Usually when I write my column, I’m at home, sitting at my desk, staring at the wall.
Today, however, I’m on the 19th floor of Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, sitting on a chaise lounge, staring at the incomparable Las Vegas Boulevard.
Life is good, especially in Vegas.
My name is Jody Fuller, and I’m a gambler.
No, no, not that kind. I’ve been here three days and haven’t even played the penny slots, although I almost lost it all upon my arrival at McCarran International Airport.
After purchasing my round-trip tickets for the hotel’s shuttle bus, I crossed the street and stood in the appropriate line. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my wallet. I began to panic. My heart started pounding. I felt ill.
My wallet contained my driver’s license, military ID, cash, credit cards, debit cards, and much more. I began to think of all the terrible scenarios that could come from this mishap.
I’m a Master Resilience Trainer for the Army National Guard, and we refer to this as catastrophizing.
I hurried back across the street, but failed to make it half way across, because the clerk from the shuttle bus kiosk was crossing the street to find me. She handed me my wallet, and, in return, I gave her a bear hug. It’s nice to know there are still honest people in Sin City.
On past trips, I would gamble just enough to keep the free drinks coming but not this time. In fact, I haven’t even had a drink.
Still, I dropped a fair amount of money on this trip before ever leaving Alabama. I showcased at an event that could potentially lead to future opportunities, which would in turn pay for this trip many times over. On the other hand, I might not get any bookings, but that’s ok. Some risks are simply worth taking.
My gambling history isn’t very extensive.
The biggest gamble I ever made in my life was joining the Army.
I was 19 years old and was headed nowhere, quickly. My future was bleak at best. At the time, I had very few friends in the military and had no idea what I was getting myself in to. It was the equivalent of going all in on a blind bet when you don’t even know how to play poker.
I got lucky and was dealt a winning hand from the start, and as many of you know, joining the Army turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
Although I only serve in a part-time capacity now, there is nothing greater than serving in our armed forces. The intangibles are unparalleled.
While awaiting my flight in Atlanta, the announcement was made that our flight was delayed due to bad weather.
Later on, another announcement was made stating the same; however, this time, they announced that the flight was overbooked and asked for volunteers to give up their seats.
The wait for the next flight was not very long, so I volunteered. In return, I received a voucher for the cost of my flight plus $300. I’d gambled and won.
Still, I’d yet to hit the jackpot.
The second flight wound up getting delayed, too. The frustration was setting in, and I was beginning to second guess myself.
My phone was dying and was in need of a charge, so I meandered about until I found an empty outlet.
I stood next to my phone as it was being charged and laid my usual carry-on, my handy-dandy, camouflaged Army backpack, at my feet.
The backpack drew the attention of a sweet little girl standing next to her grandmother. I heard her whisper, “Nana, is he a soldier?”
“I don’t know, Jayden. Why don’t you ask him?” Nana replied.
“Excuse me. Are you a soldier?” Upon confirmation, she smiled and said, “Thank you for protecting me.”
I can’t remember how I responded but I’m sure it was goofy but heartfelt.
Once again, I heard her whisper, “Nana, can I give him a hug?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?” Nana replied.
Upon confirmation, Jayden gave this teary eyed soldier a hug. I needed it. She was such a blessing.
There is nothing greater than serving in our armed forces. The intangibles are unparalleled.
I reached over and removed the US Flag from my backpack and gave it to her. She was so happy. I still had tears in my eyes and so did Nana.
I gambled 21 years ago when I bet it all and joined the Army. Some risks are simply worth taking because the payouts never end.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.