Scarlet Letters ... DUI -- Drinking Drunk Nearly Wrecked My Life, Career

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mark Bannert
  • 13th Intelligence Squadron
My palms are sweating. I got caught driving drunk and must face the consequences.
I enter my commander's office. My face flushes uncontrollably. As my reporting statement leaves my lips, my mouth feels as if I just swallowed a cup of sand.

"What were you thinking?" he asks.

Before I can speak, my mind floods with the memories of that night ...

The night is cold, and rain is falling all around me like little liquid spears. The fight I was in with my girlfriend has my blood boiling and my mind racing. The alcohol in my system does nothing to help calm me or collect my thoughts.

There are 85 miles between where I am and where I need to be. I could call Airmen Against Drunk Driving or one of my co-workers, but I foolishly do not.

The ignition is difficult to find in my drunken stupor, but I am finally able to find it and turn the key. My music is blaring, and I feel quite drowsy.

I'll just roll down the window. The cool air and rain hitting my face wakes me momentarily. I find my way out of the neighborhood and hit the freeway. The next hour and a half I go in and out of consciousness a few times, scaring myself.

I'm singing at the top of my lungs to stay awake. Finally the alcohol and humming of the road take over.

Slam! My world is rocked by a loud crash and a plume of chalky air. My nose hurts. The airbags have deployed, I'm in a ditch, and I am confused about what exactly has happened.

I instantly try to restart the car. ... Nothing.

The car is totaled. Both the front and back of the vehicle are smashed into the cabin. Miraculously, I am uninjured.

I turn off my headlights and decide that I will just walk to a nearby frrend's house.

No one will see the car, and I'll get a tow truck to pick it up in the morning. I stagger down the road upset and confused until a black car stops and the driver asks me if I need help.

I get in his car and he asks, "Are you OK?"

"Yes," I answer.

Then he asks if I was involved in the car wreck. Again, I answer yes. Then, he tells me he has both good and bad news.

"What's the good news?" I ask hesitantly.

He tells me that the good news is he picked me up.

"What's the bad news?" I ask with a sense of dread.

"I'm an off-duty police officer, and I'm taking you back to the scene," he answers.

My heart races, and the only thing I can think of is how to get myself out of this.

Next thing I know we are back at the scene. I only made it five miles before I was picked up. The police are amazed to see me unscathed after seeing the car and tell me I'm lucky. As they are putting me in cuffs and reading me my rights, I am not thinking that I am lucky. I'm thinking, "I'm screwed; my career is over." And in a way all that was true.

Any trust I had developed with my co-workers over the past six months is gone. There are going to be repercussions from this for the rest of my career.

I want to be that same troop I was when I joined -- full of promise and honor, morals and virtue guiding my everyday decisions. I must now try twice as hard to get half the distance as my peers.

In the end "A man's character is his fate." -- Heraclitus.

So keep your path filled with character that expresses our core values -- "Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all you do." If so you will lead a life of no regret.