After being issued basic combat training equipment, we were warned that gas masks were frequently lost, and that we would be charged $65 for a replacement. Determined not to lose mine, I developed the habit of hitting its case with my elbow as we marched, to ensure that the mask was safely inside.

Near the end of training, we made a final check of our masks before ascending to the test chamber. I elbowed my gas-mask case and panicked when I realized it was empty. “Drill Sergeant!” I yelled, jumping out of formation. “I lost my gas mask!”

“Get back in the line!” he bellowed. “It’s on your head!”

 

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