“There is no question; a part of me will forever be up on that mountain, dead…. as my brothers died. But there’s a part of me that lived, because of my brothers, because of them I am still alive. And I can never forget, no matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how far you fall….
YOU ARE NEVER OUT OF THE FIGHT.” –Marcus Luttrell
We come from many different places. Different parents, families, experiences, branches of service, MOS, etc., but we share a strong bond. This understanding can be appreciated in different ways. A KIA memorial bracelet, the quiet solemn expression at a sporting even when the National Anthem plays, or at the bar when you see a lone beer and a shot on a napkin with a name and date written on it; a drink for a fallen warrior now in Valhalla, honored at home.
It’s true that part of us dies with every brother we lose. Every deployment that comes and goes costs us a little part of our bodies and souls. This is the burden we willingly and gladly bear, and we should do so with a joyful heart. We shoulder this burden for our friends, our family, our fellow warriors both those still with us and those gone from this life, and ourselves. In Part I, we reflected on the path we have traveled. It is my sincere hope that it showed you that you are not alone on this journey. We are all constantly struggling with a plethora of feelings and emotions now that the wars are over. Hopefully, it helped you become a bit more self-aware, for self-awareness is key to a happy and fulfilling life.
A major step toward self-awareness for a warrior is introspective thought. The paradox of combat comes during times of introspection, when we begin to identify that while we miss the dead and we wish we were dead with them, we must honor them now. Yes, it is difficult to struggle with the feeling of uselessness. It is especially difficult when your life’s work could easily be the theme of the a Peter Berg movie, or the opening scene to the next Call of Duty. The feeling of uselessness leads to despair, and unfortunately self-destructive behavior. We destroy our bodies, our finances, our relationships, and our minds. We feel as though we are unworthy to be here, still living. However, while dealing with these things, we also must reflect on our journey to this point and remember why we are alive. Why we were chosen to live? Yes, you were CHOSEN! Who better to live on to tell the story of your brothers than you? We all readily agree that we would die for our teammates. Why do we now struggle with being able to live for them?
We all believed we had found our purpose; doing war shit with our war friends. Well, now that singular purpose has come and gone. It’s a difficult period along the warrior’s path, the accepting of it being over. We might struggle and fall. We might hit the lowest point and lose control; drink to the point of blacking out and do things so far out of character it’s unbelievable. Maybe we go internal and isolate ourselves from anyone and everyone, allowing ourselves to slip into that dark place where a gun in your mouth doesn’t seem like a big deal. These are all things that many of us have done. Maybe you’re doing one or more of them right now. It is normal. The thing that people outside of our circle don’t understand about us is what normal means. A brother of mine once said, “Some of the things we say and do may shock the average man, but we are not average men”. This altered sense of normal can sometimes cause friction in the life of a warrior.
To me, going to the range and doing a workout while shooting is normal. When I’ve had a bad day, a 5K in full kit with plates is normal. Do I expect the majority of people in my life now to understand that? No, of course not. We sometimes use this conflict as an excuse to withdraw ourselves from interacting with people. We say, “no one understands me, fuck them.” I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. Grifter wrote about this in his article about Veteran Outrage Syndrome. We set society up for failure, and in turn are outraged when they fail to meet our expectations. We, as a community, need to stop doing this. We build around us a house of cards that is doomed fall. When it falls, we scream and shout that people suck, they don’t have any respect, etcetera. Things like this happen because we continue to allow it to happen. Many members of the warrior class think that it’s okay to behave as though we are far superior to everyone else. Different, yes. Better, not necessarily. We isolate ourselves and our warrior culture from others as though it is something that we cannot and should not share. In fact, the opposite is true. We have the obligation to share our culture with those around us. This accomplishes two things. One, it fosters a better relationship and understanding between the veteran community and the rest of society. Two, it keeps us from becoming mentally and emotionally isolated which leads us down a dark and dangerous path of self-destruction.
Recon Marines of 1st Force Reconnaissance Company execute an 8 mile ruck run with 50 lb packs photo by Joshua Murray
The challenge for us now is to give people in our lives a chance. It’s totally unfair to hold them to the same standard we hold ourselves or our teammates. Face it guys, not everyone is like us. We have to accept that the world we now live in will never be the world we are used to or expect that it should be. What we CAN do is effect change in our everyday lives; small changes that are within our reach. If your community isn’t what you think it should be, DO SOMETHING. Don’t just retreat into your house to drink or feel sorry for yourself. Be a force for positive change.
The effecting of change in our world is a new purpose in and of itself. We have the opportunity to bring all of the things that made us who we were on the battlefield to the people we interact with on a daily basis. It is our responsibly to bring the warrior mindset and ethics to the rest of America. I know, I just said we can’t hold people to our standards. This is where some personal and professional maturity comes in. We have to carefully choose where we want to focus our efforts. It can be on a large scale, like starting or working with a non-profit like Elder Heart, Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund, The Raider Project, or dozens more. Maybe start your own company and help employ other veterans. Or it could be as small as helping someone you encounter in everyday life that is in need. The bottom line is, be a positive influence in your world, not a negative one.
How fortunate are we, those who share the bond of the warrior spirit, to be able to have the opportunity for another purpose, another meaning of life? We were given this gift, this responsibility, for a reason. The reason is that we are worthy of it. We must live a good life to honor the sacrifices of the fallen and to preserve the way of life they died for. Allow them to speak through you in your everyday life. Tell the stories of how they lived. What kind of person were they to you? How did your fallen brother help shape you into the person who you are today? Respect their sacrifice by being kind, patient, respectful, loving, compassionate, and helpful when you can. By no means should you completely change who you are. Hold yourself and the people in your life to a standard of living your brothers would be proud of. And don’t forget, you’re ability to execute extreme violence on those that require it should never be compromised. The key now is balance. Balance creates the full spectrum warrior; a self-aware member of the warrior class that can both love deeply and kill quickly, either task executed with unbridled passion and brilliant expertise. I would submit to you that an appreciation for one will deepen your respect and understanding for the other.
Our mission in life now is just simplified. Love a woman, raise a family, be a good friend and American, a positive influence in your community, live every day for our fallen, and continue to prepare for the next battle. This is the purpose in life for today’s warrior class. This is how we must live.
So live your lives, brothers. Live it well.
Never above you, never below you, Always beside you!!!