An Army Ranger Interviews A Navy SEAL On Resilience

What is resilience? It’s not something you can buy off the shelf. You can’t pout until it’s given to you, either. You acquire it by doing the most human of things: struggling. In this struggle, it’s essential that you keep fighting through and driving on, whether you have succeeded or failed in your goals. Each time you go through the process, you become a bit more resilient.

Eric Greitens is a former Navy SEAL, Rhodes scholar, and founder of veterans organization The Mission Continues. He has written a book on the subject: Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living A Better Life. In a series of letters to his SEAL comrade who struggles with depression, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Eric seeks to break down the elements that make for a resilient life so he can help out his friend and, in turn, others.

Raul Felix:
Eric, your organization, The Mission Continues, puts post-9/11 veterans to purposeful work by leveraging their already established experiences, skills, and giving them additional training. This is a bit contrary to what other organizations have done, which focused on giving veterans goodies with no long-term value. When did this idea come about and what does your organization do?

Eric Greitens:
Our wounded and disabled veterans had lost a lot. Some had lost their eyesight. Some their hearing. Some had lost limbs. All of that they would recover from. If they lost their sense of purpose, however, that would be deadly. I also knew that no one was going to be able to give them hope; they were going to have to create hope through action.

I wanted to welcome returning and disabled veterans not just with charity, but with a challenge.

So I donated my combat pay to begin a different kind of veterans’ organization, and two friends contributed money from their disability checks. My plan with The Mission Continues was to offer fellowship for veterans to serve at nonprofit, charitable, and public benefit organizations. We would provide veterans with a stipend to offset cost-of-living expenses and with mentors to help them build plans for their post-fellowship life. Most importantly, we would provide them with the challenge and the opportunity to rebuild a meaningful life by serving again in communities here at home.

Raul Felix:
In your book, you mention three forms of happiness: Happiness of Pleasure, Happiness of Grace, and Happiness of Excellence. All three are needed. Many veterans, especially the ones who get out in their early or mid-twenties, fall into the trap of overindulging in pleasure with alcohol, drugs, unscrupulous sex, and other whims in order to get that emotional high they experienced while on mission. I know I did and still do. Why does focusing more on excellence, which is way harder, lead to a richer form of happiness?

Eric Greitens:
I think that—most simply—the happiness of excellence leads to a richer form of happiness because it involves growth. When we push ourselves and engage in activity that leads to excellence, we exercise our power—and this leads to growth, to mastery, and—in time—to achievement. All of that deep engagement with the world creates joy along the way.

In addition, part of what makes this happiness richer is that, often times, our efforts actually make others happy along the way. You, for example, know that it takes a lot of effort to write a good piece. As you write more, you become better at your craft. At the same time, your writing offers something to others. And if this is true for you, you’ve got a great combination—inner growth and outer service.

Finally, I think that the happiness of excellence is often richer because it helps to provide us with a sense of direction and, over time, a sense of purpose. When I think, for example, about the kind of happiness that’s available to the man in your poem, “Keep Moving, Young Man,” we both know that the happiness of pleasure might offer a moment of relief, but afterwards a guy like this might plunge even deeper still. If, however, he had a sense of direction…if, however, he felt himself getting better…if, however, he felt like he was making a contribution to others…that might—over time and with lots of hard work—lead him to a different place altogether. And that’s the great promise of the happiness of excellence.

Raul Felix:
You mentioned that “The naive mind imagines effortless success, the cowardly mind imagines hardship and freezes, the resilient mind imagines hardships and prepares.” We were taught in the military that you have to have a contingency plan in case things do go wrong. When you acquire a veteran fellowship, what do you do in order to ensure they are prepared and do succeed?

Eric Greitens:
That’s a great question. We try to apply all of the lessons in the Resilience book to make sure that they have the best chance of success. So, for example, we make sure that they have mentors to learn from, models to follow. We create counselors to guide them, friends to aid them, and there is a curriculum that they complete, all designed to help them to build the mental toughness and to develop the sense of purpose that are necessary to make it through a tough time.

Raul Felix:
You have a whole letter dedicated to friendship. I agree that having good friends is one of the great things that makes life worth living. My friends have been there for me and have bailed me out of physical and legal trouble more times than I can recall. Also, real friends will call you out when you’re messing up your life, business, or just plain being an asshole. Can you give us a recent example of when your friends have helped you out?

Eric Greitens:
Of course. I run a small business—I started it when I came home from Iraq, and I’m proud of it. It provides a good living for my family and for the people on the team. A few months back I had a guy who worked for me—a guy I’d given a lot of opportunities to—who lied to me and stole from me. That’s a gut punch. I called a friend [to replace him] the next day. He was at my house two hours later, and he’s been with me now every day for over seven months. My company is so much stronger than it was before—and we got there because of my friend and the incredible people on my team. It’s a classic Resilience case: I never would have wanted it to happen, but in retrospect, I’m actually grateful that it did because it made us so much stronger.

Raul Felix:
Part of the allure the military, especially Special Operations Units, has to young men is that whole transformative process. It pushes you to your physical, mental, and emotional limits. It has the power to test you and make something more out of you than you were before. If not the military, what other rites of passage do you think would a young person need to go through in order to earn the same amount of pride and sureness of oneself?

Eric Greitens:
A rite of passage usually marks a transition from one phase of life to the next. When you join the military, you literally step off of the bus, and *bang*, you’ve got a drill instructor yelling in your ear and you’re in a whole new world. You’ve come to a place that is meant to transition you from a citizen into a citizen-soldier/sailor/airman/Marine who is built to serve others.

Going to college usually marks a transition, as does entering a monastery, getting married, or having a child. You move, in each case, from one phase of life to the next. You become a husband or wife, a father or mother.

For young people looking to develop pride and confidence, there is only one path: self-created success. You will know you are good and strong when you have done things that are good. Achievement can take place in the art room, on the athletic field, in an auto body shop, in your business, on a farm—and achievement can take many many different forms. But true confidence comes when we grow, when we learn, when we master new skills. Almost everything new can be frightening at first, but with the right kinds of experience, we grow in courage.

That’s why resilience is an essential virtue; you can’t grow without it.

Raul Felix:
You’ve done quite a bit with your life. You’ve been a Rhodes scholar, humanitarian volunteer, Navy SEAL, and you’ve started a great non-profit organization. A lot of people would look at what you’ve accomplished and think they can’t hope to reach that level of excellence and may be even intimidated by it. Obviously, everything you’ve accomplished was a result of your own hard work and resilience. What last bit of advice would you give to someone who is young but hasn’t really done much with their life in order to get moving toward the right path for them?

Eric Greitens:
Well, thank you, Raul. That’s very kind of you. I’ve been fortunate to work with wonderful people along the way.

What I say to young people is this: You have a contribution to make. You have something to offer. And to develop your own sense of purpose, do two things. One, stay humble. It’s important that we remember that every person is better than us in some way. Every person has something to teach us. So learn from people around you. At the same time, be bold. Try new things. Attack hard problems. Do the tough stuff. Push yourself. If you can be humble and bold at the same time, you’ll create something beautiful.

~Raul Felix

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4 Things That Security Contractors Love To Spend Their Money On

The Global War on Terror has offered unique career opportunities for American veterans that past wars have not. The US military’s inability to recruit enough troops to fill the mission requirements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other sites throughout the world has created the need to hire private security contracting firms.

Being a private military contractor allows a combat veteran to grab some of those big bucks that are usually reserved for those in the upper echelon or technical side of the military-industrial complex. Since well-paying jobs on the home front are hard to come by, it makes perfect sense for a man who was willing to fight in a foreign land for less than $20,000 a year to become a shooter for a six-figure income. If you’re one of these men, you come back with quite a bit of money in your pocket after doing a contract or six. How should you go about spending it?

1. Getting a sweet ride.

Now that you’ve spent a few of the best years of your life in a shithole country being the personal security for some faceless executives of Tax Payer Money Funnel Incorporated, you’re ready to live out your own dreams—unless you’re a closet hipster who has wet dreams about owning a Prius, which signals to the world you’re trendy, environmentally conscious, and gay. It will include one or all of the following: a truck, a badass sports car, or a motorcycle.

You’ve been stalking the vehicle that catches your fancy for months. Checking out every color and trim variations. Deciding which features and extras you must have: sound systems, limo tint, grills, and lift kits. You know what? Fuck it! Just murder that motherfucker out. Should you put 24s on it? You fantasize of cruising down an open highway with your hands in between the thighs of a hot brunette sitting in the passenger seat in a tank top who is barely able to contain her breasts and singing along to the latest Taylor Swift hit single because you’re confident enough in your heterosexuality to listen to pop music without irony.

You’re finally able to strut into a dealership like an OG gangster with cold, hard cash. You’re not playing any games; you’re getting the car you want.

“I have $XX,XXX cash,” you say to the shady salesman who is eager to take as much of your money as possible. “You will give me this car, at this price.” He’ll then try to swindle you by saying they don’t give special cash discounts. You’ll then be like, “Hey Broseph, I ain’t no dumb private just out of Basic that you can financially rape with your 18.99% APR loan you’re able to secure through a subprime lender because I got a secure job in the military. I’ve been contracting and doing my research. You’re going to give me the car I want, with the specs I want, in the color I want, and at this fucking price.” You then drive away with a gangster lean in your car because you just dick-slapped the dealership.

2. Taking a vacation that fully indulges your vices.

Sure, your friends and family back home will be eager to see you and have missed you dearly. But if you have learned anything from your years when you were in the military, it’s that being home on leave is pretty lame after two or three days. All your friends and family are doing their own thing. Even if you do show back up, you’re not really going to see them more than once or twice. Why sit around in your hometown where not much has changed when you can take a trip to a foreign place where the foreigners aren’t trying to kill you?

Wolf Of Wall Street

Wolf Of Wall Street

If Hollywood and music videos have taught us anything is that it’s standard operating procedure to celebrate your newfound riches with scantly clad women in an exotic location while snorting mountains of coke and popping piles of Viagra to combat chronic erectile dysfunction. However, since you’ve spent the last few months around men, your game with females may have suffered. No worries; the time-honored profession of prostitution is there to make sure you have someone who will pretend to care about you for the allotted amount of time that you have bought her. Make sure to hide your drugs.

Perhaps you’re not the hookers-and-blow type. Perhaps you’re the drinking copious amounts of alcohol, brooding by your lonesome, thinking to yourself how everyone in the bar seems like a pussy and you miss hanging around real men, awkwardly hitting on chicks, and then falling asleep as you jack off type. No matter; you’ll have a way better time in foreign places where your American brutishness will be considered a cultural flaw rather than a personal one.

An extravagant vacation may not give you any tangible assets, but it will give you life experiences. Think of all those stories you’ll be able to tell while you’re pulling security at your next contracting gig to break up the monotony of everyone bitching about who they think are total cocksuckers on the contract and bragging about how hard they were back when they were in the military.

3. Embracing your right to bear arms.

You can’t spend all your money on cool toys, travel, drugs, and hookers; you need to be an adult and make a responsible investment. A gun is an asset that assures the security of the rest of your assets. It insures that any person who intrudes upon your person or property will get two in the chest and one in the head.

As much as freedom haters will protest, gun ownership is your right as an American. You risked your life for this country not just selflessly in your military service, but for personal profit when you became a mercenary—I mean, a security contractor. You’re the embodiment of patriotism and capitalism, two major principles in our mighty nation.

Now it’s also crucial that you just not have enough to arm yourself, but everyone in your household, and two or three of your closest friends. When Obama causes a nuclear holocaust, currency won’t be stocks or deeds, but weapons and ammo.

4. Getting yourself out of the rat race.

OK, you’ve blown your money from your previous contracts, but this time you’ve learned your lesson. You can’t keep on deploying anymore. You hate being away from your wife/girlfriend, kids, or dog. You need to figure out how to make your money work for you, not the other way around. While the pay is great, this isn’t a long-term career. You have to make plans for the future on the off chance that the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen.

You’ve sacrificed and put a lot at risk for the opportunity you have now. You can use your money to start that business you’ve always wanted to start. Or invest in real estate to create a steady stream of income. Or learn a new skill set that actually has a market in the US.

You earned the money; whatever you do with it is up to you. You’ve been broke before and now you’ve gotten a taste of what making real money feels like. You know having money is awesome and it allows you to buy the things and experiences that make you happy to be alive. But it’s also a trap to keep you coming back for more and more. With a little smarts and a bit of luck, you can figure out how to have a sustainable income instead of being caught in the up-and-down cycles of being contractor-rich.

~Raul Felix

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Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians

Sgt. Brian Kohl, 55th Combat Camera, US Army

Sgt. Brian Kohl, 55th Combat Camera, US Army

Men in Special Operations units look at the world very differently than the average civilian does. There is no subject or phrase that is too taboo for us. All kinds of jokes are commonplace: rape, racist, dead baby, misogynist, and plain disgusting ones. You’ll never get scolded for offending someone; if anything, you’ll get mocked for not being offensive enough. Such an environment has a lasting effect. When we’re set loose on the civilian world, we must learn that most people can’t handle our dark, twisted humor. I asked my Ranger buddies about times they have said something that horrified society’s sheep.

Raul Felix:
When some cunt broke my heart I was drinking at the bar I worked at drowning in booze, my own tears, and woes. I told the young female blonde dumb bartender, “I want to slit that bitch’s throat.” Then word got around that I was a psychopath.

George:
“This [name a situation] is a fucking abortion, it’s a bloody mess.”

Leo:
I told a woman that was trying to take my dad’s beer that I would fillet her like a fish.

TJ:
When people ask me, “What’s up?,” I say rent and the price of pussy. Both are always going up.

Matthew:
In film school I was in a class that was covering all the things you needed a permit to legally do—shut down a street, fire a gun, etc. So I was doing a short at the time that required shooting someone in the back of the head and that person falling off a building. So I ask, “What do I have to get in order to shoot someone in the head and throw them off a building?” I thought it was a perfectly logical question considering the movies that come out these days, but holy shit did everyone else, teacher included, think I was a psychopath.

Calvin:
In reference to an abortion [my girlfriend] had: “No, I felt OK about it. After all, it was one more confirmed kill.”

James:
Saw new talent in the office, told my coworker that I would “pee in her butt.”

Raul Felix:
At my best friend’s birthday I had been heavily drinking. They had two short female friends they were close with but that simply tolerated my existence. I joined the group and said, “I like to dominate small women” and patted one of the chicks on the head like she was a dog and walked off. They were upset about that for a while.

George:
“You’re looking at me like you either want to fuck or fight; either way it’s a good time.”

Steven:
“Look at the turd-cutter on that chick. I’d eat a mile of her shit to see where it came from.”

Dirty Dick:
I can’t think of a story or anything I’ve said out loud off the top of my head because I’m so inappropriate all the fucking time. But you can talk about how my cousins showed me videos of the cartel mutilating each other and I laugh about it while they’re staring at my crazy American Psycho face.

Chris:
I used a freshly skinned rabbit pelt for a puppet to the horror of the college girls at the campout. I guess skinning it without a knife didn’t help.

Calvin:
Felt a pregnant classmate’s belly in a bar—classy, Oregon—and said, “That’s so cool that you’re adding life to the world. I always wanted to leave it with less than I came.”

Matthew:
I was sitting in the newsroom at NBC in Kansas City and felt the presence of the cameraman and reporter over my shoulder as I read a text message [in] which the thread included a thumbnail of my most recent dong shot.

Steven:
(In reference to the Ice Bucket Challenge): If dumping a little chilly water on yourself is the level of intestinal fortitude that you consider being Rangerrific, then you, sir, should be a Seal. If the challenge was to pour a gallon of ISIS and virgin blood over my head while I aggressively masturbate to “Two Girls, One Cup” while I fist-fuck a porn star’s ass and kick a puppy in the face, then, sir, we are on the same page.

Alvin:
A few civilian friends and I were going to pull a train on some chick. While they were all arguing about who was going to go first, I called dibs on last.

Erik Larsen:
Civilian to me when I was a recruiter in New York: “How do you live with yourself knowing you killed innocent children in Iraq?” My response: “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.” Civilian walks off in horror.

Rammers:
Before I leave certain locations or say goodbye to people, I use certain words to say goodbye instead of the usual (“have good one,” “see ya later,” “keep in touch”). Most of the time I say, “Don’t get shot.” Once, before I left my economics class prior to the Thanksgiving weekend, my professor told the class, “I hope everyone has a good holiday weekend” [and] I replied, “Hopefully no one gets shot.” She then repeatedly asked, “Who’s getting shot?” three times. I laughed and said, “Getting shot is always a possibility where I am from.”

~Raul Felix

5 People You Will Meet In The Army

The Army is one of the few organizations that give you a true sampling of the types of people that live in America. It seems that shooting and blowing shit up while getting a free college education appeals to people of all races, classes, and creeds. The Army welcomes everyone from the lower-class youths who come from the ghettos, suburbs, and small towns to the kids born with a silver spoon in their mouths who join because being a veteran will look good when they’re running for Congress 30 years from now.

While there are hundreds of thousands of people on active duty and millions of veterans with complex personalities and unique sets of circumstances, this is the Internet and we don’t have time for such silliness. We like to package people in neat little descriptive boxes in list format so we can have a good laugh as we can relate those personality archetypes to those we have met in real life while taking our daily dump. In accordance with such a timeless tradition, here are 5 types of people you’ll meet while on active duty in the Army.

1. The Old Man

The Old Man decided to join the service in his late 20s to early 30s, which effectively makes him an old fart in an environment full of 18-to-21-year-olds full of testosterone and optimistic patriotism. He has a staunch air of dignity about him and is soundly schooled on how the real world works. The Old Man is no stranger to hard work and has done many blue-collar jobs in his late teens and throughout his twenties. He may have even gone to college, but more often than not, he didn’t graduate. Nevertheless, the Old Man isn’t stupid. From Basic Training to beyond, he’s usually the first one to grasp a concept, apply it, and unfuck the damage the dumb 18-year-old privates did when they fucked something up.

The Old Man always seems to have a dark past that he doesn’t talk about until he truly trusts you: a former lover who destroyed his spirit, a drug habit that took to him to the brink of financial ruin, or a slew of unfortunate life events and circumstances that made him need to get away from it all. Regardless, the Old Man sees the military as a fresh start in life and knows how to leverage it to his advantage. He is well versed in all the pay increases and benefits he is eligible for and won’t hesitate to take advantage of them. The Old Man’s maturity will make him a model solider that his superiors (whom he is older than) will never have to worry about.

2. The Ambivalent Patriot

Black Hawk Down

The Ambivalent Patriot is the last person in the world you ever thought would join the military. When he was a civilian, people would describe him as shady and shiftless. His attitude toward life aligns closer to that of Jay and Silent Bob than that of Audie Murphy. Whether he got some chick pregnant or because he got kicked out of his house and had nowhere to go, he joined the armed forces. He usually picks a job that would require him to do the least amount of physical work and will enlist for the bare minimum amount of time required of him to get his full GI Bill benefits.

Surprisingly, the Ambivalent Patriot is usually a competent soldier not because he has any sort of patriotic duty or motivation, but rather because he realizes it’s easier to shut the fuck up, follow the rules, and do the right thing than it is to be an idiot who is constantly getting in trouble. He follows the philosophy of being “the grey man,” meaning that he remains invisible and tries to be exceptionally unexceptional. He meets the standard in every task that is presented before him, but he never stands out in such a way where he draws positive or negative attention. He’s in it to do his time and get the fuck out as soon as his enlistment is over so he can actually pursue the career he actually cares about.

3. The Cherry

Black Hawk Down

The Cherry has been planning on joining the military since he was fifteen and has watched nearly every war movie made in the last fifty years. Fresh out of high school, what he lacks in real-world knowledge and common sense he more than makes up for in unrelenting motivation and physical aptitude. The Cherry will be a constant headache to his leadership. He may have grander visions of becoming a great soldier, yet he will make every retard mistake in the book on his path to doing so. He often has to learn lessons the hard way and will be constantly getting his balls smoked off because he fucked up something simple for the third time that week. He may receive an Article 15 or two and perform extra duty en route to becoming a good soldier.

The Cherry will spend his formative years in the military and spend the weekends in his barracks room drinking, bitching about his life, playing video games, and jerking off to gang-bang porn. On the rare occasion he does get laid, it will usually be with a woman of questionable moral character who already fucked one of his buddies. Yet he knows he isn’t in any real position to be picky. He’ll get his first taste of combat, lose a friend, lose a love, and lose his faith in humanity before he is 21. While the Cherry may have entered the Army full of innocence, glee, and hope, he will leave it corrupt, grizzled, and cynical.

4. The Lifer

The Lifer never intended the military to be his career, but several combat deployments and two reenlistments later he’s now a Platoon Sergeant with twelve years in service and knows that he may as well do twenty. While he is quite good at leading men and killing people, there isn’t a huge job market for that in the civilian world. Accepting his lot in life, he now seeks to be the best and most professional soldier he can be.

The Lifer comes in two varieties: 1) a total dick who, having been in the belly of the beast too long, is a stickler for the rules and regulations; or 2) a totally chill guy who realizes he isn’t going to make Sergeant Major and is over the fuck-fuck games. One will make you work your ass off to the point of stupidity and redundancy. The other will make your work your ass off, make sure you’re properly trained, and will release you at a reasonable time because he doesn’t see the point of you working late if you’ve been properly and adequately trained. Plus, he wants to get home and fuck his hot wife, too.

5. The Living Legend

 

Black Hawk Down

You heard of him before you even see him. Even if he isn’t in your direct chain of command, just the sight of him strikes fear into your heart and soul. He has this aura that is a healthy mix of anger, hatred, and badass. His face is by default a scowl and his lower lip is constantly filled with chewing tobacco. He’s a salty, senior non-commissioned officer with the energy of a 19-year-old. You’ve heard of the crazy shit he’s done in Afghanistan and Iraq leading his men into the fray and leaving many dead Hajis in his wake. Some of the stories you heard seem so farfetched that if it were any other man, you would call bullshit. But since it’s him, you believe his stories.

He’s so respected and feared in the battalion that even his superior officers are afraid of him. When he gives his opinions, everyone listens. He rarely raises his voice because he is above that. He’s calm, cool, and decisive. He’s one of the few individuals you’ll meet in your life that not only lives up to his legend but adds to it every time he deploys. Even if you saw him today as a civilian, your heart would race and the hair on the back of your neck would rise because he is a scary motherfucker and you’re damn glad he’s on our side.

~Raul Felix

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3 Historical Examples Of The Federal Government Screwing Over The Troops

Anyone with a half a brain knows that politicians are self-indulgent ass clowns who don’t have the nation’s best interests in mind, but rather the best interests of themselves, their party, and their private-sector cronies. Doesn’t matter whether they’re Republican, Democrat, Whig, Democratic-Republicans, or Federalist; most of them have their fingers up their ass and let their party feuding take precedence over taking care of their men. It’s the common practice of politicians to go with the easy wrong over the hard right. As a result, the soldier on the ground and the veteran in the wheelchair suffer.

1. They refused to send much-needed resources to George Washington’s troops.

In 1781, the American Revolution had been raging for five years. The Continental Army under George Washington’s command had finally evolved from a haphazard militia to a professional, well-trained military force. Yet they were wasting away in the New Jersey winter. They had not been paid in a long time, were malnourished, and were freezing their balls off because they didn’t have the adequate cold-weather gear. Desperate to keep the ranks filled, they had also been coerced and bullied by their line officers to remain in the Army and reenlist under unfavorable terms after their initial enlistment was up.

George Washington had appealed to the Continental Congress on several occasions urging for the proper funds and supplies so he could adequately pay, feed, and outfit his troops. Yet, the fat, wig-wearing, self-centered politicians let Washington’s pleas go unheard. They were too busy involved in their own corrupt scandals and politicking to give a damn about the common foot soldier’s poor conditions.

The soldiers saw this as a broken promise by their nation. They were putting their life on the line for the Revolutionary cause, yet their government was not fulfilling the most basic part of the deal. They’d had enough. In what came to be known as the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny, with muskets in hand and artillery pieces in tow, virtually the entire Pennsylvania Line headed on a two-day march to Philadelphia to make the ungrateful Congress listen to their demands. They made it as far as Princeton.

Their commanding officer General Wayne caught up with them and negotiations began. The general heard their grievances and they had come to terms: The men who were detained beyond their enlistment or coerced into reenlistment were to be separated with their pay. The men who remained were to get their pay and clothing. The number of men in the Pennsylvania Line was cut in half from 2,400 to 1,150.

2. They used police and military actions on World War I vets.

After coming home from The Great War, American combat veterans realized they had gotten the raw end of the deal. While they were in the trenches of Europe getting shot at, shelled, and gassed, the men who had stayed back on the home front working in war industries had made about ten times as much money as they had. To make a fair readjustment, they lobbied Congress for what would be commonly known as the Bonus Act, which passed in 1924. Each veteran was issued a certificate for $1 for each day of domestic service and $1.25 for each day of overseas service. The catch was that the certificates wouldn’t mature until 1945.

Then, in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, realizing that many of the fat-cat corporate gods had gotten special treatment from Congress because of their lobbying power, the soldiers decided to press Congress to pass a bill for the early redemption of the certificates to provide some relief from poverty many of them had been experiencing.

Forty-three thousand veterans and their families with little to no money in their pockets traveled from all over the nation to march on DC. The Bonus Army had been mobilized. They organized a well-run Hooverville built from the material salvaged from rubbish dumps. They would peacefully occupy the House of Representatives’ offices to have their voices heard. The strategy worked and the House passed the Wright Patman Bonus Bill. It was a small victory, but their biggest obstacle was just ahead of them: the Republican-run Senate under President Herbert Hoover.

They massed on the United States Capitol awaiting the news, chanting, “The Yanks are starving! The Yanks are starving!” so loudly that they could be heard in the Senate corridors as the bill was being debated. The Senate overwhelmingly struck it down with a 62-18 vote. The marchers were deeply disappointed but decided to remain in continued protest. A month later, with tensions running high, the 72nd Congress adjourned. The cowardly congressmen left the Capitol through the back doors and underground tunnels to avoid any confrontation with the Bonus Army. Now with this session of Congress over, Hoover wanted their poor, unemployed, homeless asses out of DC. He ordered their forceful eviction.

Police went into one of the half-demolished buildings that had been used for housing and began evicting the veterans and their families. Someone threw a brick at one of the police officers, which resulted in the police officers shooting their guns and leaving two veterans dead on the ground. With that bloodshed, it was time to call in the troops commanded by future World War II General Douglas MacArthur.

MacArthur sent over 200 cavalry, 200 infantry, and six tanks to disperse the protesters. The soldiers donned their gas masks and shot tear gas into the crowd. Fearing for their lives, the Bonus Army ran for safety. The soldiers went into the camps and forcefully removed those who occupied it and then set it ablaze. One reporter said, “The blaze was so big it lit up the whole sky. A nightmare come to life.”

3. Pandering to racial bigotry overrode their common sense.

Theodore Roosevelt is considered one of the greatest presidents in our nation’s history, and rightfully so. But even he made a severe mistake in his presidency by succumbing to the racial bigotry and pressure of his time.

In 1906, Brownsville, Texas was a small town with a little over 6,000 people. The community’s citizens were anxious over the fact that a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers had been stationed at nearby Fort Brown. “Buffalo Soldiers” was the name given to all-black units because the military at the time was segregated.

A shooting spree had occurred, leaving a white bartender dead and a Hispanic police officer with a destroyed arm. To the townsfolk, it was pretty obvious whose fault it was. Several people reported seeing some black soldiers leaving the scene of the shooting. Then, to further their conspiracy, they allegedly planted discharged ammunition of the same caliber the Buffalo Soldiers used in their rifles on the ground as evidence. Despite this effort to incriminate them, the soldiers’ all-white commanders insisted that all of their men had been in the barracks that night and had been accounted for at the time of the shooting.

Though there were many contradictions in the evidence and statements given, the Army Inspector General accepted the townsfolk’s statements. This developed into what has become known as the Brownsville Affair.

The soldiers were then pressured to name who fired the shot, but they said they knew nothing about the incident. As much the community wanted to, they could not tie the shootings to any one of the men. Yet on the advisement of the Inspector General to appease the piece-of-shit people of Brownsville, Roosevelt ordered that 167 of the men be given a dishonorable discharge for their “conspiracy of silence.” Among the ranks were men who were had served in the Spanish-American War, some with 20 years in service and only months away from receiving their retirement pensions, and six of whom had been Medal of Honor recipients. Congress later did its own investigation into the matter and upheld Roosevelt’s decision. Those men lost it all because their political leaders lacked the morale and intestinal fortitude to do the right thing. Instead they shoved their corrupt political cocks in their ass and called it a day.

~Raul Felix

You can read more of my writing at Thought Catalog.

Four Years Of Hell: College V. The Army

Co-created with Lance Pauker & Ella Ceron

Which path should you choose: going to college or joining the military? Young people who’ve asked themselves this question have received a plethora of different answers. Both options are viable in helping you set yourself up for success in adulthood. Just like anything else in life, it’s what you make of it, and no two experiences are exactly the same. To help you understand the lifestyle differences between the two paths, two college graduates and one veteran will share with you a year-by-year breakdown of their experiences through those very special four years.

Freshman Year:

Lance Pauker: 

There was a lot of pressure to meet people, but at first you didn’t really know how. So you just stuck to the same three questions, consisting of things like, “Where are you from?,” “What’s your major?,” and, “Are you secretly the son of an oil tycoon?”

Overall, I think I was a little too overwhelmed to really process what was going on—there’s so much coming at you at once. You’ve got the sudden freedom, you’ve got these new people in your life that you’re suddenly good friends with, and you’ve got professors constantly asking you if you did the reading. If there’s anything you figure out quickly, it’s that nobody really does the reading.

Ella Ceron:
I went to college 3,000 miles away from my hometown and was only really able to do so on a full-ride academic scholarship. It was terrifying being in a new city—though I’m from a large city, moving to New York was still a huge change. It was weird living with so many other people my age in one building all of a sudden, and I had five roommates in a very small three-bedroom/one-communal-area dorm. There was a lot of pressure on keeping my grades up, especially when what I thought I wanted my major to be proved much more difficult to maintain, and I had to take a good, hard look at whether I wanted to pursue that dream without my scholarship or change my course. I went home for the summer after that year and very desperately didn’t want to go back. I was homesick, miserable, hadn’t found a group of friends I felt very intrinsically close to, and felt all-around awkward.

Raul Felix:
Your first year in the Army is basically where you get your teeth kicked in. Everything you were, did, and knew no longer seems relevant. You’re going to do shit the way the Army wants you to do it. From your drill sergeants in Basic Training all the way to your team leaders and squad leaders in your first unit, you’re expected to be a sponge for knowledge and to shut your fucking mouth.

Life was simple in a way: You trained hard and worked long hours during the week and got drunk as fuck in the barracks with your buddies on the weekends watching movies, playing video games, and bitching about your miserable existence and how you should have gone to college. Even if you started off as a cavalier, gleaming-eyed young man full of glee and hope, the aura of massive amounts of testosterone, cynicism, and sexual frustration was prevalent. Back then MySpace was the main social network and you’d see your friends posting pictures of themselves at college parties surrounded by hot chicks, while all you had was Internet porn and a bottle of Jack to keep you company. Since most of us were under 21 and none of us were locals, meeting chicks was very rare indeed. Luckily, a few months in, I met a great girl through MySpace that went to a local university and we developed a long-term fuck-buddy relationship that gave me something to look forward to other than drinking myself into oblivion. My cousin and I were in the same battalion but different companies. He had already been the in Army for a little over two years at that point. We spent Christmas and New Year’s together drinking heavily in the barracks watching movies as we waited to deploy.

Sophomore Year:

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Spc Tiffany Fudge, US ARMY

Lance Pauker:
An article I once read on this pretty great website called Thought Catalog (def check it out if you get the chance) referred to sophomore year as “The Year Of The Wise Fools.” I think this summation is spot-on. You’re slowly gaining a sense of who you are and how you fit within the general landscape, but you’re still, relatively, an idiot. On a personal level, the majority of cool college stories I have occurred during sophomore year.

I feel like sophomore year represents the time in which you begin to move toward that thing you really want to pursue—you’ve finally figured out which people to acknowledge and which people to slowly start ignoring, so you’re finally ready to learn on your terms. Think of it as making your way through a crowded and cramped bar and then finally reaching the cool outside area. You light up a cig, talk about how you really shouldn’t be lighting up a cig, and finally get a chance to think.

Ella Ceron:
I had a summer job in Los Angeles during the summer break and was lucky enough to transfer to a New York outpost of the same company, so I was juggling four and five courses a semester with 30-to-40-hour work weeks. Though my classes were being paid for by the school, I had to take out loans for my housing and had to fund my own food, clothes, and anything else I wanted. It was a lot, but I was able to interact with people who were already living and working in the “real world” and I realized that there was so much beyond the papers and assignments that I had been so stressed about during the previous year. I still didn’t have as many friends as college is always portrayed in the movies, but I let myself completely fill up my schedule so that I was either working or studying seven days a week. In retrospect, that was the stupidest idea ever, but it helped me cope with the loneliness.

Raul Felix:
To my bitter disappointment, that deployment I spent doing a support role for the line guys. We pushed out supplies from the main base to all of the platoons scattered throughout the country. When we did leave the base, it was doing detainee escorts where we would take captured Hajis from one prison to another throughout the country on Chinooks and Blackhawk helicopters. I saw the vastness of Iraq by the air—from our remote outpost in Al Qa’im to the major cities of Baghdad, Mosul, and Tikrit. I also fucked up a lot that deployment and made nearly every single stupid mistake a cherry private could make to the frustration and wrath of my leadership. That deployment I was hit by how real this war was—my cousin’s team leader and squad leader both got killed in action.

We deployed in three-months-there and six-months-back cycles. We came back stateside and I began to take all the lessons learned from that deployment into the next training cycle, determined to be less of a fuck-up. The lifestyle of training hard, drinking hard, and fucking hard took firm hold again. Before one knew it, it was time to go to Afghanistan. Arriving at the beginning of the blistering Afghan winter, me and a dozen other Batt Boys were tasked to man a secret prison that contained high-value targets that were freshly captured off of objectives by the line guys. It pissed me off because I didn’t join the Army to stay on the base; I joined to go on fucking missions. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas there, and I spent New Year’s Eve 2007 on an airplane ride back to the US. Luckily we didn’t lose anyone on that deployment.

Junior Year

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KT King

Lance Pauker:
I went abroad the first semester of my junior year. Like everyone else who went abroad, I had such an incredible time that I spent the following semester acting superior to everyone who didn’t share the same new life experience as me.

Returning to college after spending a semester traveling all over Europe felt like going from an Elton John concert to an Austin Mahone concert. No disrespect to my man Austin; he just fits the reference.

Ella Ceron:
When everyone else went abroad, I moved out of the dorms and into my first apartment—a really crappy walkup that was about a 20-minute walk away from the campus. I still filled my schedule with work and school and tried to romanticize how utterly threadbare my life was. My roommate bought our couch with a bottle of Belvedere, I slept on a yoga mat before I managed to get a bed, and I wrote my papers on a busted laptop with an old radiator whistling nearby. This all sounds like something out of the New York warehouse episodes of Glee, and I deeply wish I wasn’t as proud of the bohemian bullshit I let myself dive into. I still worked 40 hours a week, and I really liked my job, but that began to happen at the expense of shirking off a lot of my papers and assignments, only to make up excuses to get extensions and not fail out of my classes. It was a wakeup call that being an adult is a lot more about work than it is about the aesthetic, and sometimes you have to decide which is more important to you in the moment and which is more important to you in the long run.

Raul Felix:
By that time, I was comfortable in the Army. I wasn’t a big fuck-up anymore, so my leaders usually stayed off my ass. I knew exactly what I needed to do, what my job was, and what I could and couldn’t get away with. I turned 21 that year, went to my first bar in Seattle, and subsequently got kicked out of my first bar.

We were set to deploy again that summer, and a few days before deployment I found my grandmother had died. My cousin and I went to her funeral and missed out on the deployment. We stayed on Rear Detachment, which meant we pretty much had half-days all the time and spent much of that time drinking heavily and attempting to find some tail, mostly unsuccessfully. One morning, news came that one of the men in our company had been killed in action. A few weeks later, another one had been killed.

Senior Year

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Spc Justin Young, US ARMY

Lance Pauker:
Senior year was the crossroads between living in an apartment that should probably be condemned and being “adult” enough to drink something other than watered-down Keystone Light. I found that I probably made the most friends in college senior year—just like senior year of high school, nobody really cares about the social distinctions they spent the past three years maintaining. People are finishing up sports, slightly embarrassed to have been a part of their Greek organization, and overall too consumed with the postgrad unknown to care about how sick Freddy’s party was. You also realize how much of an unrealistic bubble the American college experience is. While I definitely got a ton out of my four years, you certainly realize how alarming the disconnect is. If college prepares you for the working world, then playing baseball prepares you for running a marathon. They’re both sports, but that’s pretty much it.

Ella Ceron:
By senior year, I was totally immersed in my job, and a big chunk of me didn’t think I really NEEDED my degree anymore—but then I realized that the job trajectory I was on wasn’t the right fit after all. I was working 60 hours a week, could afford a lot of really nice things, made friends with my coworkers, and was acting the part of the adult—but I just wasn’t happy. I had to force myself to put any effort into my classes, because I’d saved a lot of the easy, fun classes for senior year, knowing full well I’d have senioritis. The caveat in that, however, was that I was constantly reminding myself that if I could do okay by coasting along, imagine how much better I could do by working hard. Ultimately, I realized that the degree I eventually chose meant more to me than the job I’d had all through college and that I not only wanted to actually pursue using my degree, but that I’d be disappointed if I didn’t.

Working through college was a very important part of my experience, because it gave me a crash course in the wild world of money and having an apartment and adulthood and adult friends, but I was worn really thin throughout those four years and wouldn’t necessarily suggest you try to do everything all at once if you don’t absolutely need to. If I could do it all over again, and if I had the means, I would definitely have not worked as much as I did, even though I don’t regret how hard I worked. College is a time for discovery, and sometimes I wonder if I was too burdened with bills and being a grown-up to do that then—but now I’m making up for it by discovering myself along the way now.

Raul Felix:
Another training cycle started. The same dance all over again. I had calmed down my bar-hopping since I had gotten a girlfriend, but it didn’t mean I still didn’t drink to my heart’s content. Working, drinking, and hanging out with my girl was all I contented myself with during that training cycle. It had all become second nature at that point. We took off for the sandbox again. This time I drove Strykers through the streets of Mosul on hundreds of direct action raids. I was happy because at last I was doing the cool guy shit I’ve been training for. In typical poetic fashion, my girlfriend broke up with me. This was costliest and most heart-wrenching deployment during my time in battalion. We lost three great men all within a month of each other.

It’s a strange feeling being in a bar when only 48 hours earlier you were in the middle of the streets of Mosul pulling security. I was more than eager to get out of the Army. I had acquired an annoyed and hate-filled attitude toward my job, but I knew I had one deployment left before I was free at last. I bought a motorcycle and developed a passion for motorcycle travel when my buddies and I took a trip around Washington State.

In my final deployment to Iraq, I was driving Strykers like I did before. Though we did go on quite a few missions, it was way slower than the previous high-operations tempo deployment. The war was winding down. There was a stretch where we went two weeks without a single mission. Books, video games, and TV shows were how you kept your sanity from the boredom. I came back with only a month left on my enlistment. One month later, I hopped on my motorcycle to travel the US, leaving behind the red-fenced compound that took me in during my most formative years and forged me into a man.

~Raul Felix

You can read more of my writing at Thought Catalog.

3 Things People Who Served In The Military Do That Make Them Look Like Tools

Regardless of how much the media likes to depict everyone who serves in the military as the essence of integrity, professionalism, and selfless service, there are lot of people who are total fucking tools. Just like any large organization, the military has its share of window-licking, mouth-breathers whose only talent in life is not choking on their own tongue when they sleep. What happens when people like this get to wear the service uniform for the holy cock of freedom that is the United States? They use it to compensate for their many other shortcomings, of course.

1. Wearing Dog Tags As A Fashion Accessory

Just like many of the other ills in America, Hollywood is to blame for this trend. In the movies, you’ll see a battle-hardened Special Ops guy in an olive-drab tank top sitting alone at the bar drinking straight whiskey. He clutches his dog tags that hang around his neck and begins to reminisce about combat. Cue CCR’s “Fortunate Son” and flash back to Vietnam 1969.

The reality is that the scrawny guy wearing his dog tags over his Abercrombie & Fitch shirt is more than likely a cherry fucking private who just finished Basic Combat Training and thinks he’s a real soldier now. He has to show the whole world how much of a Billy Badass he is because having a high and tight and weighing a buck thirty-five isn’t enough of an indication that he’s a soldier. Wearing dog tags will surely be a conversation starter with the fairer sex and moisten her panties.

He doesn’t know that there are other soldiers and veterans at the bar with multiple deployments who aren’t as blatantly obvious about it and think he looks like a total tool. They’ll chuckle among themselves and shake their heads in disgust. Looks like they’ll let any kind of retard in the military these days.

2. Posting Moronic Memes On Facebook

If you’ve had anyone in the military as a friend on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a meme saying something similar to this: “Share if you think a person in camouflage should make more money than one in a jersey.” This will be accompanied with a picture of a soldier covered in mud hating his miserable existence in contrast to one of a famous football player in a packed stadium. This ensures the poster gets guilt-driven Likes and Shares because if you don’t think that, you obviously hate the troops.

When a person posts that, what they’re really telling you is that not only aren’t they the sharpest tool in the shed—they aren’t even in the shed. They’re so dull that they fail to grasp how the free market and the premise of supply and demand work—you know, the very things our men and women in uniform are fighting to preserve.

People in the military are all about telling the harsh truth. Well, here is one: It takes considerably more talent, skill, and hard work to be a professional athlete than it does to be a common Joe in the military. Have you been training since the age of five to be a soldier? Did you stand out as an All-Star in high school, get a scholarship to a Division One school, and then, despite the 1-in-100 odds, get drafted to a professional team? There is a reason why guys who sacrifice million-dollar contracts who decide to join the military make the news, while Joe Snuffy—who dropped out of community college while working at Subway and didn’t know what else to do with his life so he joined the Army National Guard—doesn’t.

3. Mentioning Something About Their Military Service In Every Conversation

You’re in your college US History class discussing the Great War and how gruesome it was. Then a longhaired, unshaven, and overweight former Marine wearing a “Mess With The Best, Die Like The Rest” Devil Dog T-shirt raises his hand.

“Oh yeah, my former unit that I served in Iraq with, the 5th Marine Regiment, was in the Great War.” Then he smugly lowers his hand and coyly looks around to see who is highly impressed with the fact the he is a veteran. You sit there thinking, “What the fuck does that have to do with anything?”

Very few things indicate that a service member has no depth to their personality than their inability not to talk about the military regardless of how irrelevant to the conversation it may be. You could be talking about how much you love puppies; they’ll talk about the scraggly dogs in Mosul. It’s a bit a chilly out today. “This is fucking nothing. When I was in the mountains of Afghanistan, we froze our balls off.” You’re trying to decide where to get lunch. “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Anything is better than eating MREs like we had to do in the FOB.”

While the military is a vicious, soul-sucking beast that leaves a lasting impact on those who serve, it’s not so consuming that it leaves an individual with no personality and unable to have other hobbies and interests. While it’s great to be proud of one’s service, it’s also the mark of a huge tool bag if he is unable to talk about anything but his time in the belly of the beast.

~Raul Felix

Check out more of my work at Thought Catalog.

Eager To Pop My Cherry On The Battlefield

You’re a cherry fucking bitch. That’s the label you get when you arrive at your first unit. You haven’t yet been deployed to the mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Iraq to prove yourself. Your superiors have several deployments under their belts. Some of the more senior noncommissioned officers (NCO) are men who were in before 9/11 and were among the first into Afghanistan and then Iraq. Your role as a cherry private is to be a sponge for all the knowledge they’re going to bequeath upon you. They’re there to mentor and mold you into a capable soldier who will aggressively and effectively put two bullets into the chest and one into the head of Haji.

As a cherry private, you live in constant fear—not of the enemy, but of your Team Leader and Squad Leader. You fear making a mistake, however small, that will bring their wrath upon your poor soul. And you will make many fucking mistakes.

You have a brain fart and forget the fourth stanza of the Ranger Creed because you’re so nervous. “Do fucking pushups, motherfucker!”

You miss a spot when you shaved that morning. “Hit the fucking ropes!”

You’re two minutes late to being five minutes early to formation. “I’m going to fucking crush your balls after formation.”

You didn’t properly tie down your night-vision goggles. “Start fucking low-crawling, you fucking retard.” Other times you will get smoked merely for being a cherry private.

Little by little, you start to learn how to do things the right way. You’re always on high alert, making sure your uniform is on properly, your equipment is accounted for and is serviceable, and that you’re not fucking up somehow. Yet you always feel like you are. The mere sight of an NCO in the distance causes your heart to race. You’ll spot-check yourself and your buddies again. If he calls you over, you run quickly to him, hoping you didn’t do something that will ensure a soul-fucking.

You shoot thousands of rounds at the range, getting your shot groups tighter and more consistent. You conduct close-quarter combat exercises, live-fire exercises, jump out of airplanes, drive Humvees and Strykers, and fast-rope out of helicopters. You’ll do first-responder training and land navigation. You will work out every morning. You also do countless shitty details and spend lots of time hurrying up and waiting.

You’re eager to deploy. You’re tired of being a cherry bitch and want to get that deployment patch on your right shoulder. You want to stop hearing about what it’s like over there; you want to see it firsthand. You want to join the legions of men who came and fought before you. You want to do your part in fighting for your country and destroying those Haji fucks. This is your war.

It seems that every generation of young men must relearn how grim war is. We watch documentaries and war movies. We read books about the inexplicable horror and terrible waste of it all, yet with each generation, there are a handful who are eager to go on this grand journey. With each generation, there are old men who have lived their lives willing to send young men to fight and die when their young life has only begun. Sometimes it’s for a noble purpose; other times, it’s for profit.

Your deployment date approaches after months and months of training. You go home on leave one last time. Your mother is terrified and tells you to call her often. Your friends are proud of you and tell you to make it back alive, or they’ll kill you. Your fellow cherry privates are as excited as you are to get drunk as often as possible. You report back and find out some of them are idiots and got DUIs, beat their wives, or pissed hot for drugs. Looks like they ain’t going.

Your leadership makes sure you and your equipment are squared away. You’re given a packing list and are visually inspected to make sure you have all that’s required of you. You palletize your duffel bags, rucksacks, and other special equipment. You fill out your last will and square away your finances. You get medically evaluated and vaccinated. There are only a few days left and you serve half-days until you deploy.

The day is here. You sign out your M4, night-vision goggles, and carry your assault pack on your back. In there you have your laptop, a book, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Final manifest is called and you load onto the bus. The bus takes you to the Air Force base. There, you wait until the bird is ready. Once you’re told to load on the bird you follow the line of men in front of you. You step on the bird, take your seat, and wait for takeoff. You know that when you come back, you won’t be a cherry fucking bitch anymore.

~Raul Felix

Read more of my work on Thought Catalog.

3 Ways To Use Obstacles To Your Advantage

Dreams and aspirations—we all have them, whether you want to be a world-famous writer, a doctor, a captain of industry, or an international playboy. You set off on a journey to fulfill your dreams because you’re a fucking Billy Badass and nothing is going to stand in your way.

Then reality decides to be a dick and stands in your way. Your submission to XoJane gets rejected because it wasn’t angry enough and only mentioned rape culture twice…or you fail your Intro to Biology class…or you can’t even work up the courage to talk to that cute Latina chick. You sit there deflated, wondering how the gods could be so cruel to little special snowflake you.

Luckily for you, Ryan Holiday’s new book The Obstacle Is the Way provides a time-tested formula inspired by the great Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It teaches you to not just overcome your obstacles, but to leverage them to your advantage. Drawing from historical examples of people who were way more important than you or I, he separates the book into a series of characteristics, philosophies, and values that a person must have to hopefully join their ranks or at least give it the good ol’ junior-college try. Here are three that stuck out to me.

1. Follow the Process

You’ve got to do something very difficult. Don’t focus on that. Instead break it down into pieces. Simply do what you need to do right now. And do it well. And then move on to the next thing. Follow the process and not the prize.

When we read an enriching novel or an article that makes us think and see things from a new perspective, we are experiencing the fruits of the writer’s extensive labor. We don’t see the process. We don’t see the writer as he reads book after book, learning from his mentors who may have long passed. We don’t see his first attempts of forming an original thought or sentence that is totally unreadable. We don’t see him as he learns the difference between the overreaching of vocabulary and using it in a seamless fashion. We don’t see him as he struggles, staring at the blank screen to formulate his next witty phrase.

By focusing on the little things, the fine details, the nitty-gritty aspects of what you’re trying to accomplish, you make the task much more manageable and feasible. Those little mundane parts—when done right and compounded together over the course of time and constant repetition—will create a road to the grand success of which you dream.

2. Do Your Job, Do It Right

Everything we do matters—whether it’s making smoothies while you save up money or studying for the bar—even after you already achieved that success you sought. Everything is a chance to do and be your best. Only self-absorbed assholes think they are too good for whatever their current station requires.

When I was in 2nd Ranger Battalion, there was the Ranger standard that must always be met or you would be kicked out and sent to the big Army. It governed our lives: how we conducted and trained for combat, physical fitness, appearance, and acceptable behavior. In every aspect of being a Ranger, you were expected to do your job with a high level of motivation, competence, attention to detail, and eagerness to improve. It didn’t matter if you were going on a direct-action raid, doing a live-fire exercise, jumping out of an airplane, cleaning the barracks, policing up brass, mowing the quad’s lawn, fast-roping out of a helicopter, or doing your morning physical training session. Your ass better be giving it your all, or you were going to get your balls crushed.

I was a mediocre Ranger who barely survived being in battalion; nothing exceptional compared to some of the no-shit legendary men with whom I got to serve. But it instilled a strong work ethic in me. Taking pride in doing even the simplest jobs right—however trivial, mundane, and unglamorous they are—prepares you to take on the larger and more glamorous tasks when they are set before you.

3. Build Your Inner Citadel

No one is born a gladiator. No one is born with an Inner Citadel. If we’re going to succeed in achieving our goals despite the obstacles that may come, the strength in will must be built.

The world doesn’t give a fuck if you succeed or not. In fact, the world wants you to fail. If you want to attempt anything grand and not live a life of quiet desperation like so many poor souls, it will require you to be physically and mentally tough. Neither one of these attributes is built overnight.

Physical strength and toughness will better prepare you to deal with the obstacles life places in front of you than if you are scrawny or fat. Many “intellectual” douchebags who look down on the physically fit fail to see that the discipline needed to get to that point helps strengthen the mind and will.

Mental toughness will let you handle and overcome any obstacles that seek to wage psychological warfare on you. It gives you the capacity to think through them and find solutions. It gives you the ability to face down the naysayers, the haters, and the nonbelievers. It will help you say, “Fuck you” to them and drive on.

You need to change your mindset in how you view obstacles. They aren’t always negative; they can bring opportunity if you’re bright enough. This book will help you forge a mind that not only can power through them but can also squeeze out every drop of benefit from them.

~Raul Felix

You can read more of my articles on Thought Catalog

Jumping Out of Airplanes: How It’s Really Like

My second article on Thought Catalog has gone live. People always ask me how it’s like jumping out of airplanes, and I could never quite put it. So, I took a lot of thought and I decided to tell it in the most matter fact way possible. I’m pretty proud of this one.

“There was blood upon the risers; there were brains upon the chute,
Intestines were a-dangling from his paratrooper’s suit,
He was a mess; they picked him up, and poured him from his boots,
He ain’t gonna jump no more.

Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die,
He ain’t gonna jump no more!”
-Blood Upon the Risers: World War 2 American Paratrooper Song

One of the best and worst parts of being an Airborne Ranger is the airborne part. Civilian types tend to have a misconception of what jumping out of airplanes is like in the Army. When they picture it, they think of all those skydiving videos where you pleasantly enjoy the view as you have the thrill of a lifetime, screaming at the top of your lungs, and with adrenaline pumping through your system. Then you land softly and celebrate because you faced one of your fears. During the whole thing you took pictures; you then post them on Facebook, and people comment about how truly wild and crazy you are. The whole thing probably took about three or four hours.

Like everything else in the Army, it’s a longer, more painful process. I’m not particularly scared of heights, but jumping out of an airplane was one of the training events I dreaded the most during my time in uniform. The process goes as follows:

You see on the training calendar that there is a jump coming up. You wonder if there is a way you can sham your way out of it, but sadly for you, you’re unable to weasel out. Fuck it. You joined the Army to jump out of airplanes and kill people, right?

To minimize the odds of you killing or maiming yourself and your buddies, the day before, you go through sustainment training. Sustainment training is where you get repounded into your head all the proper steps and procedures for conducting airborne operations that you learned in Airborne School. This involves going through a dry run of all the things you’re supposed to do as a group when you jump into the abyss. You play out perfectly the appropriate actions when you hook-up: Hand-off the static line, jump with your legs together in a tight body position, counting to four-thousand, and feeling the opening shock of the parachute. Then you make sure to check your canopy has no holes in it by looking up; if you’re unable to put your head up it’s because your risers are twisted, you bicycle kick to untwist yourself. You keep a sharp lookout during decent, make sure to avoid other jumpers, trees, telephone wires, and other potential hazards. You then play out what you will do if you do run into any of those hazards. You then prepare to land, putting a slight bend in your knee, keeping your eyes to the horizon. You then land by hitting the balls of your feet followed by your calves, thighs, buttocks, and pull up muscle. They actually call it the pull up muscle. That’s the end of sustainment training and now you are ready for your jump.

The next day, you go to the airfield to rig up your chute, harness, weapon, and put on your 45-plus-pound rucksack. God help you if you’re a mortarman or a machine gun gunner; you have a shit-ton more weight to carry. You then get inspected by a Jump Master to make sure you didn’t rig yourself all sorts of fucked up.

This is where the fun begins. The bird is probably going to be delayed by an hour or two. Meanwhile the harness is crushing your balls, and you’re unable to move effectively because you have your heavy ass rucksack dangling from your waist. You’re sitting down, using your helmet as a support for your lower back. While you’re waiting for an unknowable amount of time, you fall asleep. Suddenly, you’re awaken, still groggy; you are told to get up. You struggle to get yourself up and fumble around like a football, until one of your buddies takes pity on you and offers you a helpful hand. As you get to your feet, you realize you have to take a piss. Too late, dick face, your 50-plus buddies are already lining up to get on the bird. You don’t really walk to the bird but instead press forward in waddle-like, hunched over fashion in order to support the weight you’re carrying.

You approach the C-17, a humongous fortress of an airplane whose size leaves you in awe. Instantly the distinct smell of jet fuel and heat of the engines hit you. You follow the men in front up the ramp of the C-17 and take a seat. The ramp goes up, the plane taxis on the run way and takes off. As the plane settles into flight, the once roaring sounds of the engines turns into a hum.

Even if it’s not your first jump, the feeling of uneasiness and fear never completely go away. This shit is fucking dangerous even with all the precautions the military takes. On my first jump in battalion, we had one of our men get his parachute tangled with two other jumpers and got killed in the horrible training accident. The other two Rangers suffered serious injuries. Broken ankles, legs, backs, and concussions occur enough to be a legitimate concern each time one rigs up their chute.

At times the flight only takes twenty minutes, at others several hours. The two side doors of the C-17 open, and your ears are consumed by the fury of the wind. It’s hard to hear anything else. You see the Jump Master give you the signal to “Hook Up,” and in unison everyone echoes the command. “Check equipment!” screams the Jump Master. You paranoialy check all your straps and hooks, making sure none of them somehow came undone. Then the soldier in the very back slaps the ass of the one in front of him while saying “Okay.” This creates an ass slapping domino effect that continues until it reaches the very first jumper who then says, “Okay Jump Master!”

You stand there with your ruck hanging between your legs waiting to jump. Its heavy, uncomfortable, and you’re hating your life. You probably should have just gone to college. Your back is cramping up; you lean to the side of the plane to help support yourself and relieve some of the stress. The plane is encountering some turbulence, and you know this jump is going to fucking suck. After being tortured by this, you’re not even scared of jumping anymore. You just want to get the fuck off the bird so you can take the goddamn ruck off from in between your legs.

“One minute,” echoes through the plane. You’re looking in front of you, eyes on the red light which will soon turn green. Finally, you’re getting off this fucking bird. “30 seconds,” the birds coming upon the drop zone, and you’re completely focused on what you’re going to do next. The Jump Master has placed the first jumper in front of the door. The light turns green and “Go!” orders the Jump Master as he slaps the first jumper’s ass signaling him to jump. With one-second spacing between them, each man proceeds after the other. Your mind goes blank as you walk towards the door, all the training kicks in and everything you’re suppose to do has become muscle memory at this point. You hand off your static line, make a right face, and jump. You count to four-thousand, keeping your body tight as you get sucked out. Your chute opens and the once deafening sound of jet engines and wind is replaced by the tranquility of the being airborne as you slowly descend to the Earth. You begin to look in all directions and see your buddies all around you. You’re hoping you don’t run into one of them. You see one is getting too close, and you pull the risers in an attempt to slip away, but they really don’t do much. He spreads-eagle and he bounces off your chute, going on his merry way.

Now you must prepare to land. You drop your ruck, grab your risers, hold them firmly, keep your eyes on the horizon, and bend your knees slightly. You hope you don’t land on thorn bushes or if you’re doing an air field seizure, on the tarmac. You hit the ground hard. It knocks the wind out of you. You lay there for a moment or two, trying to figure out if you’re hurt or have broken anything. Luckily everything seems to be fine, and you begin to perform your final point of performance: taking that piss you’ve been holding in since you got on the bird.

~Raul Felix