Chip Neidigh


Professional soldiers have their own vocabulary, and it is frequently inscrutable to outsiders. “Winchester” means out of ammunition, or almost out of ammunition. The term comes from the single-shot lever action of a Winchester firearm. When down to the last rounds of ammo, soldiers may fire single shots to conserve what little they have.

Have you had a struggle when you thought you were winchester? With your endurance flagging and with nothing left to contribute to the fight, have you felt like you were out of options?

General A. A. Vandergrift, 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Medal of Honor recipient, wrote that, “Positions are seldom lost because they have been destroyed, but almost invariably because the leader has decided in his own mind that the position cannot be held.”

One Marine illustrates this point particularly well. Major General Ray “E-Tool” Smith, USMC (retired) is a decorated combat veteran. Smith earned his unusual nickname in Vietnam: an “e-tool” is a small, foldable shovel, or “entrenching tool.” At one point, joined in close combat with enemy forces, when his firearm was no longer up to the task, he resorted to his e-tool as a weapon to dispatch an enemy soldier. To paraphrase MGen Smith, “Unlike a rifle, a shovel doesn’t jam.” Physically, Smith was Winchester. Mentally, he was not.

If you have decided that the fight cannot be won, it cannot. But Smith, whose courage in the face of likely far worse odds than you or I will ever face, found a way to keep fighting. Perhaps you are done and have no fight left.

Or perhaps there is an e-tool nearby that will do just fine.

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