My blog title “Anything is Possible” was inspired in part by my father.
When I was 12, Dad told me “Nothing is Impossible.” It was his response to my question about whether it was impossible for us to stay in North Carolina. He was about to retire from the Marine Corps and we were going to move again. I was so tired of moving. We drove up to Pennsylvania, but the deal fell though on the house and the moving van hadn’t even gotten out of the gate, so we headed back down south proving that anything is possible.
Recently I asked my dad, who’s now 83, where he got the “Nothing is Impossible” philosophy, guessing it had something to do with his 20 years in the Corps. But that wasn’t it. He told me he got it from his scout master, Earl Nelson.
When Dad was a boy in Wisconsin, his scout troop’s mission was to help plant Jack Pine seedlings near Bear Paw Lake. The scouts had thousands of trees to plant over 20 acres that had been burned. Fifty boy scouts were supposed to be on site, but on the first day, only 15 showed up, including my dad, who said it couldn’t be done. They didn’t have enough scout power to plant all those trees. That’s when Dad first heard his scout master say, “nothing is impossible.”
Over the next five days, more scouts arrived, and they planted 150,000 trees. Earl Nelson apparently said “nothing is impossible” many more times after that.
I asked Dad if he ever thought about “nothing is impossible” when he was in the jungles of Vietnam. He said no. He was too busy.
I believe “Nothing is Impossible” was imbedded in him to the point that he didn’t have to think about it, and that he needed that belief most after he came back from Vietnam to help him figure out how to live with the horrors that haunted him, the ones he doesn’t talk about much because they still give him nightmares.
But he did say he used the motto when teaching classes on map reading. He explained to me all about how old maps, like the ones they used in Korea and Vietnam, become out of date because the earth moves. He explained about map grids. “Over 30 years, a building or a river bend can move into a completely different map grid,” he said. One of his recruits said it was impossible to find anything with those old maps, and got the “Nothing is Impossible,” response from my Dad.
Then Dad, went on to explain that they used something called a declination diagram at the bottom of the map to compensate for the movement of the earth. He said the declination diagram was developed after WW2 and after Admiral Byrd’s confusion in the Arctic.
My head was spinning about the earth moving like that and how much my dad knew. He never went to college and graduated from high school by taking night classes while he was in the Marine Corps. I was surprised to learn that he never made Eagle Scout. He said he was too busy.