The Warrior Ethos: After the Smoke Clears
Posted on May 17 2018
“The primitive and often even atavistic aspects of the battlefield test the physical and mental agility of everyone, but most of what it tests is the courage and the spiritual side of the troops we put in harm’s way. And oftentimes it’s only unit cohesion, leadership and the belief in themselves and their comrades that allows them to go through what they have to go through and come home as better men and women, not as broken. And so the Warrior Ethos is not a luxury, it is essential when you have a military.”
During General Mattis’ confirmation hearing for the position of United States Secretary of Defense, Mattis stated the above in response to a question by Senator Ted Cruz regarding the importance of the “Warrior Ethos.” The question was posed because the Senator argues that the politicization of war has eroded the military’s Warrior Ethos. The question remains, does the Warrior Ethos, as described by now SecDef Mattis, apply when that military member returns from the battlefield? When he or she leaves the service?
At the time of this writing, this nation has been at war for nearly 16 years, the longest, active conflict in the 240 years of American independence. While 16 years isn’t so much as a glint in history, it has defined an entire generation of people. For those 18 year olds that felt the call to action as those planes ripped into the Twin Towers, hammered through the walls of the Pentagon, and descended through the skies of Pennsylvania, they are now 34 years old. If they are still in, they are one enlistment away from retirement. It is all they’ve ever known as adults. Much of that time was spent in the crucible of war. Based on my own experience as a Marine (Marines typically serve a 7 month deployment), anyone that has been in service for those 16 years has deployed a minimum of 6 times. That is 3 ½ years, minimum, in the killing fields. Anyone who has been through this, particularly those who are combat arms, have depended on that “…unit cohesion, leadership and the belief in themselves and their comrades…” to get through those harshest of times. But the Warrior Ethos has sufficiently been necessary off the battlefield as well. Due to the cyclic nature of deployments, the Warrior Ethos has been depended upon to muster the courage to go back. Understanding the fragility of life more so than just about anyone, those in our military often consider it lucky to make it back after even one deployment, and a testing of luck, even a taunting if you will, to go back time and time again. But then one day, it’s over.
Several years ago, OAF nation printed an article called “When the Music Stops.” In this article, Grifter writes, “On May 23, 2013, POTUS Obama declared the GWOT ‘over.’ Just like that. Done. Finished. It felt to my brothers and I, that our purpose in life had just disappeared.”
“13 years, thousands of lives, trillions of dollars, and two presidents later, those of us who contributed our very being to this endeavor are left thinking, ‘What now?’”
“We had been involved so long that it became us.”
It would seem that those who have been apart of this generation of war, and those that have since separated, often find themselves lost of purpose, left to define themselves in a new way, and now devoid of the “…unit cohesion, leadership and the belief in themselves and their comrades…”. Everyday they look at themselves in the mirror and wonder what it is they’re doing, with no one who understands to help them navigate their way through a seemingly foreign world of shopping malls, greed, self-righteousness, and celebrated victimhood.
There are many nonprofits today that help those transitioning out of the military find that purpose, typically translated as “employment.” This is undoubtedly important. But having a job that supports family and provides income to partake in hobbies is only half of the challenge. Many are led to believe that their new employment will also provide them a new identity and a newfound “unit cohesion, leadership, and belief in one another.” The corporate environment, however, is often self serving, with your leadership or even teammates ready to step over you or on you to get ahead. And those veterans amongst them come home feeling defeated. They remain un-promoted or un-appreciated at work because they are unwilling to do the same, throw a co-worker under the bus in the name of titles and money.
When I left the military, I wanted to shed that part of my life. The military was never supposed to define who I was. I went to school for business and even ignored the call to duty on that fateful day of 9/11, only finding myself knee deep in Iraq a few short years later. I grew up in a family of businessmen. The Global War on Terror was only meant to be a small diversion. When I got out in the spring of 2015, I had peeled off the Eagle Globe & Anchor sticker off of my car back window and the DOD base tags off the front within a week. When I had to renew my registration, I was asked if I wanted a Purple Heart license plate, I quickly stated “no thanks.” Within a month I found myself working in a new job that provided me the incredible opportunity to understand today’s business environment and its significant shift to the digital space. But I have found that the middle eastern sands have penetrated my deepest pores. And there is something missing.
There are many that have felt the same and seek some sort of community through other outlets. A quick Google search of veterans and motorcycle clubs shows significant concern for the amount of veterans joining these institutions. They typically attribute the growing numbers to the adrenaline rush that certain club activities may bring or the respect (or oftentimes fear) that is brought simply by those that encounter the man wearing the three-piece patch. But with a rank structure, a touted brotherhood and sense of community, is it really surprising that veterans seek these outlets? Indeed, many of these clubs do incredible good throughout their communities. One for instance was founded specifically to protect abused children. Nearly all hold rallies and runs that raise money for those in need. In this, veteran members are still living something greater than themselves.
It is in large part for this reason that I founded Sheepdog Strong, a tactical fitness concept and community. Yes, I believe that the physical training aspects required for the job are lacking within the services and need a common understanding. But it is really in the community aspect that I hope Sheepdog Strong serves. Every weekend in the North County San Diego area, a group of military, veteran, LE, and first-responders meet in a local park to throw sandbags around, drag sleds, and perform other strenuous activities. The exercises are set up to be team oriented, providing a sense of teamwork, competition and community. The exercises will definitely test both your physical and mental capacities, insisting that you tap into that belief in yourself and others simply to finish. Additionally, Sheepdog Strong is seeking to work with various nonprofits to raise money and awareness, providing veterans and others something greater than themselves to represent. Here at Sheepdog Strong, we want to remind you of that Warrior Ethos: because even after the smoke has cleared, “…the Warrior Ethos is not a luxury, it is essential…”
To learn more or sign-up for the group training sessions, click here. We hope to see you there.
Founder / Sheepdog Strong