by a grizzly bear?

The grizzly bear’s name was Gunnery Sergeant Newman.

He was in charge of my training at The Marine Corps Recruit Depot. That’s where I met him two weeks after I graduated from high school.  He had some other bears working with him, Sergeant Trala and Sergeant Richards. I was terrified of these people. They have hair trigger tempers. They enjoy creating hell on earth for new recruits.

The good news is the movie was a hit and I survived boot camp –  one of those, “I’m glad I went but I wouldn’t want to do it again experiences.”

Among the skills Sergeant Newman shared that summer was a concept called BRASS.






Newman was talking about shooting a rifle. I’m talking about using BRASS when life takes a shot at  you. Suppose a problem, setback, or tragedy just scored a bull’s eye on the seat of your pants. Now what?


A friend told me new medication and anxiety had created chest pains and difficulty in breathing.

While lying on the floor, her cat climbed on her chest. Soon my friend’s breathing was in sync with the calm steady rhythm of the cat’s. Panic disappeared. Composure returned.


Take a mini vacation in your imagination. Think about a good time you had a while back. Think about a day on a tropical beach. Think about someone special. Sit down. Lie down. Take a nap.


If you aim for nothing, you’re sure to get nothing. Trouble never leaves you where it finds you. Time for an attitude check. Where do you want to go from here? As a wise man said, “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.


With a rifle, slack is the little bit of play you feel as you begin to squeeze the trigger. In life, slack is the little gap between what you are doing and what is still to be tried. Do what you can, now.


You are not supposed to pull the trigger. You are supposed to squeeze the trigger. Easy does it. Do your best and leave the rest to God. Squeeze out a smile. Move on.






“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Matthew 6:27

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