A couple of months ago, I went to see Act of Valor with a few friends of mine in Newport, RI. In the film, the platoon leader, a Lieutenant and damn fine Naval Officer, is said to be a good study of history and a lover of poetry. These are not traits that usually first come to mind when you begin talking about hardened warriors like the SEALs, but below the surface of that thousand-yard stare lie the minds of thinkers. If you look hard enough, you’ll find that this trends across the entirety of the military. Sun Tzu’s admonishment to understand your enemy is a lesson well-taught within the ranks of the United States armed forces, and those who fail to heed it are usually instructed through fire and blood on the battlefield. As such, many members of the officer corps, and even the NCO corps, are well-learned, well-read, and very intelligent folks that are constantly bettering themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually. Which is why I present to you the following from the Shawnee Chieftain Tecumseh:
Live your life that the fear of death
can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views
and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long
and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day
when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die, be not like those
whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray
for a little more time to live their lives over again
in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
The above passage also illustrates another common trait amongst members of the military: The knowledge that tomorrow is never a given. Being a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Guardian is an inherently dangerous profession and death waits just over the horizon, as many in the blogosphere recently found out. Because of this, many military men and women live everyday as if it could be their last, taking nothing for granted.
It is all part of the same warrior ethos; living life to its fullest, constantly improving oneself, and striving for the betterment of those around you, loving tenderly those whom you care about, and then sallying forth to answer the call of duty in order to keep the gnashing teeth of the wolf at bay.