I am on a path. That path is called “Warrior PATHH” and I was introduced to this at Boulder Crest Retreat in February 2017. The path never ends and if embraced, the path leads to understanding past experiences and welcoming new experiences with more knowledge of self and preparation for receiving the unknown. The more a person experiences, the more a person struggles and grows. The more a person grows, the stronger and more useful they become. We know that struggle is good and is even referenced in the bible in Romans 5:3-5.
“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Many people have asked me, “What’s different about you? What changed”? Understanding and accepting life’s experience is what changed. General Mattis sums it up best when he said, “There is also something called Posttraumatic Growth. Where you come out of a situation like that and you actually feel kinder towards your fellow man and fellow woman. That you actually are a better husband and father. You actually have a closer relationship with your God”. This can relate to those parents who have lost children, combat experience, being assaulted or attacked, an abusive childhood, witnessing brutality or any other type of traumatic event. Most people have no idea how to process that event. Just know, we cannot choose or control those external forces but we can choose how we respond to those forces. We choose our path.
“We all walk the same path, but got on different shoes” – Drake
For combat veterans, especially those who enlisted at a young age, we were not taught certain principles or at least not able to exercise them. On the battlefield there is no time to mourn. Mission first. The three principles I have chosen to relearn and put to use are Grace, Patience and Understanding. That has allowed me to stop and take an assessment of certain situations – out of my control – and react accordingly. Here is a real world experience of my own and is a 100% true story. Seven days, to the day, prior to my attendance to Boulder Crest Retreat, the old me, my 6 year old accidentally knocked over a glass of orange juice. He was sitting at the island in our kitchen eating breakfast when I heard his plastic cup fall over. As I turned around I saw the orange juice making it’s way to the edge of the island and begin to pour onto our hardwood floor like a waterfall. I ran over towards him, picked up the cup and slammed it down and yelled, “12 O’CLOCK!!! 12 O’CLOCK!! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?!”, referring to the cup position in reference to his plate. The I yelled, “GO TO YOUR ROOM. YOU GET NO BREAKFAST THIS MORNING”!! After I cleaned up the mess I went to his room and asked him why he was crying. He said, “Cause I’m scared”. I look back on that and it just crushes me as I remember him running to his room crying. I then cleaned up the mess. Fast forward 14 days later, and I am convinced this entire thing was a God thing. Seven days later, to the day, AFTER my time spent at BCR…the exact same thing happened. We were in the kitchen, doing the same thing and in the same configuration. I was at the sink when I heard the cup fall over. I turned around and saw what had happened. His eyes were wide open and I said, “Ahhh, SNAP!! Well, what are we going to do”? He looked at me and said, “I don’t know”. I said, well, we’d probably better clean it up. What do you think we should use to clean it up”? He said we should use a paper towel and that’s what we did, together. No voice raising, only love and grace. My three principles I strive to exercise everyday are Grace, Patience and Understanding. Why those three? Because they don’t issue those in Basic Training. I had to learn them all these years later.
Soldiers, typically, have high expectations and ZERO room for error because the slightest deviation from perfect can result in death of oneself or a comrade. This is the path I am on. No head doctor can give “tools” that will amount to much because just like old tools in my toolbox, they can get rusty. These are skills that must be practiced, daily. We are all on a path and if you walk that path with blinders on, never seeking personal growth and development, you will run through life not having made progress. Remember, struggle is good if you do it well. Most importantly, choose well who you walk your path with.
Hugs and kisses, America!