Welcome To Arlington, Sergeant Gallegos

Rachel Larue

The light of the sun blinds me, my ears are ringing, and I’m lying on the ground. My eyes begin to focus, the ringing fades, and I see a hand reach out for me and I grasp it. It pulls me up to my feet.

“Welcome to Arlington, Sergeant Gallegos,” he says. He’s wearing an olive drab Army uniform with Master Sergeant rank on his sleeve.

“Uh…Arlington Master Sergeant?” I respond. I swivel my head about, noticing the rows upon rows of symmetrical white headstones.

“Yes, in case you haven’t figured it out—you’re dead,” he says sharply. “By the way, we don’t use rank anymore in the afterlife. I’m Sam,” he says, reaching out and shaking my hand.

“Tony,” I smile. “Dead? Huh? How did I die?”

“In the most glorious of all ways—combat,” he laughs.

“What? I don’t remember getting into a firefight recently.”

“What’s your last memory?”

“Well…I had just stepped off of a Stryker and walked a couple blocks toward our objective and…”

“BOOM!” he bellows. “I-E-fucking-D, motherfucker! And now you’re here with the rest of us KIAs.”

“Fucking A. But my body feels fine.” I begin to check myself out, looking for any injuries and notice that I’m still wearing my uniform and body armor.

“Well, this is the afterlife; of course your body is fine,” he laughs.

“Did any of my men get killed, too?”

“No, you’re the only one who bit it. Sherman and Tran got hurt, but not too bad. Don’t worry, they’re fine.”

“Damn…well at least there’s that,” I sigh.

“Now see over there?” Sam points to a funeral procession. “Your earthly body is right there…or what’s left of it, anyway. It ain’t a pretty sight.”

“That’s my funeral?” I see a group of people, some in black, others in Army Class-A uniforms in front of a casket with an American flag draped over it.

“Yes,” he responds.

I run toward it and see a bunch of familiar faces: my wife, two daughters, mama, friends, and a few men from my unit.

“My god, dear god…my love! My love! Sweet Pea and Cookie! Mama! Mama!” I try to grab ahold of my wife, but I pass through her. I attempt the same with my mama and pass through again. I fall to my knees and begin to cry. “They can’t see me, can they?”

Sam puts his hand on my shoulder. “Roger.”

Cookie, my youngest at age seven, sits on my mama’s lap, crying into her chest. My mama’s holding her close, releasing a storm of tears. My eleven-year-old, Sweet Pea, sits next to my wife, holding her hand tightly, head on her shoulder. My wife’s attempting to hold her composure, yet some tears overpower her and pour down her face.

“Ready, aim, fire,” orders a staff sergeant to the seven soldiers of the rifle party. The first volley is fired.

“Ready, aim, fire.”

“Ready, aim, fire.”

“Present arms,” every man in uniform salutes. “Taps” begins to play.

The casket party folds the flag into a triangle. One of the men walks it over to my family, takes a knee, and presents it to my wife.

“Ma’am, this flag is presented to you on behalf of a grateful nation for the honorable and faithful service displayed by your husband, Sergeant First Class Antonio Gallegos,” he says to her, then stands at attention and salutes her.

The cemetery workers finish shoveling dirt over my grave. My headstone looms.

Antonio Leonard
Gallegos
SFC
US Army
Apr 20 1977
May 4 2009
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Operation
Iraqi Freedom

My wife, mama, and daughters are alone. I stand right next to them, placing my hands on my loves’ shoulders. Even if I couldn’t feel the warmth of her skin nor she mine, I still felt connected to her. My wife hugs my headstone, caressing the engraving of my name, and giving it a kiss on top.

My dearest Carrie…the love of my life…I’m sorry…

My daughters are on their knees. “Papa, papa…we love you. We love you. Don’t go, don’t go.”

Sweet Pea and Cookie…you two are my light…I wish I didn’t have to…

My mama stands there, running her fingers through my daughters’ hair. “You were my angel, my most precious possession, my gift from God. I’ll miss you, mi niño.”

Mama…you taught me how to be a good man…I love you…

I watch them in silence, wishing I could feel their tender embrace once more. Wishing that I had more time with them. Wishing I wasn’t dead.

They begin to leave and I follow.

“Sorry Tony, but you can’t go with them,” Sam says gently.

“Like hell I can’t.” I begin to sprint after them, yet as fast as I move my feet, I make no progress. I’m running in place as they are getting further and further away from me. “Damn it! What is this?”

“You’re dead, Tony,” Sam reminds me. “You may no longer go among the living. That’s not your place anymore. This is the afterlife and I’m here to help you on this journey.”

I give up running, watching my kin until they disappear. Goodbye my life. I wipe the tears from my face, turn around, and face my fate. “So now what?”

“Follow me,” he says, and we begin walking deeper into Arlington through a forest of headstones.

“So you said, us KIAs…that means you were killed in action also?” I ask.

“Yeah.”

“What war?”

“Vietnam.”

“Holy shit. What was that like?”

“I couldn’t really tell you. I was shot in the forehead jumping out of a Huey on my first mission,” he says with a smirk.

“But you have Master Sergeant rank on. So you had to been in the Army a while.”

“Oh yeah, seventeen long years. I was also in the Korean War. Made it through a whole year’s deployment in that frozen hellhole without a scratch. Then did the whole peacetime Army thing. Those were some wild times, I’ll tell you what. The first couple of months I was in Vietnam, I was doing a damn staff job. So I didn’t leave the wire much. I was waiting for a First Sergeant slot. Then finally got one. I was supposed to take over a company in a few days. So I decided to shadow one of the company’s First Sergeants on a few missions so I knew what shit to expect. Right as we landed on a hot DZ…BAM…bullet right through my fucking skull. Pretty funny, huh?”

I shake my head. “What’s funny about it?”

“Surviving one long bloody suckfest unscathed, just to be snuffed out quickly in the next one. It’s almost poetic.”

“You can only press your luck so many times, I guess. God knows I have. This last one was…”—I pause and count in my head—“my eighth deployment. Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have reenlisted.”

“Well, you did.”

“Yeah, well, I did have a family to support. Plus, the goddamn economy sucks right now. Those reenlistment bonuses were insanely good.”

“Hey, bud, look at the bright side, at least they’ll get your life insurance money now,” Sam remarks.

“Yeah, that’ll hold them over for a good while. But if you want to know the truth, I just fucking loved the job. Even if it sucked at times, I just loved training my men and going to war.”

“So did I, Tony,” Sam pats me on the shoulder.

“Did you leave a family behind, too?”

“Yeah, an ex-wife and a son. She and I were divorced before I even went to Nam, yet she cried hysterically when she found out about my death. She’s still alive and kickin’. Good woman she is. Pretty as a sunset and sweet as honey. My damn foul temper while drinkin’ chased her away.”

“What about your son?”

“He’s a high school teacher somewhere in California. Has a nice family of his own. He was too young to really know who I was.”

“That’s rough, Sam.”

“That’s life and death, brother. The world will keep spinning without either of us. I’ve been dead longer than I was alive. Whatever impact we were meant to leave on the world is done and now we must be spectators to it all.”

Stone stairs leading up to the sky appear over the grass.

“This leads to heaven?”

“Nah…you wouldn’t want to go there right now anyways. Its kind of lame without your family. I’m taking you somewhere way cooler,” he winks.

“Where is that?”

“Valhalla. You ready?” He grins.

“Hell, yeah!”

~Raul Felix

Read: Oh Well, We’re Off To War Again
Read: Eager To Pop My Cherry On The Battlefield
Read: Four Years Of Hell: College V. The Army

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Two Army Rangers Discuss Going Nomadic

IG: leo_jenkins

IG: leo_jenkins

In the formative years of his life, Leo Jenkins was an Army combat medic in 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Having completed deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2007 Leo ended his enlistment after four years of service, exchanging the high-octane world of Army special operations for the uncertainty of civilian life.

He has published three memoirs. In the first, Lest We Forget, he details his war experiences and drunken shenanigans as a Ranger medic. In his second, On Assimilation, he tackles the emotional rollercoaster of adapting to civilian life. His journey takes him from the kick-in-the-gut realization that his intensive training as a special operations medic wouldn’t qualify him to be a basic EMT…to battling alcoholism and feeling of isolation caused by those moments spent in a wartorn land…to opening and operating a successful CrossFit gym.

In his latest book, First Train Out Of Denver, Leo decides to leave the hustle and bustle that had become his life to go nomadic instead. With the utmost sense of purpose and intensity that is a definitive characteristic of an Army Ranger, he seeks to find adventure, enlightenment, and to make sense of those formative years of his life.

Raul Felix: Leo, your life as an unemployed vagabond started when you got up to go to work one morning and thought to yourself, “I don’t want to go to work today.” You then sold your possessions, business, said goodbye to your friends, and got yourself a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. What was the toughest part emotionally for you of that process?

Leo Jenkins: That is a phenomenal question that no one has ever asked me. I was in a dark place when I purged my possessions and took to the world. I was seeking some sort of solace in the comforts of solitude. By disconnecting myself from the only people who share my mutual experiences, I was forced into intense introspection. It’s a perilous endeavor if one is not prepared. Seven years of stuffing down the tumultuous cognitive dissonance created by multiple combat deployments violently surfaced, and there wasn’t another veteran, let alone Ranger, for thousands of miles. I was forced to sit in my own stewing antipathy alone. I was forced to truly come to terms with my youthful decisions and transgressions against my fellow man. It nearly killed me, but I’m a better man for it.

Raul Felix: What do you mean by it almost killed you?

Leo Jenkins: With no set schedule and no real responsibilities, I began drinking heavily. I began writing the book On Assimilation during this time. I was pulling up all the tribulations of my return to society and writing them down. I was alone, reliving my worst moments in vivid detailed prose.

Raul Felix: Just like being in the Army, traveling has a learning curve that can only be learned by actually doing it. What are some stupid cherry traveler mistakes and assumptions you made in the early phases of your trip, and what solutions did you come up with?

Leo Jenkins: Not everyone values what we value as a society. Traveling to any foreign country is an opportunity to shut up and listen, not to impose your belief set. Be a sponge and retain as much as you can. Release as much of your preconceived ethnocentric tendencies before getting on the plane, and almost everything else will come with ease.

The world is not a dark and scary place. Sure, there are assholes abroad, just like there are assholes in your hometown. Chances are, they’re just having a bad day and do not represent the ideology of their entire country. However, when entering their nation you become an ambassador for ours. So if you act like an asshole, the assumption will be that everyone from your country is [also an asshole], due to their potentially limited exposure to your nationality.

On a more specific note, don’t ever exchange currency at the airport; they will rip you off worse than the new Ghostbusters movie. Research the exchange rate ahead of time then hit the ATM. A lot of countries will take US dollars, but every shop will pound you on the exchange rate.

Raul Felix: When Marty Skovlund and yourself began doing your trip Eastbound to raise money for the Gallant Few, you tapped into your social media network of veterans. This dramatically increased the pace of your trip and raised awareness for your cause. Who was the coolest or most unique veteran you met in this manner?

Leo Jenkins: I’ve had the distinct honor of interviewing veterans all across the world regarding their experiences in war and assimilation. While Marty and my fundraiser across the world to raise awareness and funds for the Gallant Few provided me the opportunity to get to know many amazing war fighters, I’d have to say our conversation with a particular Korean War veteran and former UDT diver (predecessor to the Navy SEALs) was a standout. His narrative of war was equal parts adolescent inquisitiveness for the world, tragedy, and the dark profane humor of a salty special-operations soldier. Shrouded by a leathered face, his eyes told the story with the razor-blade poignancy of a young warrior. And his words regarding the separation, the isolation, following combat rang like a church bell through the ardor of my being.

Raul Felix: Aren’t you pissed off you got assigned to 3rd Batt instead of 2nd Batt?

Leo Jenkins: 3rd Batt was actually my fourth choice. At the end of the special operations medical course, each of the six Ranger medics graduating with my class were asked to list, in order, where they wanted to go. My list went, 1st (cause the beach), then 2nd (because the mountains), Regiment (because I already had a bunch of medic friends working there) and finally 3rd. To be honest, I was pissed at first, but the journey connected me with some of the most inspiring and amazing men of our generation. I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything.

Raul Felix: In the past, you made your name known for your military articles and books. What made you make the shift from military writer to travel adventure writer?

Leo Jenkins: I believe vehemently in the necessity of evolution throughout the course of life, to expand and contract and flow with the natural fluidity of a river. It’s taken a decade since leaving 3rd Ranger Battalion, and in many ways my experiences there will always influence my writings, but being who we are, not who we once were, is the acme of a free and jubilant soul.

Raul Felix: I agree with that. Human beings are human beings everywhere you go. It’s easy to think X or Y people are bad because the narrative the media portrays of them. If you weren’t an American, what nationality that you encountered could you see yourself growing up and fitting in with?

Leo Jenkins: I’m often asked if I’m a Canadian when traveling through foreign countries for various reasons. My fiancée is Canadian and I do associate with their culture in many ways. I’ve even been told to tell people I am so as to not provoke the negative connotations associated with being an American abroad. I don’t do that; I will never do that. I am proud of where I come from because I know firsthand how many truly amazing people come from the US. I’m as welcome to external cultural experience as any human on Earth, but I’m simultaneously unapologetically American.

~Raul Felix

Read: 3 Signs A Woman Is A Dependopotamus
Read: Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians
Read: Jumping Out of Airplanes: How It’s Really Like

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Oh Well, We’re Off To War Again

“Ones!” yells the private as he opens the door of my hooch.
It mildly annoys me.
It’s a pretty fucking good episode of Scrubs, damn it.
I quickly slip on and tie up the laces of my boots.
Oh well, we’re off to war again.

I zip up my top as I speed walk to the ready room,
I make a quick detour to grab a couple of Rip Its and Pop Tarts from the MWR.
From my cubby, I slip on my kit, Peltors, and MICH.
I test my NODS, grab my M4: clear it, pop in a magazine.
We’re off to war again.

The gunner and I begin our respective duties.
The gunner turns on the comms and loads the .50 cal,
I hop in the Stryker driver’s seat, fire up the engine,
I stand on the seat, looking out the hatch.
The TC approaches us after the hasty mission brief,
A steady flow of men, the tip of America’s spear soon follow.
Sixty-seven men, six Strykers, two Little Birds, and a military dog will descend Tonight on some poor souls’ door step.
Fuck yeah, we’re off to war again.

~Raul Felix

Read: Eager To Pop My Cherry On The Battlefield
Read: Jumping Out of Airplanes: How It’s Really Like
Read: The Military’s Parasite Problem

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3 Winning PR Strategies For Muslim Extremists

Just like reality-TV stars, Muslim extremists are attention whores who have no qualms about doing the dirty work to get YouTube hits, social-media buzz, and mainstream coverage. Since nobody likes Muslim extremists—especially other Muslim extremists because they are not extreme enough—they need to think outside the Kaaba to get some sympathy and support for their cause. It used to be in the good ol’ days of terrorism that you could release a grainy, poorly produced video of Osama bin Laden wearing combat fatigues, toting an AK-47, threatening to crush the Great American Satan, and chanting “Allahu Akbar,” and the media would cover it around the clock.

But in the Internet era, most people aren’t impressed, shocked, or threatened by such tactics, so any fledging terrorist organization must adjust their public-relations strategies. Therefore, aspiring jihadist, take these lessons from your fellow terrorist cohorts.

1) The Hamas Crybaby Method

You know your piece-of-shit country stands no chance against those money-grubbing Jew bullies in Israel. Why don’t they understand that their mere existence is offensive to your twisted take on Islam and thus must be wiped out off the face of the Earth? Well, if you can’t bring them down to their knees militarily, you could make the world see how evil they truly are by starting a war with them and then avoiding all responsibility for starting it.

First order of business is to begin launching rockets indiscriminately into Israel’s southern cities. Well, you’ve already been doing that all along but now it’s time to do it harder and faster. After you launch hundreds of rockets, the big Jew machine will get annoyed and kill a few dozen of your men.

You begin surrounding your fighters with women and children. Then you begin another rocket-launching campaign with the result being that some of your men, women, and children get killed. Great fucking job, Abu! Now you must parade the bloody corpses of your civilian casualties through the streets to capture the international media’s much-coveted attention. Dead women and children are like Viagra to the media.

Don’t be nervous, but now it’s your moment in the spotlight, so don’t fuck this up. This is where you begin to cry about the brutal treatment the Israelis have dealt you through no fault of your own. You must then publish photos and videos of your dead civilians and distribute them. Don’t worry if some of those photos are actually from the Syrian Civil War; to the rest of the world, all you Arabs look the same and no one will be the wiser. It’s essential that you toss all logic out the window. You’re a Muslim extremist and that shit isn’t in your lexicon. Shout out pressing questions like: “How dare they defend themselves from our rocket attacks?” “How dare they hold us accountable for our terrorist actions?” “Why won’t they share the Iron Dome technology with us?” “Because they’re conniving Jews and must be exterminated, that’s why! Allahu Akbar!”

Employing the Hamas Crybaby Method is a simple and effective way to get the world media to sympathize with your cause. It’s been proven time and again to garner support from the European Union and bleeding-heart liberals in the United States. People from all over the world who believe your propaganda will hold pro-Palestine rallies under the guise of Islam being the religion of peace and will physically attack anybody who dares wave the Israeli flag. Fortunately for you, reporting on irony is not nearly as sexy as blaming the Jews.

2) Bring realistic shock value to your audience.

ISIL is the new, hip, tech-savvy kid on the terrorist block. It’s an organization that blends conventional and terrorist military tactics so effectively that it has been able to overrun northern Iraq quickly and easily. But even then, ISIL realized that people were getting bored with seeing the same old videos of mass murder with Hajis yelling out “Allah is great” as they shot up their theological and political rivals. They knew they needed to do something big to get the public to care about terrorism again.

Like Hollywood rebooting an old film, they decided to revisit the tried and true route of beheading a journalist—but for the first time ever in HD! High-definition footage made the viewer feel like he had a front-row seat at the terrible slaughter of James Foley. Yet HD wasn’t enough.

The ISIL think tank realized that most people are too lazy to read subtitles. While they may say some menacing shit in Arabic, most people only hear, “Derka derka derka, jihad, Muhammad.” They needed to get someone who spoke the infidel’s language to strike terror into their hearts. Why not a British jihadist?

The key to this kind of operation is to go for broke. Make completely delusional claims like you’re going to topple the most powerful nation on Earth and have your flag waving over their White House. Release additional videos of a prepubescent kid spewing out his hatred toward America. This will sound eerily familiar to the shit nearly every single prepubescent kid in America says to their parents. In turn, this will get the news outlets and political pundits talking about you so quickly that your organization will become a household name. This is essential for recruiting future martyrs to your cause.

3) Always exploit PC sympathies.

The great thing about being a Muslim extremist is that no matter how evil your organization is and how many innocent people you kill, you will have brothers and sisters under Allah who will publicly condemn your actions and say you’re just a bad egg and not a true representative of the religion of peace. Also, you will be able to make use of those same people to give sanctuary to your sleeper cells while you plot your next attack on the kaffir.

While the West’s military has the biggest cock in the world, its PC leaders often cockblock it. You must exploit this weakness to the best of your ability. One of the worst things anyone in the West can be labeled is a racist. It’s political kryptonite for a politician to admit they hold any religion or race of people in suspicion, no matter how consistently and repeatedly vicious the members of a religious sect are. Remember, even though you kill other Muslims for not being the right type of Muslims, Westerners are the Islamophobes for searching your Muslim brothers and sisters at the airport. Racist fucking pigs!

Make sure to send imams on their talk shows who will tout the glories of Sharia law and how people are happier under those laws, while they totally ignore the fact that they left their country of origin to get away from Sharia law. Then have the imam cry racism if the talk-show host dares to use any form of logic to contradict his statements.

If you’re smart and play your cards right, you’ll be able to win over the West’s liberals to your cause. They don’t see you as a dangerous threat, but rather a misunderstood people who have been beaten down and exploited. No one understands and sympathizes with your plight better than a middle-class white girl from the suburbs sporting dreadlocks who got a degree in Middle Eastern Relations from a liberal-arts college. As much you may hate to do it, you’ll have to bite the bullet and accept the support from effeminate hipster guys in turtlenecks and kufi caps. Patience, young jihadists—you’ll get to kill that cocksucker soon enough. But right now you need them to be your useful idiot.

The West can’t be beaten through conventional means. You must wage the PR war against them. You must shame them into submission and place all the blame for your actions onto them. The West is a prima donna who can’t handle any form of criticism and is always asking if her butt looks big. Tell the bitch her butt looks huge. The truth doesn’t matter; what matters is what is perceived to be true. Now you’re ready to take down the Great Satan! Allahu Akbar!

~Raul Felix

This piece appeared on Ranger Up.
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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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3 Signs A Woman Is A Dependopotamus

The Dependopotamus is a vile creature that can be spotted throughout all branches of the US military. She is the dependent of a military man and lacks any form of self-awareness and cognitive capacity to realize what an utterly worthless sack of shit she is. Since most women who marry a military man are upstanding people and citizens, the Dependopotamus is able to disguise herself as a person of character like an insurgent among the local populace. It takes a skilled eye to spot a Dependopotamus in the wild, but if you pay attention to these tips, then you, too, will be able to spot these wretched parasites in their natural habitat.

1. She has an unearned sense of entitlement.

The Dependopotamus has no real-world accomplishments to call her own other than dropping out of the cosmetology program of her local technical college because it just wasn’t her “thing.” Though she is a lazy bitch, she is also a prideful one who boasts to the world that she is a somebody. To sustain her masquerade that she is a contributing member of society, she’ll take her military man’s professional accomplishments and hardships as her own.

She holds on firmly to the belief that just because her husband is a Sergeant First Class, she automatically earns his prestige by proxy. She’ll look down on other women who are married to men who are of a lesser rank, even attempting to boss them around and implying that if they don’t do what she says, it could negatively affect their husband’s career. She shamelessly wears her husband’s rank, not realizing that just because a man sticks his dick inside her body, it doesn’t mean she gains ranks through whore-smosis.

You’ll see her in the comment section of military articles, talking about how her husband has been deployed three times and how hard that’s been to her on the home front, even though all she did was get fat as fuck, spend all his money, and have a half-dozen other cocks inside of her while her husband was in Iraq hoping not to get his legs blown off by an IED.

Yet she will insist on wearing her XXXL T-shirt with yellow pit stains on them that boldly proclaim to the world, “Army Wife: Hardest Job In The Army”—as if sitting on the couch while eating bonbons, fucking around on her iPhone, and watching Netflix as she lets the house get progressively dirtier can compare to being a real soldier. She’ll bitch about how lonely she is because her hubby is always working and deployed, and she’ll use that as her justification to fuck other men—despite the fact the she has no real career or even semi-respectable means of employment. She leeches off the trusting nature of her man in uniform. Poor sucker doesn’t even realize that his homely wife is the incarnation of what is wrong with modern society.

2. She spurts out one baby after another.

While dimwitted, the Dependopotamus is a shrewd beast who knows that there is one surefire way to trap a man: Bear as many of his offspring as possible. Since having a baby in the military is free thanks to the dependency benefits, she’ll be in a constant state of hosting and developing new fetuses that she isn’t certain are from her husband or one of her many lovers.

Though she has three or four offspring, she has little to no motherly qualities or skills. She will allow them to roam wild through the base’s housing tracts like feral critters as she sits in front of her computer Skyping her sister, a fellow Dependopotamus, bitching about how she feels military wives aren’t appreciated enough. She doesn’t see her offspring as children who need love, attention, and care; rather, they are pawns in her scheme to secure a permanent position in the life of her military husband—or, more importantly, a cut of his paycheck and benefits.

The Dependopotamus knows that she has no shot of surviving in the real world without someone else footing the bill. In a different life, she would be one of those women who lives off welfare and has seven kids by four different men, then expects the government to pay for her dumb cunt mistakes. Luckily for her, she grew up near a military base with plenty of young, desperate soldiers who don’t know any better. Like a predator on the hunt, she sought out the weakest of the pack and sank her claws and teeth into them. Poor Private Snuffy never stood a chance.

3. She is a fat fuck.

Not all fat chicks are Dependopotami, but nearly all Dependopotami are fat chicks. A hallmark trait of a Dependopotamus is her gluttony and sloth. Unlike a self-respecting woman who will take advantage of her free time to improve herself, educate herself, and at least keep some token form of physical fitness, the Dependopotamus is content with feasting on junk food, booze, and her husband’s soul.

When she does leave her den, the poorly bathed Dependopotamus will waddle very slowly to her car. She will then drive to the Dependopotamus social ground, the Post Exchange (PX). As she and other Dependopotami sit there eating their third Big Mac and gossiping away, they will scoff with jealousy at the younger, skinnier wives who aren’t complete pieces of shit like themselves. They will stare them down in an effort to shame them for giving their husbands a reminder of what a woman who actually takes care of herself looks like. God help the poor, pretty lady if her husband happens to be in the same chain of command as these green-eyed monsters. For surely they will make her existence miserable until she falls in line and agrees to take measures to become a blubber-bag herself.

The Dependopotamus is a paradox. She is an utterly useless woman with a high sense of entitlement and self-importance. She is completely repulsive, fat, and poorly hygienic but is able to secure a new dick willing to lift up her floopa and smash her guts easily. She is extremely fertile but should be on a list of human beings who aren’t allowed to reproduce because her genes are toxic and will only perpetuate more parasites throughout society. She’s poorly educated yet cunning enough to know all the benefits, regulations, and loopholes to keep her dependent status, secure child support, and extort alimony after divorcing her husband because he had the audacity to accidentally catch her doing a gang bang in their bedroom.

Armed with this useful information, you are now ready to go to your local military base and see if you can spot one of these creatures, but be warned—it will cause you to lose what little faith you may have left in humanity.

~Raul Felix

You can read more of my articles at Thought Catalog.