The Story of Us

 

Go tell the Spartans,
Passerby,
That here, obedient to their laws,
We lie.

Simonides, Epitaph for the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae
Greek poet (556 BC – 468 BC)

Greetings from the Center for the Intrepid!

I have not posted on this blog since late July—not because I had nothing of importance to say. In fact, what I wanted to say had even more importance than just about anything I had written previously. Too often one can get caught up in the retelling of events and the lens of recall gets focused solely on the individual deeds and accomplishments. The real problem lies with one fundamental fact: war is not an individual sport. It took coming here to the Center for the Intrepid to remind me of this fundamental maxim.

In addition to my daily schedule of physical therapy, I have of been re-reading Steven Pressfield’s stunning book, Gates of Fire. The book is about the Battle of Thermopylae and the defense and sacrifice of the 300 Spartans under the command of King Leonidas. The story seems to me to be a fitting metaphor for the men and women who have been sent here to the Center for the Intrepid and I would grant that a solid core of those here assembled are every bit the equal of any of those 300 Spartans of ancient Greece. That is not to say that there is not a smattering of miscreants and schmoes here; but, that these are a most rare species and it is not duty nor my calling to tell tales. I look at it this way, those assembled here are but a microcosm of the Armed Forces of these United States and only a fool him or herself would assume that true perfection exists there or here because it just is not so.

What we do have here is a stunning collection of individuals some of whom who’s stories may never be told. However, that does not mean that their courage and their sacrifice and what is lost are any less poignant or compelling. One cannot stay here long without becoming painfully aware of the heavy burden of war’s doom being paid by the men and women of our armed forces—that is if one has a soul. It fills me with a yearning and sorrowful ache some days to know and see first hand the cost being borne with such resolute courage and conviction by these assembled here. I vowed early on in my stay that my first obligation was for me to discard the “me” “myself” and “I” and tell the story of “us.”

There is a deep and abiding secret that lies in the heart of every warrior and it comprises the glue that binds this brotherhood of valor together. Fundamental truths are revealed in the fulcrum of battle: All we have is this and each other. Now if I may borrow a speech toward the end of the book Gates of Fire to highlight this point. Pressfield writes most eloquently:

When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. This is why the warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him. The truth is too holy, too sacred for words.”

Hardcore Harry

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