Sometimes, my stories or articles might lead some to believe that I’m cool.

This probably isn’t one of them.

Two years ago, I was a full-time college student just out of the Corps.  I was attending school in Framingham, Massachusetts, a few hours south of my hometown in Vermont, affording me the opportunity to take sporadic trips back home to my old stomping ground and interact with the folks that knew me before my days in uniform.

Everyone that serves hears the rumors about training changing you.  Friends of friends whisper about America’s service members shipping off to boot camp to become desensitized to killing and indoctrinated with military programming.  Most of us agree, that although we do come back from boot camp with a newfound fear of everyone and everything that may outrank us, the people we are remain the same.  We may have picked up some new words in our vocabularies that don’t make any sense, we may have a slightly more skewed sense of humor, but ultimately, we’re the same old us, just with a fresh new paint job.  I, like many veterans, see my post service self as a best-case scenario.  The Alex I was before I shipped off to Paris Island had very similar values, but was a bit of a punk.  I came back changed, but overwhelmingly the same.  The values are still there, but the punk kid has long since faded away in favor of an “old-timey” appreciation for responsibility and commitment, and to be honest, I thought that was all that changed.

That is, until I was contacted on Facebook by an old high school friend about the Polar Plunge.  This annual event is held all over the country, wherein people raise money through fundraising for the Special Olympics.  Participants enlist sponsors, then on the day of the event, they jump into a hole cut into the ice of a frozen lake.  The jump is largely symbolic, as the donations have already been collected, but the event is intended to create a sense of community while demonstrating the value people place on the program and the young Americans that participate in the Special Olympics.

One of my best friends growing up had a sister that regularly participated in these games, and when it was suggested that I make the drive up to Bennington to participate in their local polar plunge, I immediately signed on.  Our team, which I was under the impression was rather sizeable, had set our sights on being the single highest fundraising group at the event, but as it was only a few days away, I had my work set out for me to in order to pull my financial weight.

Then my old friend (who happened to be female) got to the final detail she had neglected to mention before drafting me onto her team: in order to raise a maximum amount of funds, the entire team, regardless of gender, would be doing the plunge wearing women’s lingerie.

She presented this idea as though she expected me to go running for the hills at the mere prospect; I was, after all, a dude that doesn’t carry himself in a manner that would lead one to believe I’ve got experience trying on lady’s underwear.  I am not one to judge anyone’s outward display of masculinity (in public) but I can appreciate her hesitation.  There was certainly a time in my life where I would have flatly refused to wear such a ridiculous outfit to raise a few bucks for charity.