[laughter] >> but, actually, the only reason why i really came here is i wanted to get a free autographed copy of the book, i didn't feel like paying for it, so eric promised me he'd give me one. [laughter] i was lucky enough to serve with eric over in the fallujah area along with a lot of other great people, one of whom i'll mention in a minute. i know eric's biography, some of you probably read the back jacket of the book. you know eric's smart, you know, duke, he's a rhodes scholar, goes to oxford, gets his ph.d.
and become as navy seal. published one book already on photographs, humanitarian work, but most of us were just happening out looking for the next party, eric was already all over the world helping people, so pretty incredible. way smarter than me, way better looking than me. [laughter] all that good stuff. but when i met eric back in 2007, i had no idea of any of this, you know? he was just another, you know, person. he was a navy seal, i was a marine. he was another person just in iraq to do his job. and when i met him, he was totally unassuming. he never walked up to me and said, oh, by the way, i have a ph.d.. he just said i'm here to help you find the bad guys in fallujah, and we're going to do what we have to do to get it done. there wasn't a whole lot of sleep a whole lot of eating, there wasn't a whole lot of anything going on for a long period of time other than just completing the mission and
getting the job done. he was also the guy that strapped on a weapon and walked beside me in the streets and rode beside me in the vehicles and, you know, put his life on the line just as readily as i and my fellow marines did. when you have somebody like that, you trust them immediately, and you appreciate who they are, and, you know, none of that, none of the background, none of the ph.d, none of that stuff really matters other than just who that person is and how they're going to support you, and how they're going to do their job. so that's the eric i know. and when i came home from iraq, because after i got knocked on the head, i came home for a couple of months, and he was in this digital apartment in d.c. and i thought, oh, this guy's as poor as i am. [laughter] one of the first things we did, in the book you'll recognize the name travis manion who was, i've never met anybody better than travis. he is the epitome of a marine, the epitome of a warrior, of a
young man that could have done anything he wanted to do in his life, and he chose to strap on the uniform, strap on the plates and march into battle, and he ghei his life so that -- he gave his life so that other people could live. and i'm forever, forever indebted to people like travis because eric and i are here today, and eric's writing books, and eric's moving forward, and he's the foreman of the world and i'm playing golf -- [laughter] because of people like, because of people like travis. so when you read that name and you get a chance to look him up, please, do so. but without further ado, i'd like to introduce the guest of honor tonight, the guy who wrote the book and the guy who really has a great message both in his foundation and with everything that he writes, eric greitens. [applause] >> well, first of all, good evening. thank you all for coming out tonight. i've been looking forward to
this for a long time. and i'm especially honored that joel, joel came out to talk tonight. joel, thank you very much. thank you very, very much for being here. [applause] so joel and i were joking the other day that ever since bin laden was killed, navy seals have been in the news quite a bit. and the other day i was in spokane, washington, and somebody asked if i would coan interview -- do an interview for a newspaper in spokane about what it means to be a navy seal. so i went out, and i talked to a reporter, and i woke up the next day, and i was excited to see that they had written a little story. and on the bottom it said, "navy seal says role requires humility as well as strength." i thought, well, that's nice. that's a nice little headline about what it means to be a navy seal. and i noticed that story was right underneath a story about a
wild pig that had been shot dead in the street. [laughter] and that story the headline was, "ham on the lam dies with a bam." [laughter] i thought, you know, no matter what the navy seals do, it's tough to beat those wild pig stories. [laughter] there i am. but what i thought i'd do tonight is i actually, i'm just going to start right at the beginning of "the heart and the fist." and i'm going to read to you a passage. it comes from a time when joel and i were serving in iraq in 2007. we were working in an al-qaeda targeting cell, and our job was to capture mid to senior level al-qaeda leaders in and around fallujah, iraq. and this passage comes from that time. all right. the first mortar round landed as the sun was rising. joel and i both had bottom bunks
along the western wall of the barracks. as we swung our feet onto the floor, joel said, "they better know they wake me up like this, it's going to put me in a pretty uncharitable mood." mortars were common, and one explosion in the morning amounted to little more than an unpleasant alarm. as we began to tug on our boots, another round exploded outside, but the dull whomp of its impact meant that it had landed dozens of yards away. the insurgent mortar is usually inaccurate one-time shots. then another round landed closer. the final round shook the walls of the barracks, and the sounds of gunfire began to rip. i have no memory of when the suicide truck bomb detonated. lights went out, dust and smoke filled the air. i found myself lying belly down on the floor, legs crossed, hands over my ears with my mouth wide open. my instructors had taught me to take this position during incoming artillery fire. they learned it from men who
passed on the knowledge from the underwater demolition teams that had cleared the beaches at normandy. now, when, when the truck bomb went off, i had actually ended up taking out the entire western wall of our barracks. and what the insurgents were doing at the time is they were actually packing chlorine into the suicide car bombs and the suicide truck bombs, and their intention was to create casualties not just with the explosion, but also by creating this poison chlorine cloud after the explosion went off. and we were in the barracks, there was a marine who was next to me kind of grabbed each other. we made our way outside the eastern side of the barracks, and as soon as we got outside, i fell down to my hands and knees. and because of the chlorine my eyes were burning and my nose was burning and my throat was burning, and i was down on my hands and knees, and i was choking, and i was coughing. and i looked down on my uniform,
and i saw that there was blood on my uniform. and so i started to pat myself down to check for an injury. i didn't want feel like i was injured, but you're trained to know that sometimes a surge of adrenaline can actually mask the pain of an injury. so i started to pat myself down again and again and then, finally, i pulled my hands away, and i realize, it's not my blood. it was the blood of my friend joel who had been standing this close to me. and when joel and i were serving, that was just one moment from our, um, our service together on the front lines. and "the heart and the fist" is really, it's a book about service on the front lines. and i talk about service on the front lines of humanitarian services overseas with refugee children, cambodia, kids who lost limbs to land mines,
working in rwanda. i talk about what it's like
going through navy seal training and combat deployments overseas in places like iraq and afghanistan, and i also write about the work that we do today on the front lines here at home working with wounded and disabled veterans to help them to find a way to win this battle on their front lines so that they can come back and continue to serve as citizen leaders again. and what i've learned in all of that work is that we all have a front line in our life. we all have a place in our life where our hopes for the future and our hopes for the people that we love come right up against the reality that the world presents to us. and i believe that in order for us to be successful on those front lines, it takes a combination of courage and compassion. i think it takes a combination of the heart and the fist to be successful on those front lines. and i'm really excited to be here with all of you today because one of the other things that i have
also learned is that in order to be successful, it
takes the right kinds of friends. and for me as i'm standing here looking around the room, um, i'm seeing friends who worked with me doing humanitarian work overseas and friends who served with me in iraq and friends who worked with me at the very beginning of the mission continues. and so for me it's really fun to see all of you, see all of these friends here tonight because i did learn, for me, we all have pain in our life, we all suffer, but there is a way for us with the right kinds of friends to turn that pain into wisdom. and to turn that suffering into strength. and i'll talk a little bit about how i learned some of those lessons tonight. now, one of the things that i learned very early on was that it was going to be really important for me to have the right kinds of teachers. um, the first time that i decided that i wanted to be a warrior, i was 19 years old. and i went overseas for the very first time. i was a kid who grew up in the
midwest had never -- before i went to college, never been outside of the country, never been really far outside of the midwest. but i was 19 years old, and i actually went to china. and when i was in china, i decided i wanted to be a warrior. so what i did was i signed up for a kung fu class. and i signed up for a class with this guy who you see on the left-hand side of your screen here. um, he was a monk who'd been trained at the shaolin temple in china, and he was considered to be one of the toughest, hardest kung fu instructors in china. so i studied with him for a couple of weeks, and then eventually the day of the test came. and on the day of the first test, all of the students were made to come out and to stand like this and to balance four bricks on top of their head. had to come out, stand like this and balance four bricks on top of your head. now, i thought that that was the test. [laughter] [laughter]
what you can see is that, actually, the instructor had a very different idea, and if you're in the back, that is, in fact, a sledge hammer in his hands. and what he would do is he'd bring that sledgehammer down -- oops -- he'd bring that sledgehammer down, and he'd actually smash the bricks over all of the students' heads. now, i think that all of us can agree that that is a very demanding teacher. and when i went back and i was writing "the heart and the fist," one of the things that was so interesting for me to see was how at so many points in my life when i had started something new, there were the right kinds of friends and the right kinds of teachers who were with me and helped to push me through pieces of -- places of pain and fear and failure in my life. and it was due to some of these really demanding teachers, i think, that i'm very thankful for what they asked of me.
you know, some of the toughest people who i have ever met, some of the most demanding, toughest people i've ever met were actually mother teresa's missionaries of charity. i did some work with them briefly in india. these are people who wake up every day living and working with and among the poorest of the poor at a home for the destitute and dying. incredibly tough people. i learned from my navy seal instructors in coronado, california, and i'll talk a little bit more about them later. my first boxing coach, earl blair, great instructor of mine. my boxing coach, henry dean, at oxford. i write about everything i learned from a set of wonderful, wonderful teachers. what they all had in common was that they all pushed me, and they challenged me to push myself to a place of discomfort. and one of them was up with of my professors at -- one of them was one of my professors at duke university. his name was neil boothby, and he really challenged me to find
a way to be of service. and neil asked me when i was 20 years old to go with him overseas to do international humanitarian work for the first time. and he asked me to come with him to bosnia. this was in 1994 during the ethnic cleansing that was happening in bosnia, and neil asked me to come with him to actually live and work in the refugee camps. and the photograph that you're seeing here is a photograph that i took of bosnian refugees as they had just stepped off of the bus into the refugee camp. so at the moment that you're looking at them here, um, everyone who you're seeing in this photograph has lost every material possession they'd ever owned. and in addition to having lost every material possession they'd ever owned, many be of them had lost friends and had lost family. but it is actually there in bosnia where i first started to get a sense for what it meant to live with both the heart and the
fist. and this is, i'm going to read a short passage from my time working in bosnia. men, women and children were rounded up and taken to concentration camps. community leaders were singled out and trachen to other -- taken to other locations where they were beaten and tortured. they often disappeared, never to be seen again. bosnians were forced to give up the houses that they had lived in for generations, and they were made to pay for the privilege of leaving for refugee camps. many of the families that i met, victims of the ethnic cleansing, had been forced to grab what they could and walk away from their homes. often the buses packed with refugees were diverted to killing fields. the details i heard were often so sickening, i found it hard to believe that the people sitting in the trailers telling me these stories were, in fact, the same people who had lived them. the stories seemed to come from
another world entirely. a bosnian man in one of the camp shelters told me that both of his brothers had been killed. he had heard from a neighbor that one of his brothers had been tortured before he had been shot. his sister and parents lived in a different city, and he was not sure if they were alive. he lifted his shirt and showed me the scar on his stomach and chest left by a grenade that had been thrown into his house. he considered himself lucky that his children and wife were alive. he started to cry. his children, a boy and a girl, sat listening in the corner of the shelter. now, when i heard stories like that, i was 20 years old at the time, and i was certainly moved, but i was also confused. i didn't know what i should say to someone who had lived through a situation like that. i didn't know how, how to respond. and i remember one time i was talking with another man in the camp, and he said to me, he
said, don't misunderstand me. he said, we appreciate the fact that there's a shelter here that's been provided by the international community. and he said, and we appreciate, i appreciate that there's a kindergarten where my kids can go to study. and i appreciate that there's food available for my family. he said, but, he said, we know that if people really cared about us, that they'd also be willing to protect us. and, again, i didn't know what to say at the time, but i thought about that later, and i realized that what he was saying was true. um, that it's true that in our lives any thing or anyone that we love we're willing to respond with care and with compassion, but if someone or something that we love is threatened, then we're also willing to act with courage. and we're willing to act and to protect people and to sacrifice ourselves and to be of service
and to act with courage in order to protect what we love. and one of the things that i noticed, also, in the refugee camps was that the people who were often doing the best, people who had lived through incredible tragedy but were doing the best were often times parents and grandparents who had really young kids in the camp. so what was happening was they knew that every single day they had to wake up and be strong for their kids. the people who i thought were often doing the worst in the camps were often times teenagers, young adults who felt like their life had been cut short, and they didn't really have anything to live for. so what i started to see in the camp was that it was certainly true that if we love anything at all, that we're willing to love it with both the heart and the fist. and i also started to see how for people who had survived a tremendous tragedy, what mattered to them wasn't just a sense of courage and discipline
and perseverance, but what actually mattered to them, what helped them make it through that tragedy was they had a purpose in mind, and they had a heart for being of service to others, and that actually made them stronger in the camp. because they knew that they had to be strong in order to be of service to others. and i'll talk towards the end of the talk about how we use that lesson in the work that we do today with wounded and disabled veterans here at home. but i saw that in bosnia, and in "the heart and the fist," i write about how i saw this in other places as well. i saw it in rwanda where i was working with people in 1995 who had survived the genocide. i was working with children, many of whom had been separated from their parents. i saw it in bolivia where i was working with children of the street. as many of you know, there are hundreds of children who live in places like santa cruz, bolivia, who wake up every day and spend their days begging, selling gum and cigarettes, um, begging,
selling gum and cigarettes, some of them like this girl spend their day shining shoes. right? i saw this in cambodia where i was working with people who had lost limbs to land mines, where i was working with kids, some of them, young kids who had lost limbs to land mines whose families lived on less than one dollar a day. kids who were survivors of polio who when they were fitted with prosthetics literally, when they were fitted with prosthetics literally had to learn how to walk again. and what i saw in all of these situations was how important it was, how essential it was for people who were living through tragedy and who were facing difficulty to have a sense of purpose in their lives. and a sense that they were being called to be of service to something larger than themselves. right? and the question, though, for me was, you know, how i was going to live that in my own life. i'd been doing this work, most of it, as a student, and i'd
been spending a lot of time reading and writing and studying and doing simple work in places like refugee camps; feeding dying patients, helping kids set up soccer teams and soccer games. but still the question was, for me, what was i going to do with my life. and i remember there was a time, i was 26 years old, i was at oxford, and i was looking out at the future, and i really had three options in if front of me. one option was to stay at oxford university or to go and pursue an academic career. and i knew that oxford or any university would be able to give me a lot of freedom. um, another option that i had was to go to a consulting firm, and i knew that they offered me in my first year, they said that we will pay you more money than both of your parents combined have ever made, um, in any one or two-year period. and then i had this third option from the united states navy.
now, the navy said to me, they said if you join the navy, they said, we will pay you $1,332.60 per month. they said, and, they said, and we promise you that in your first few months in the navy, we promise you that in your first few months in the navy you will have zero minutes per day of privacy. [laughter] and, they said, the deal is the minute that you sign up on the dotted line, you're going to owe us eight years of service, at least four years active duty and four years in the reserve. they said, in return for that what we'll do is we'll give you one and only one chance at basic underwater demolition seal training. they said, if you make it through that training, you'll be on your way to being a navy seal. they said, but if you fail that training -- as over 80% of the candidates do -- you're still going to owe us eight years, and we're going to tell you where and how you're going to serve. now, it's not a very enticing recruiting pitch, right? [laughter]
but i remember, actually, i went to an event at rhodes house, and rhodes house is kind of this really fancy mansion on the oxford university campus, and i remember as i walked into rhodes house, walked into the marble foyer, i remember looking up and seeing the names of rhodes scholars who had left oxford in world war ii to fight overseas. and they had left to fight overseas, and they had died overseas. and i remember as i was looking up at them, i remember thinking that if they hadn't have made that choice, um, then i wouldn't be standing here looking up at them. and so i thought about what the university could give me, and they would give me a tremendous amount of freedom. i thought that the consulting firm could give me a lot of money. and i realized that the navy was going to give me very little but would make me more. and they would make me more
because they were going to challenge me. they were going to make me more because they were going to test me. they were going to make me more because they were going to demand something of me. and so when i thought about that, that decision, i just decided that i was going to choose the path that offered the greatest possibility of actually making me more. of helping me to serve in a better way. and, um, for those of you who have read the book, a couple of you asked if i was going to talk about the ocs chapter which is one of the, you know, places -- i went to officer candidate school, and one of the things that they taught me very quickly was how important it was going to be to have a sense of humor to survive in the military. but eventually i, in the interest of time and saving some time for questions and answers, i won't talk too much about ocs except to say that i graduated from there, and i went, i went to the navy seal training. and as many of you know, navy seal training has a reputation for being the hardest military training in the world.
and in our class we started with over 220 people in our original class, and by the time we graduated we were down to 21. all right? so started with over 220, and by the time we graduated down to 21. and in the course of that training they're always testing you, they're always pushing you. so they ask you to do, in your first week they ask you to do a 50-meter underwater swim. later they ask you to swim down 50 feet, tie a knot and come back up. they ask, put you in small teams and ask you to land these small rubber boats on jagged rocks in the middle of the night. there's one evolution called drown proofing, and what they do is they tie your feet together, and they tie your hands behind your back. and with your feet tied together and your hands tied behind your back, you have to jump in the pool. and with your feet tied together and your hands tied behind your back, they then ask you to swim 50 meters. as you're going through the training, though, it crescendos at this week, right, that's
considered to be the pinnacle of seal team training, the hardest week of the hardest military training in the week, and it's called hell week. all right? and as you're going through hell week, the average class sleeps a total of 2-5 hours over the course of the entire week. and as you're going through they've got you doing physical training with logs that weigh a couple hundred pounds on the beach, they have you doing races in and out of the ocean with your team. the water, as many be of you might know, off the coast of san diego regardless of season is often in the low to mid 50s, and they give you plenty of time to appreciate the water. um, they have you running the obstacle course, and one of the things that they love to do are these fireman carry drills where you pick somebody else up, you throw them on your back, and then you run with them in soft sand. or you pick somebody else up, you throw them on your back, and you run with them through the mountains or through the woods. and there's, actually, an evolution at one point as you're going through the training, and
what happens is it's a 10-mile run, and over the course of that 10-mile run, right, everybody's wearing a 40-pound rucksack and carrying a rifle. the trick is over the course of that 10-mile run is that every step along the way one person is injured and has to be carried. so everybody's got a 40-pound rucksack, you're carrying a rifle, and every step along the way one person is injured and has to be carried. now, when you look at this and you think about doing something like that, are there any, any thoughts about what it takes to do that successfully? ma'am, do you have any, any thoughts? >> focus? >> absolutely. it takes a tremendous amount of focus to make it through something like that. sir do you have any, any thoughts? sure, sure. >> you're asking me? >> yeah. >> perhaps -- [inaudible] >> absolutely.
takes a certain amount of focus, takes a tremendous amount of humility. that is absolutely true. and i will also tell you, and i'll tell all of you who are here that if you ever have to do this or you ever have to do anything like this or anyone you know ever has to do anything like this, i learned very quickly that one of the keys to success was that you wanted, what you wanted to do at the very beginning, that you wanted to position yourself so that you were standing next to the lightest guy. [laughter] and that made a tremendous amount of difference over the course of a 10-mile run if you were standing next to the lightest guy. but one of the things that they were doing here, of course, as you're going through this training, you have people who were signing up for this training who are high school track stars and division i college football players and state champion wrestlers and golden gloves boxers. tremendous athletes who are signing up for the training. but what happens is as you're going through that training, every single person is pushed beyond the envelope of their
talent to the core of their character. every single person is pushed beyond the envelope of their talent. and one of the things that was interesting to me to see was that there were navy seals who came from all different kinds of backgrounds, different physiques, different athletic backgrounds, different geographic backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, they came from all different kinds of backgrounds. but one of the things, right, that they all had in common was a willingness at the moment of their own personal challenge, at the moment of their greatest pain they had a willingness at that moment to think about the person to their left and think about the person to their right and to say to themselves, i need to be strong for the people who are depending on me. and what i started to see as i went through the training was i had this idea of navy seals as being physically strong and courageous and tactically proficient. and what i started to see was that, actually, as you were
going through this training to make it through that training what it also took was a real heart of someone who even when they were in tremendous pain was willing to think about the person to their left and the person to their right. and as you go through the training, um, there is a tremendous amount of chaos and confusion and challenges that come from all sorts of different directions. but eventually, um, what you given -- what you begin to see is what it means to have the real ethic of a warrior. and, again, this was something i had to learn as i went through the training. and i'm going to read here a short passage where i talk about what i actually learned as i went through, as i went through the seal team training. seals are frequently misunderstood as america's deadliest commando force. it's true that seals are capable of great violence, but that's not what makes seals truly
special. given two weeks of training and a bunch of rifles, any reasonably fit group of 16 athletes -- the size of a seal platoon -- can be trained to do harm. what makes seals special is we can be thoughtful, disciplined and proportional in our use of force. years later in iraq i'd see a group of rangers blow through a door behind which they believed was an al-qaeda terrorist, take aim at the terrorist, assess that he was unarmed and then fight him to the ground and cuff his hands behind his back. they did this while other rangers at the very same time in the very same room positioned themselves over a sleeping iraqi infant girl to protect her and then gently picked her up and carried her to an iraqi woman in another part of the house. as earl, my boxing coach, used to say: any fool can be violent. warriors are warriors not because of their strength, but because of their ability to
apply strength to good purpose. and i was very fortunate as i went through that training to be surrounded by a tremendous group of warriors. and i want to tell you a story about just a couple of them. the guys who you're looking at here in this photograph in the middle is james suh and to the left is matt axleson. now, james and matt were with me in buzz class 237. they went through every day of buzz training with me, and they went through all of the advanced seal qualification training with me, so we spent virtually every day of training together for 14 months. and on june 28, 2005, matt axleson was pinned down in a fire fight with the taliban. and when he was pinned down in a fire fight with the taliban, the call went out, a radio call was received, and james went, and he boarded a helicopter to fly in to rescue matt axleson. as that helicopter was flying
in, it was shot down, and that day both matt axleson and james suh gave their lives. the reason i'm telling you that story is because if you had asked james suh at the moment that he was getting on that helicopter, if you had asked him, james, what are you doing right now? james wouldn't have told you, i'm getting on this helicopter in order to win the global war on terrorism. he wouldn't have told you, i'm getting on this helicopter because we need to pacify this part of afghanistan. if you'd asked james at that moment what he was doing when he got on that helicopter, he would have told you my friend, matt axleson, needs me. and that's why i got on that helicopter. and i mention it, also, because i think that sometimes when we think for ourselves about the kind of difference that we can make in the world, we think about all of the challenges and all of the problems that are
around us, one of the things that i learned, that i took from this, right? was that at base all we can really do most effectively is to actually be of service to the person who's standing right next to us. and put ourselves in a position where we can actually make a difference in the life of one other person. and so when i came back, when i came back from iraq, um, as joel -- sorry. when i came back from iraq, um, as joel said, one of the things that we did was we went up to visit the family of travis manion. travis, who had been with us that day in the suicide truck bomb and gave his life serving there with us in fallujah. and, you know, we went up, and we visited with the travis manion family, and we came back, and i went to bethesda, right around here, to the naval hospital to visit with other
recently-returned wounded marines. and i remember many of you might have had the experience of visiting with some of our recently-returned wounded marines or soldiers or sailors or airmen, but you walk into one of those hospital rooms, and you're talking about a young man or woman, often, in if their early to mid 20s. and you ask them about their unit, you ask them about their hometown, about their deployment, and you say to each one of them, well, tell me what would you like to do when you recover? and every single one of them says to you, i want to return to my unit. they all say to you, i want to return to my unit. now, the reality was for the men and women who i was visiting that day is that they were not going to be able to return to their unit. one of them had lost both of his legs, another had lost the use of his right arm and part of his right lung. another had lost a good part of his hearing. and one of the schools that we
went to in seal team training is a school that's called, it's called sere school, survival, evasion, resistance and escape school. and in that school they teach you how to survive if you're ever taken prisoner of war. and one of the things that they teach you is a leadership principle called the stockdale paradox. some of you might recognize the name, it's named after admiral james stockdale who was a prisoner of war in vietnam and earned the congressional medal of honor for his leadership of american p.o.w.s. and the stockdale paradox says this. the stockdale paradox says that in a situation of great pain and danger and difficulty and chaos, he says as a leader one of the things that is essential for you to do is to maintain a 100% focus on the harsh reality of your situation. he says, when you're in the middle of a difficult challenge, it does you no good to sugar coat the facts. he says, it does you no good to
fantasize about what might be. you have to maintain 100% focus on the harsh reality of your situation. but the paradox is, the paradox is at the same time, the same time as you're maintaining that focus on the harsh reality of your situation, at the same time you have to find a way to maintain hope. now, the harsh reality of the situation was for the men and women who i was visiting that day that they were not going to go back to their unit. that was the harsh reality. and the question, i think, for all of us is how do we maintain hope? and i asked each one of them that day, i said, well, tell me if you can't return to your unit right away, tell me what else you'd like to do. and every single one of them told me that they wanted to find a way to continue to serve. now, they didn't necessarily use the word public service. one of them said to me, you know, i had a really rough
childhood growing up, and i'd like to find a way to go home and maybe be a football coach or a mentor. another one told me he wanted to see if he could go home and get involved in law enforcement. another one wanted to become a teacher. and as i was leaving the hospital that day, i realized that all of these men and women had a long string of visitor coming in to say thank you to them. thank you for your service, thank you for your sacrifice. and it was clear to me that they appreciated that. that meant a lot to them when people said thank you. but it was also clear to me that in addition to thank you there was something else that they had to hear. and what they also had to hear in addition to thank you was they had to hear, we still need you. they had to know that when they came home, we saw them not as problems, but as assets. they had to know that when they came home, that we still believed in them enough that we were willing to challenge them to find a way to be of service. and now as we all sit here
today, there are thousands of wounded and disabled veterans who woke up this morning and go to bed tonight having spent all day watching tv, playing video games, self-medicating, problems with alcohol. we are facing today in the united states what appears to be the highest per capita suicide rate in american military history. and i say what appears to be because a lot of the statistics around suicide aren't actually counted. you know, for example, um, veterans who are coming back aged 18-25 are dying at a rate five and a half times their peers in motorcycle accidents. a lot of times we aren't capturing that. of but what's happening is we have a generation that's coming home, men and women like joel powd career who were injured in their service, who are coming home and who are starting to ask themselves whether or not we still value them here at home. and i believe that the answer for them has to be, yes.
so as i left the hospital that day, i called two friends who were disabled veterans, and we decided to do something about it. i donated my combat pay from from iraq, both of them put in money from their disability checks, and we used that to start the mission continues. and the idea behind the mission continues is that we're going to help every single returning veteran who comes home, right? find a way to cond their mission of -- continue their mission of public service. and what we do is we provide fellowships to veterans so that they can begin to serve again in the community. and i want to read to you a little bit about one of our very first fellows. um, one of our very first fellows was a helicopter pilot, his name was chris marvin. he was a blackhawk pilot serving in the afghanistan, and i write that chris' blackhawk helicopter had crashed during operations over afghanistan. he broke his legs, his foot and
his right arm, shattered the bones in the right side of his face and severely damaged his knees, his hips and both shoulders. he was barely conscious when a man ran up to the wreck. is the aircraft on fire, chris gasped? no, said the man. am i the worst one, chris asked, thinking if i'm the worst injured, everyone else will be okay. now, chris marvin, when he came back, got in touch with me and my friend, and he became our first fellow. and through his fellowship he started working with his fellow wounded warriors in hawaii, and he started bringing them out and had them start doing service projects in the community. and chris marvin graduated from that fellowship program. he actually became for a while the director of our fellowship program, and he helped us build to a place where today we have worked with over 180 wounded and disabled veterans who have become our fellows.
chris marvin, when he finished our fellowship program and he finished being a director, he was accepted to wharton business school, went to wharton business school, he earned an mba. and after that mba he had a number of different things that were offered to him, extraordinarily lucrative offers about different directions he could take his life. and what chris did instead was when he graduated, he decided that he was going to rededicate himself to serving his fellow veterans. that he was going to make a decision that would enable him to continue to make himself more think service to others -- through service to others. and i'm very proud to tell you that chris marvin is right over here, and he is today a leader in this generation of veterans working with the wonderful organization that partners with the mission continues, and he's an extraordinary leader, and he will always be a great friend. so, chris, it's good to see you here. [applause]
and it's not just chris marvin. i encourage you tonight to meet some of the other mission continues fellows who are here tonight. these are men and women who came back from iraq, some of them have lost their eyesight, some of them have lost their hearing, some of them have lost limbs, been severely burned, came back with posttraumatic stress disorder, and they have become martial arts instructors and youth hockey coaches, and they're working with habitat for humanity and the red cross and mothers against drunk driving. and together those mission continues fellows have actually turned to their fellow americansing -- americans and asked them to join in is is ser. and we've actually had over 13,000 americans come out and do service work with and alongside our veterans in communities across the country. and what i have learned from those men and women, right, what i learned doing this
humanitarian work overseas, what i learned doing navy seal training, what i learn from dealing with the wounded and disabled veterans is that what they do every day is very difficult, but it's not complicated. what they do every day is that they wake up, and with their heart they set a direction for themselves, and they set a purpose, and they set a passion in service to others. and then what they do is they walk a path every single day with courage and perseverance and the fist of discipline so that they get to a place, right, where they ultimately transform their own lives, and they have a tremendous effect on the lives of others. and what i learned doing all of this work is that every single one of us has a tremendous capacity for courage. every single person has a tremendous capacity for courage. and all of us have a front line in our life. all of us have a place where our
hopes for ourselves and our hopes for the people that we love come right up against the reality that the world presents to us. but if we are willing to challenge ourselves and if we've got the right kinds of friends around us and we ask them for help along the journey, it's amazing to see when we tap into our own courage the way that we can transform our own lives and perhaps most importantly the way that we're able to have an effect on the lives of others. and it's an honor for me to be here with all of you tonight. thank you very much. [applause] >> we'll have a 15-minute q&a. if anyone has a question, let me know, and i will pass you the mic. >> yes, thanks for coming. >> yes, sir. >> i just read your book, and i
was very interested in all the different theaters where you operated as a peace corps, or as a worker in humanitarian aid before your military service. >> yeah. >> the thing i was struck by is that each one of them, it's an area -- especially bosnia because i follow that area closely and everything that occurred there with the serbs and the bosnians -- when that began opening up, some of the worst atrocities seen since the second world war took place, as you've mentioned. but in virtually every area you worked in rwanda, bolivia, bosnia, you notice that it's all of the events that occurred, the tragedies, they're foreseen. especially as a special warfare operator like yourself following that career up, it seems to me studying all the history and everything you've detailed, everything you've done and
everything we always end up doing in the western civilized countries and when we try to intervene and stop these were reactors. we're always reacting after the fact. as a result, we're always going to be more or less reacting to the aggressive tensions of the people who propagate these situations to begin with. as a special operator, what have you learned? have you evolved any theory or belief that preemption would be the better thing to do since that is, i understand, what seals and united states army special forces believe we should do. in every situation, especially bosnia, did you see an indication and in iraq and in afghanistan where special warfare operators like yourselves were put in preemptively to try to prevent it in the first place, that would be the better strategy? >> well, i think, i think, actually, there is certainly a tremendous amount that we can
learn from these, from these stories, right? a tremendous amount we can learn from studying what happened in bosnia, what happened in rwanda, what happened in cambodia. but when we think about actually l acting preemptively, i think we need to think really broadly about all of the tools at our disposal. and often times we actually have a lot of the answers right around us, we just haven't figured out a way to use those tools effectively. i think and one of the things that i write about in the book is a lot of times americans, we tend to invest in buildings, and we invest in institutions instead of actually making connections to people. right? and just as i look at this audience right here, i mean, i can see answers in this audience. steve culbertson runs youth service america, a program where he engages hundreds of thousands of young people in service around the globe, and he builds those kinds of relationships and understanding that we need to build on. scott biel, right, who runs atlas corps which is kind of a
reverse peace corps where people come from all over the world to actually serve here in the united states and learn. and i actually think when we think about, you know, preemptively how do we learn, how do we prevent, i actually think there's a whole broad range of tools, and the military piece may be a small part of that. but if we really start to think creatively, we have so many wonderful social entrepreneurs, so many people who are doing wonderful things around the world that if we actually start to support them and leverage them, i think that'll get us much farther. thank you. >> hi. you've, clearly, reached levels of excellence in everything that you've set out to do. what do you credit that to? is it just in your dna or your upbringing, your faith? [laughter] >> well, first of all, thank you very much. one of the things i should, i should point out and i hope is made clear when you read the book is that, um, what you may be seeing as kind of the end of a very long journey, and that along the way there's a
tremendous amount of pain and difficulty and failure that is tied up in that. and so, um, i think, first, we just have to acknowledge all of that. and then, you know, to the extent that i have been able to be successful in some of these areas, i think what i would credit it to many times is having, again, the right kinds of friends on the journey. um, we live in a culture, unfortunately, where we don't often think about the importance of friendship, actually, to our personal success and our role that we play in the world. and i would challenge you to go to a barnes & noble, go to your favorite independent bookseller and pull down, go to the, you know, leadership section, the business section, the personal improvement section. pull down all of the books there, and let me know if you can find one chapter on friendship. um, but it wawnt -- wasn't always that way. aristotle wrote about what it means to live an ethical life and what it means to make a
difference in the community and the city, right? as a book he divides it into ten chapters, each chapter addresses a different subject. only one subject gets two chapters and that is friendship. aristotle argues it is the people who are your friends more than any philosophy you can study, more than any quotation you can carry with you that are going to have a transformative effect on the person who you are. so in every single one of these endeavors, you know, i talked about my teachers and my boxing coaches and the seal instructors, and as i look around i see so many, i'm so blessed to see so many friends who are here. and if i were going to attribute anything to, um, any measure of success we've been able to have, it's been because i've had wonderful teams and wonderful friends around me. >> [inaudible] >> um, first, i want to thank you so much for the presentation. it was very inspiring. and, um, i'm interested to hear more about your, um, experience in a country like iraq and, um,
how being part of the american military and serving in a country which could seem to be hostile to the u.s., how -- did you feel that you have a personal mission towards this country and towards the iraqis? >> yes, great question. so, actually, you know, when i was partnering with joel, joel was running a what they called a mtt team, it's a military training team. and he was actually working side by side with the iraqi army. one of the things that i write about in the book that was really obvious to anybody who went to iraq because, you know, we had this big debate about how many troops we needed, right? iraq is roughly the size of california. there are 28 million people there. and so there is no way that no matter how many troops you send that you can physically impose peace. the only way to do that, in fact, is to critical lies and to create alliances. -- create allies and alliances.
and we talked about a concept we called the complete warrior. and we believe to be the complete warrior part of it is what we all know means that there's no worse enemy, but it also means there must be no greater friend. and for us when we were actually working in iraq, i mean, joel could probably tell you even better than i, he knew the kinds of food the guys liked. he was building really close relationships with them. and, again, this is at a time from kind of, you know, fall of 2006, spring of 2007, things looked really difficult, but it was actually the hard work that people like joel did and people like travis manion did on the ground working with, trying to build those partnerships and was able -- and it's certainly not completely successful at this point, but it was able through those relationships to actually build and create some level of peace there. scott. >> eric, you talked early on in the book about the important role teachers played in your life, and the picture of the
teacher breaking bricks on their head. >> yes. >> >> i was hoping you could reflect a little bit more onbc that with respect to the teacher and the student.bc >> yeah.cc >> i mean, sometimes when a teacher breaksc bricks on your head, they're just a jerk -- [laughter] >> yes. >> sometimes they're passionate. how do you thread that needle? is. >> yeah. well, that's a great question. and i think, unfortunately, when you're having the bricks broken on your head, you don't know which one you're dealing with. you don't know do i really need this or not? and i think one of the things that, um, the only way that i can reflect on this a little bit is that it's great to talk with not the current students of a teacher, but to talk with theirq past students.qp so i guarantee you if you went right now to coronado, california, and you asked all of the trainees what they thought of their instructors, they would not have kind words to say. i also guarantee you that if you went and you asked them that
same question 12 months later and they had some space and they were able to reflect on that experience and how being pushed and challenged in that way made them more, they'd have a different opinion. there were many times, um, when i was a student with whether it was my boxing instructor, earl blair, professors who i had, i really questioned what they were doing. but, indeed, that's part of the teacher/student relationship is that as a student you don't have a full understanding of what you need to know. but i think that one of the ways that we can actually, you know, try to figure that out for ourselves is not to ask the current students of professors, but to ask people who had them even two, five years ago and see was this someone who actually challenged you in a way that made you better? >> we have time for -- [inaudible] >> sure. >> hi. thank you. um, i just have a question. you've worked on both sides with humanitarian workers as well as with military. coming from both those sides,
what advice could you give to both sides, actually, on how that they could work together? i mean, there's a huge rift between how humanitarians work with a community and how military will work with a community. and so what kind of advice would you give to both on how they could effectively work and, um, prosper in that community? >> yeah. fantastic question. and i think, actually, the advice is really simple. um, the advice is just to begin to communicate. it is often times the case that you have groups who are actually in many ways both personally and in terms of their mission very closely aligned in what they're trying to do, and you often have zero communication between them. there's very little personal understanding. so you might often have people in a humanitarian organization who not only are not communicating with military forces in their area, but actually don't even know anyone, right, who serves or has served in the u.s. military.
in the same way you might have people who were in the united states military who haven't, you know, they've done an incredible amount of intelligence work, and yet they vice president even walked down -- they haven't even walked down the street to talk with people who are doing development projects and might have years of experience understanding how to operate in a community. and so what i would say is that the very first thing you have to do is you actually have to reach out and find ways to communicate. and when i, you know, when we did that in places like kenya, for example, it just had a tremendous effect. people sat down, and they saw -- they might not agree on everything, absolutely, but there was actually a very large area of shared understanding and a lot of potential for cooperation. and so i think, actually, just opening up those lines of dialogue is critical. >> hi. >> yes. >> thank you. >> sure. >> so i'm the daughter of a drill sergeant from the vietnam
era, and i know how, um, i know how influential and how forming it can be to serve in the military, and i have a lot of respect for that. um, but i -- my question is, i think, a little bit of a piggyback on what she just was asking. >> yeah. >> but when i was reading your book, obviously, in many both let's say realms you were working, it was about service. >> yes. >> but i, so i question, like, especially your parts when you're talking about kenya because you just mentioned that. >> yeah. >> like, why is it -- i don't -- i, i sometimes don't see the value in why do we have military men doing things which, like, in kenya trying to find information from the civilians that live there, like, is it really someone in a uniform who's wearing a gun with him that is actually going to get that good information and build those relationships? so i guess my question is --
>> yeah. >> -- since you've been in both of those roles, um, like, do you still believe in the equal value of both of them, or would you like to see more of a switch from the weight of our, let's say, budget that goes in the heavy direction of one as opposed to the other? >> sure. yeah, great question. so, i mean, one of the things that i hope, you know, emerges from "the heart and the fist" is this idea of practical wisdom, all right? is it actually when you build experience like this that one of the things that you see is what's worth doing and how to get it done. and in a place whether it was kenya or bolivia or iraq or afghanistan, there are certain roles and funks that the u.s. mill -- functions that the u.s. military can and must do, and there are a lot of other things where the u.s. military is not the best, certainly not the best organization to actually be engaging in work like that. and one of the things that we have to do in our foreign policy for sure is to be a