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Guest Post: My Father is a Warrior

(Today's post is a guest post by longtime reader Matty P. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines. We look forward to publishing reader posts on future Thursdays.)

It may have something to do with our Viking heritage. The Vikings sought combat for reasons as simple as honor and glory. According to Norse mythology, a man could only earn the honor of an afterlife filled with drunken feasting and bloodless battles through death in combat. But more likely, as much as my father champions our heritage, his warrior mentality is due to his experiences as a soldier.

It’s not that he enjoys taking life. In fact, he is as much a healer as he is a warrior. His role in his unit was as a combat medic in operations of engagement. Later, he worked in civil affairs to coordinate medical efforts in military occupied areas. He was, however, made for combat. He enjoys the excitement, the adrenaline, and the camaraderie that is only fostered from life and death situations.

“Son,” he told me once, “I never wanted to be shot at, but it felt damn good walking away rather than being carried.”

Using the term warrior on a posting dedicated to an intellectual discourse on violence would seem to demonize a man, but allow me to be clear. I do not define a warriors by the desire to end life or to die in vain glory in a manner befitting Viking berserkers. Rather, I epitomize them by their passion and their willingness to fight for a cause.

He volunteered for Vietnam. His aptitude for combat operations and medicine allowed for his assignment to special forces operations. The unit in which he served was elite. Many of his missions were in enemy controlled territory, small squads, with minimal support. Some missions remain classified. Multiple Bronze Stars and combat ribbons adorn his dress uniform. But even more impressive than metals, men have actually sworn that they live today because of my father’s presence by their side. This knowledge is humbling.

Whether because of luck or skill or divine grace, he survived every mission, every assignment, and eventually retired. But what does a warrior do when he is no longer a soldier?

I began to notice his unrest towards the end of his military career. When he was too old to be considered for combat operations, no longer considered elite for his ability in combat, he was considered elite for his experience and knowledge of operations. Rather than fighting wars, he fought to build peace in foreign lands through civil affairs and foreign services.

Once he retired, there were still battles to be fought. He had already begun to channel energy toward another cause, another war. He began humanitarian work, but not the type of aid work that consists of rebuilding houses destroyed by hurricanes or building wells for people without water sources (though both are noble pursuits). As a warrior, there must be risk associated with the cause for which he would fight. He placed himself where there was both danger and a need. He went active conflict areas to assist in medical education, organization, and facilitation. This meant everything from providing supplies to building facilities to training locals in the basics of emergency medicine. And he purposefully faces danger to do this.

It’s about passion. He joined the military because he believed in patriotism and value of citizen government. He continued to serve because he believed that our country needs amiable relations with other foreign powers. And he provides humanitarian aide because he believe third world communities deserve access to basic medical care. As a warrior, it was never about the enemies he fought but the cause for which he fought.

In 1952, there was an unsuccessful attempt to convince General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme United Nations Commander himself, to run for President. He declined saying, “Old soldiers don’t die, they just fade away.” That’s the answer to the question of what becomes a warrior who does not die in combat. They continue to fight, but in a different way. For me that is a true warrior; one who seeks a new peril to their fellow man and faces it like a dragon to be slain. And that is how they go, as warriors still fighting for that which they have passion.

Fighting till they fade.

three comments

A great post from Matty P. My favorite line is his father’s description about feeling good “walking away” from a fire fight. This is one of those universal feelings most soldiers feel after fire fights.

His dad is also an example of what Americans can do to prevent future conflict: rebuild war torn nations. Fixing failed states isn’t the job of the military, but military type people might be the best suited for it.

Overall, a fantastic guest post and one of the best things I have read this year.

What do you do when the excitement stops? When your body is no longer able to keep up?

Excellent post, Matt. I really enjoyed reading it. I would like to meet your father someday, having heard so much about him.