Warning Shots: Heed Them Early

warning_shots_heed_them_early_imageMany years ago I was a young naval officer on my first tour of duty in Vietnam. We were off the coast of DaNang and I assumed the watch as Officer of the Deck, which meant I had the ship totally at my command. The Captain gave me the order to not let any other vessels within 1000 yards. Things were going well until about 2 hours into my watch, when through my binoculars I saw a Vietnamese boat, called a junk, drifting toward us with about a half dozen men dressed like ninjas who just seemed to be smoking and fishing. At first I thought little of it. As I watched though, they continued to get closer and closer to us. When they got within about 1500 yards I had a petty officer flash a signal light at them with the international code to “get away”.

Through my binoculars I saw the men see our signal, just ignore it, and keep fishing, all the while getting closer. Nothing we did seemed to get their attention, and we had no idea if they were friend or foe.  When the junk got inside the 1000 yard limit, I called the Captain in his cabin. He and the Executive Officer immediately came up on the bridge. The Executive Officer got on the bull horn and shouted the order to leave, in Vietnamese, as we also continued to flash the spotlight at them. Again, they paid no attention.

When they finally got within 100-150 feet the Captain spun around and motioned to the gunner’s mate that was manning a twin 50 caliber machine gun just above and behind me. All of a sudden there was a deafening sound and blinding, choking smoke as a couple hundred rounds went right over my head. Water convulsed where the boat had been. When the smoke cleared, I expected to see six dead men on a sinking boat. Instead, the boat was untouched and the men were fine. They started up the motor and pulled away, eventually disappearing over the horizon. It had been a warning shot of a couple hundred rounds to get their attention and it finally worked. But it could have turned out so differently, so much more tragic.

I remember thinking how insane these men had been, that hand signals, flashing lights, and bull horn messages couldn’t get their attention. It took a potentially lethal event for them to care. Crazy you say? They ignored multiple warnings of an oncoming threat. Think about it; are you willing to trust that the first volley will be just a warning shot? It could have been the real thing.

Many people today think very similarly when it comes to their health. Life and even our own bodies will try to get our attention, give us warnings for our own good. I just found out that a good friend of mine had a massive stroke, is paralyzed on his left side, and cannot speak. For years he’s been overweight, had high blood pressure, and had developed type-2 diabetes. All the warning shots went unheeded.

You and I must make up our own minds what it will take to get our attention. What type of signal will get us to take care of ourselves by eating healthy and exercising sensibly? Will common sense or the pleading of a loved one be enough? Will research from health experts or test results from your physician do the trick? Or will it take a crisis like a heart attack, a stroke, or diabetes to get your attention? And once they have your attention, will it take even more before you will actually do something about it?  Procrastination is human nature, but I’d recommend that you do the right thing based on common sense and not wait for a crisis, when it could be tragically too late.

Have I got your attention? Consider this your warning shot and start making changes today.

Learn more about Dr. Steve Weston


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