By CH (CPT) Spencer Haygood
CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Georgia, November 6, 2014
SEAL Team VI! What comes into your mind when you hear those words?
Tough! Determined! Focused! Highly-trained! “Ready …,” the last paragraph of their official philosophy reads, “… ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when necessary, yet guided by the very principles I serve to defend.” Honor! Duty! Integrity! Courage! And all business! Those are the sorts of things that immediately pop to mind when we hear words like “SEAL Team VI.”
But I read an interesting piece a while back talking about SEAL training. The rigors that SEALs go through begin the very day they walk into BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training in Coronado, CA. BUD/S lasts a grueling six months. The incoming classes include large numbers of high-school and college track and football stars, national-champion swimmers, and top-ranked wrestlers and boxers, yet only 10-20 percent of them will manage to finish.
And what kind of soldier makes it through? That’s hard to say definitively. But one former Navy SEAL says: “I do know—generally—who won’t make it. There are a dozen types who fail: the weight-lifting meatheads who think that the size of their biceps is an indication of their strength … the preening” prima donnas “who don’t want to get dirty, and the look-at-me former athletes who have always been told they are stars…. In short, those who fail are the ones who focus on show.”
But some, he says, … who seemed impossibly weak at the beginning of SEAL training—men who puked on runs and had trouble with pull-ups—they made it. Some … who were skinny and short and whose teeth chattered just looking at the ocean made it. Some … who were visibly afraid, sometimes to the point of shaking, made it.
And almost all who survived possessed one common quality —one that’s not in the list of things that come to mind when you think of Navy SEALS. This former SEAL said: “Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: ‘How can I help the guy next to me?’ They had more than … physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others , and to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose .” That’s what that Navy SEAL said! They’re called SEAL Teams for a reason.
Have you read Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell? As the subtitle says, it’s an eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost heroes of SEAL Team X. Read it and take note as you go what a tremendous study it is in selflessness!
And selflessness is the fundamental, it’s the core characteristic that’s needed for everything else in life and in this service you’ve signed on for. The very fact that you’re here, in the Georgia State Defense Force, testifies to a public-spirited, altruistic quality in you, and I want to encourage you to nurture that. Develop it. Strengthen it! And help one another do that. It’ll define and enrich and empower our service together!
Some of you, I know, are truly men and women of the Christian faith. And the Christian faith, in its practical outworking, is a mighty call to selfless sacrifice and service. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. And that involves denying yourself—and, really, dying to self, every day.
The thing to avoid, at all cost, is this pervasive sort of hyper-personalized living that’s absorbed with self above all (called selfism )—what I feel, what I like, what I want, what I can get, my needs first. And let me tell you, if you want to be miserable, just do this—just think all the time about what you want, and what you like, and how people ought to be treating you , and you’ll spoil everything you touch, you’ll make misery for yourself out of everything good, and you can be as wretched as you like. Or, you can live out of a heart large enough!
These are strange days. The fight is on, and I’m saying to you: “Get in the fight!” Fight to be good soldiers in this service to our state and nation; and fight the good fight of faith! The only ones who’re going to come out the other end of this thing with a “Well done!” are those who endure, who persevere, who never give up, who see the mission through to the end, and who have a heart large enough to think about others first, and dedicate themselves to, sacrifice themselves for, a higher purpose! Such is certainly what the grace of God works in the lives of all who truly believe.
I hope at the end, when my summons comes, that I’ll be able to say with Mr. Valiant-for-truth in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress : “I am going to my Father’s house; and though with great difficulty I have gotten where I am, yet now I am not sorry for all the troubles I have had to get here. My sword I give to him who shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him who can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles, who will now be my rewarder.” May that be your end, too! Until then, “Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16.13).
May those who come behind us find us faithful!