Courage and Compassion
I was talking with a retired Master Chief this week about his daughter who is attending a college where a professor has a very low opinion of the military. It frustrates her to hear him make statements that she knows, from her father’s life, aren’t true. She knows men and women in uniform serve to answer a great calling and without people like her father, the world would be a different and more dangerous place.
A few months ago I read “The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL” by Eric Greitens. I bought it because ordering books on my e-reader is much too easy and the title sounded interesting. I wasn’t prepared for how much the author made me think about what we do and why we do it.
Eric Greitens was born and raised in Missouri then attended Duke University where he studied ethics, philosophy and public policy. He became a Rhodes Scholar and attended the University of Oxford where his doctoral thesis, Children First, investigated how humanitarian organizations serve war-affected children. He learned first-hand while serving as a volunteer in Rwanda, Cambodia, India, Bosnia and Bolivia.
During this time with humanitarian groups, Greitens realized they could only go in areas where the government or warlord who controlled with physical or military power would allow. If a warlord declared they could not distribute food to a particular village, they were unable to do so.
"The world needs many more humanitarians than it needs warriors, but there can be none of the former without enough of the latter," Greitens writes in his book.
Choosing to become a SEAL he deployed to Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa and Iraq. As many warriors do, he brought compassion to the frontlines. Very little of the book is about being a SEAL, but instead about being a good citizen. I think it is one of the most important books I’ve read this year.
What we do every day enables the Navy, Marine Corps, other agencies and Allies to put muscle behind the slogan “A Global Force for Good.” Sometimes our products are used to bring our enemies to their knees and that is good. But many times our aircraft, weapons and personnel serving around the globe, show the power of the American Navy and Marine Corps, assuring people they can count on our protection and support. If you ever have a chance to talk to a person who has been treated aboard either USNS COMFORT or USNS MERCY, or who has benefited from a U.S. National Guard unit repairing a water pipe in the jungle, you will be humbled by the non-lethal good work we do.
Read the book and be proud of what you do for both the Marine Corps and the Peace Corps. Because without your service, the world would be a different and more dangerous place.