As we continue to push through this pandemic, and now the protests for racial equality, I look back to the two most important qualities that I learned in the military, discipline and teamwork.

This is not earth-shattering news, and I believe many veterans would agree with me. Basic training in all branches of service first seeks to break down the individual trainee from “me first,” to thinking as a team. This is sometimes quite difficult, because most of us in a life or death situation think self-preservation. When military training is complete and we are “in the field,” we have got each other’s back no matter what.

With this in mind, I believe that discipline and teamwork are two very important factors that will lead us back to whatever the new normal will be.

Self-discipline will help us all continue to wear masks when appropriate, continue to wash our hands consistently, distance ourselves from one another and avoid crowding. As of this writing, it has been 73 days of limited socializing, stay at home orders, nonessential businesses closed, etc. Now that the state is slowly and responsibly reopening, it is more important than ever to discipline ourselves to follow all health guidelines. The consequences of thinking about making up for lost fun could be devastating. Just as lack of discipline could hurt your buddies in battle, not staying the course of safety could hurt others.

Discipline is also vital in making decisions that affect others. Doing the right thing, whether it is unpopular or socially awkward, takes strength drawn from self-discipline. Helping a stranger, regardless of race, color, religion, because they need the help, is just the right thing to do.

When we at Post 86 award the Legion’s School Award to students from Wilton High, Weston High and Middlebrook schools, one attribute is to be “willing to help others on the student’s own initiative.” These students are showing great strength and discipline early on in life that will only serve them well in their futures.

Teamwork is the other important factor in getting us back on our feet. We learn that early and often in basic military training.

From helping each other through the obstacle course, to working with each other on our weak points in training (map reading, first aid, weapons maintenance), we become stronger as a team. We learned quickly that if one trainee made a mistake, we all paid for it (oh how many pushups did we “pay”!). One learns quickly that the best way to eliminate mistakes are for the trainees strong in one area, will help the others that are having problems. And very few people go through training without at least one weakness.

Today, we have seen much in the way of volunteerism, helping our neighbors, businesses and families that are less fortunate or sick. This teamwork is what civilized people are expected to do. Help the weakest among us to live rewarding, valuable lives.

Tom Moore is adjutant of American Legion Post 86. The post may be reached at legionpost86@gmail.com.