The Consequences of our Choices . . . Leadership 101

It was shortly before I was given orders to go to Parris Island, South Carolina and be a Marine Corps Drill Instructor.  I was an E-4 in the United States Marine Corps about one month away from my reenlistment and Drill Instructor School.  This was a very exciting time in my life.  My goal was always to be a Marine and a Marine Corps Drill Instructor was a life long dream.

About two weeks before I was to arrive Parris Island, South Carolina I was standing Guard Duty at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina.  My schedule was Saturday at 0900 to Sunday at 0900 when I was to be relieved by another Marine, Sgt. Rushing.  When Sgt. Rushing didn’t show up, I stayed on my post and made sure that the Marines were relieved and posted as normal.  Nothing was compromised.  The compound was safe.

The Officer of the Day (OOD), came by about 1000 that morning and asked me where Sgt. Rushing was.  I was put in a position where I could lie or be honest.  In lying I would cover for Sgt. Rushing and he wouldn’t get in trouble for being AWOL.  In telling the truth, I would be throwing the Marine under the bus.  In 1994 when this happened we didn’t have cell phones, email, facebook, etc.  I didn’t know where he was, but I knew that getting the OOD involved could mean loss of rank, money, etc. and could really impact his family and livelihood.

I decided that this was a Marine that I knew and we were at war together.  This was a Marine that I thought would have my back.  Also, the OOD had only joined our unit two weeks ago.  Fresh out of Officer Candidate School.  Did he really need to be involved at this point was my thinking.

I decided to cover for Sgt. Rushing which meant I had to tell a little lie.  It was Sunday though and I thought everything was ok.  I said, “Yes Sir!, Sgt. Rushing went to grab a bite to eat.  I am just here hanging out covering for him till he gets back.”  The OOD said, “OK, have him come see me when he gets back.”  In which I replied, “Yes Sir!”  I thought I was clear.  Sgt. Rushing wasn’t there.  I completely made that up.  Sgt. Rushing never showed up.  Then about 1400, the OOD shows up again.  “Corporal Yalden, where is Sgt. Rushing?”  What would you do now?  Do I continue with the lie or tell the truth and come clean?  What would you do?  I am already half way in the lie.  What if I come clean?  What if I continue the lie?

I continued the lie and said that he was getting a hair cut and I was still hanging out.

About midnight that night, Sgt. Rushing shows up with another lady other than his wife.  He was drunk.  I didn’t say anything and on Monday morning, I immediately went to my Staff Sergeant and explained the weekends incident with the OOD and Sgt. Rushing not showing up.  At the same time, I asked for Friday off because I stood duty all weekend long.

Staff Sergeant said he would get back to me after the mornings meeting.  During the meeting the incident was brought up and my day off on Friday.  The OOD heard the true story and found out that I lied to cover for another Marine.

The OOD wrote me up for lack of integrity and lying to an Officer.  My orders were cancelled.  I was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps on April 30, 1994.  As a result of me lying and covering for a fellow Marine, I was denied reenlistment and my dream of being a Marine Corps Drill Instructor regardless of being two-time Marine of the Year.

The bottom line is that I lied and I am accountable for my actions.  The moral of the story is that you should never compromise your character for that of anyone. When it comes to leadership in any situation, be a person of character and act on integrity.  This is a great lesson that I hold dearly to my heart and I am proud to have learned this lesson, but I will never compromise my character again for anyone.

Today, I am a youth motivational speaker and travel extensively working with teens.  I speak at school assemblies on character education, leadership, bullying, and respect.  I am honored to share this story with my leadership groups and I always make it interactive.  What would you have done?  Great lesson learned.

Thanks for listening.  Here is the story on YouTube:

Jeff Yalden is an award winning Youth Motivational Speaker, Teen Life Coach, and passionate professional for teens and their futures.  You can visit Jeff by visiting his website or his blog at:

Jeff’s Youth Motivational Speaker Website for High School Assemblies and Middle School Assemblies as well as Teen Leadership Programs

 Jeff’s Blog

Jeff Facebook Page

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Author:Jeff Yalden, Youth Motivational Speaker

Youth Motivational Speaker & Teen Life Coach. Since 1992, Jeff Yalden has been mesmerizing audiences with his engaging style and passion. Jeff is a story-teller that every where he speaks, he guarantees he is real and in the moment, perfect for every audience. He is one of a kind. He's interactive and nobody pours as much energy and passion into their programs that Jeff does. Guaranteed, Jeff will be a defining moment and a highlight of your students lives.

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