A really great guy and very skilled, award-winning 3-gun shooter, Scott McGregor, recently suggested that I reach out to a Marine Corps MARSOC veteran named Buck Doyle who runs Follow Through Consulting, a firearms and leadership training company.
In the course of searching out Buck online, I found this great article on Forbes.com. Buck says he was hesitant at first to share his stories about being in combat, but after researching the author, he felt the guy (Mark Greenblatt) had pure intentions.
Hopefully I can get together with Buck soon. He seems like a terrific guy, and, who knows--we probably know some of the same guys other than the aforementioned shooter who recommended I link up with Buck in the first place.
The Forbes.com article describing the book is well worth the read. Here it is:
Three Lessons WeCan Learn From Returning Vets: A Q&A With Valor Author Mark Greenblatt
What can we civilians learn from the acts of valor that you detail?
Three lessons come to mind.
1.Perseverance. One of the heroes I profiled, an Army grunt named Steve Sanford, saw a buddy get shot by a sniper and ran into the sniper‘s fire to save his fallen comrade. Steve gave the man CPR while the insurgent sniper continued shooting at them from, literally, a few feet away. Multiple bullets pinged into Steve’s Kevlar vest. In our interview, I asked Steve what he was thinking in that moment. Steve’s answer was, “Yep, I’m being shot,” but that didn’t matter. He kept performing CPR, desperately trying to save his buddy’s life. “I had better things to do,” he said, “than worry about pieces of metal sticking out of my vest.” That is perseverance.
Dan Foster, another of the heroes profiled in Valor, was doing guard duty when his base came under attack from dozens of insurgents. A huge truck bomb knocked Dan off his feet, but he regained his composure and fought back. He, along with his buddy Nick, held off the assault and saved their unit’s lives. Dan was injured in the fighting, but didn’t realize the extent of his injuries until he was back in the medical area and looked in the mirror. He had lost more than a dozen teeth and substantial bone structure from his upper and lower jaws. He had also lost hearing in one ear. But – get this – Dan returned to the fight. That too is perseverance.
So, whenever I’m ready to give up on some task – to throw in the towel because it’s too much of a pain – I actually think about Steve Sanford and Dan Foster. If those guys persevered in those moments, how can I possibly give up when I face my first-world problems?
2. Loyalty. Everyone of the heroes told me that what really motivated them was love for their brothers in arms. They spoke of the special bond between people who serve together. That bond is unlike anything I have ever seen. They will do virtually anything to help each other, including sacrificing their own lives. It’s inspiring to witness that level of dedication.
This sense of brotherhood was drilled into them from the beginning of their military service. One man, a Marine named James Hassell, told me his drill sergeants would motivate them, not by warning that they would get killed, because “after a while, we didn’t really fear that. What we feared was letting down our brothers. We didn’t want to be the guy that gets one of your brothers killed.”
Buck Doyle, another Marine, received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for trying to save another Marine, Sgt. Nick Walsh. Buck dismissed his Bronze Star Medal, explaining, “The award for me is the brotherhood. If you are accepted in that brotherhood, that’s the greatest award you can receive. For me, my award is having Nick’s parents regard me as part of their family – that’s a huge award – hearing that Nick spoke of me the whole time to his parents, that he regarded me as a brother. That is the eternal reward that no colonel can think about giving me, so I regard that responsibility and honor of serving with those guys as the award.”
3. Poise in the Face of Adversity: Another hero profiled in Valor, Army Ranger Chris Choay, was in a firefight against insurgents hunkered down in a bunker in an Afghan valley. Chris led his squad through machine-gun crossfire to get within 65 yards of the bunker. The insurgents didn’t know Chris was there. If they just looked to their left, Chris would have been a dead man.
Chris was preparing to eliminate the threat, when he realized that he was completely alone – his men had not heard him when he initiated the assault. Chris was also severely outgunned – the insurgents had three machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade.
But Chris kept going and he prepared to attack the insurgents by himself.
And then disaster struck: Chris’s rifle jammed. “That,” Chris told me, “was the loneliest moment of my life.”
I don’t know about you, but I think I would have curled up in the fetal position and cried for mommy. Or cursed loudly.
But not Chris. He stayed calm. He knelt down and fixed his rifle. Then he stood up and proceeded to take out the enemy bunker by himself.
So when I’m about to lose my cool, I think about Chris Choay. If Chris can stay poise in the face of such adversity, how can I fall apart when my Wi-Fi goes down, or when the line for my latte is too long, or when some idiot cuts me off in traffic?
What myths do you think exist about the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what, if anything, should we be doing to correct those myths?
A few unfortunate and inaccurate stereotypes about our military veterans persist. First is the caricature of the macho, rough-and-tumble guy who just likes to shoot things or blow things up. I’ll admit that, when I first started this project, I expected the best parts of the book would be the bang-bang-shoot-‘em-up tales. But the more I got to know the heroes as people, the more I realized their stories would be incomplete without getting into the backgrounds and their motivations – they are interesting, funny, smart individuals, with full lives. With our all-volunteer military, few Americans know service members personally these days, so that meathead stereotype still exists. One of my goals in writing Valor was to help bridge that gap.
Sadly, there is another caricature emerging, that of an on-edge person in the grips of post-traumatic stress. I know that a sizeable number of veterans suffer when they return home, and we need to help them as much as possible. More needs to be done to erase the stigma preventing veterans from seeking mental health treatment. But I fear that this storyline has been overplayed by the media, such that every returning veteran is portrayed as a ticking time-bomb. That’s just not accurate. They are some of the smartest, most engaging, most capable, and highest-character people I’ve ever encountered.