There are times when one must stand for what is right regardless of the repercussions or consequences.
I faced such a time as a junior officer in Vietnam. As a rifle platoon leader, I was given command of three dozen young men, mostly conscripts, in a hostile territory. Our area of operations was the mountainous region west of Danang, where we battled both the enemy and the elements.
On one particular mission the company command post traveled with my platoon, which meant providing security for the company commander and his gaggle of staff. While we were making our way through our assigned area, the CO was contacted and ordered to move the company to another location by a certain time. It was fairly early in the day and I knew that we could easily reach our destination long before nightfall.
However, the CO, a West Point grad and captain, wanted me, for whatever reason, to lead my platoon down an open stream bed in order to arrive at our destination a few hours sooner.
I asked for a word in private with the captain. Here is the gist of our conversation.
“Sir, with all due respect, there is no need to subject my platoon to unnecessary danger by exposing them to a possible ambush while we’re out in the wide open.”
“Lieutenant, are you questioning me?”
“Well, sir, all I’m saying is that we can take a safer route by cutting a trail through the jungle and still reach our destination before nightfall.”
“Lieutenant, you will follow my order.”
“Sir, with all due respect, I refuse to subject my men to such an unnecessary hazard. We can cut trail and still get where we need to go in plenty of time.”
This conversation quickly devolved into a “yes you will,” “no I won’t” battle of wills.
I was fully aware of the consequences that I faced for being insubordinate, but in that moment I felt that what I was standing for was right, and I was unwilling to relent. I stood my ground.
We cut the trail.