Like most F3 traditions, the inspiration for the pre-CSAUP Opening Prayer is unknown. It appeared, it evolved and now it is.
@RedTornado asked me to give the GORUCK 707 opening prayer. I was honored. I didn’t want to let him down. I thought about it most of Friday afternoon as I went through my pre-GORUCK preparations. This being my Third, a little ritual had developed that helped me get ready for the pain. By the time I was ready to leave for the welcome party, I had the prayer worked out in my head, or thought I did.
On the way to the SharkTank I started thinking about a book that changed everything I had planned to say during the opening prayer. The book is called I Am Third. It is Gale Sayers’ autobiography. He wrote it forty years ago and I read it when I was thirteen. I didn’t know (or had forgotten until I read it in Wikipedia this morning) that I Am Third inspired the movie Brian’s Song, which had affected me deeply when I saw it as a boy. In fact, that’s probably why I read the book. I just can’t remember.
This was a period in my life that I read a lot of athlete autobiographies. At thirteen, my coaches, the older athletes in my little town and the professional athletes of that era were the heroic role-models of my faithless life. It was from them that I learned what I knew of teamwork and self-sacrifice, to put myself last. I suppose this is the reason that I am so critical of athletes and coaches of this era. Listening to their words, it is hard for me to imagine one of them writing a book like I Am Third, the theme of which was: God is First, My Friends are Second, and I am Third.
My recollection of I Am Third was so sudden and pronounced that I changed what I planned to say. When we formed the Ball Of Man, I asked God to forge the hearts of the 53 men who started GORUCK 707 into one, and to have us remember that we are Third. God is First, our families and each other are Second, and We are Third.
Afterward, I thought the prayer was an overly subdued flop. My job was to rouse and inspire the men and I had not done so. I continued to believe that until about two hours into the welcome party when the Lead Cadre looked down at the wheezing, groaning ball of pain that was us and yelled something I had heard many times during my years in Special Forces but had forgotten: “Team is First, Your Teammates are Second, and You are Third. Don’t f’ng forget that! That is the only way you will get through this night. You have to be Third!” I had said the same thing as a young leader in the Army twenty years ago. I had just forgotten it until I heard that young Green Beret yell it in my ear Friday night. The team’s survival is dependent upon each of its members placing themselves Third.
For me, Third is the best lesson of GORUCK. It is why I endured it for the Third time. It gave me purpose through my faithless youth and young manhood. It is why we have a Third F in F3, and I believe it is the primary reason F3 resonates with the men who do it.
I AM THIRD.