In the midst of combat operations in Liberia, West Africa, I had just returned to our ROC (Recon Operations Center) from a long, grueling reconnaissance mission. It was a hot, humid, and rainy sub-tropic environment, and I hadn't eaten anything in over a day. Loaded with 50plus pounds of gear drenched in sweat, I dropped my helmet on the table and quickly began to download photos and classified information to a secure uplink to the Joint Task Force commander. From the corner of my eye, I saw “our boys” sitting on the porch railing doing their thing.
“Our boys” were Liberian boys who we had basically “adopted” during our time there, as most of their parents and other villagers were killed in the civil war just weeks prior to our arrival. These kids were the epitome of master survivalists and the most resourceful children I’d ever met. We built a great family relationship with them and they taught us all about their culture, the politics, and who was good and who was bad. They even knew where weapons caches were in the city. Basically they were the perfect little informants and we took care of them with water, chow, medicine, and provided additional security for what was left of their villages.
As I was taking my gear off with the immediate goal of grabbing some chow, I looked over and saw the boys eating bananas. I asked a boy named Sholay to throw me one. I caught it, said thanks, and started to peel it. Since it was not yet ripe and difficult to peel—and I was hungry—i quickly deployed my Emerson blade and made a small slice at the base of the stem. As I was returning the knife
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” —Aldous Huxley
to its place in my pocket, I could hear the boys on the porch chuckling. Of course I asked why they were laughing. Sholay jumped off the railing, walked over and said, “You Americans think you are so smart, with all of your technology and stuff, but you don’t even know how to eat food right.” I looked at him in disbelief and asked him what he meant. The boy grabbed the banana from my hands, flipped it over and pinched at what we would consider the bottom, and then proceeded to effortlessly peel it apart with three perfect swipes. I looked at him, shocked that I had never known or seen that method before. I said to him “Thanks Sholay, I didn’t know about that.” He backed away and replied with a smirk, “You just did something a monkey wouldn’t lower himself to do.” I have to say... as I was standing there with all my weapons, cameras, computers and highspeed gear, I felt like the dumbest person in the world. And sure enough, if you ever watch a monkey eat a banana, they peel them in similar way. It is instinctual to them; they know what the top and bottom of a banana is because they have the experience of picking the bananas from the trees where they grow. We think the top of the banana is the part with the stem because of the orientation it sits in the store, when in fact the stem is at the bottom. Bananas grow on a tree in a way that we would consider to be upside down.
Even though we are talking about a stupid banana here, It was a huge wake-up call for me because it made me start to look at things in life differently. Often in our lives, things are presented to us on social media, through the news, through conversations with others, by reading or other social observations, and more often than not those things we hear and read are not always what they appear to be.
It’s important to educate yourself and more importantly keep an open mind to everything, especially when you think you are 100% certain about it. We all have something to learn from someone else, no matter their background. The world is gray, not black and white, and it becomes a more interesting place when our eyes, ears, and mind are completely open. This will help you adapt and continually push new limits only because now you don’t have any... and hell, one day it might just save your life.
The moral of the story is: It’s not about the cool gear, guns, confirmed kills and war stories that make you a warrior. Sometimes it’s taking in the little things, even the ones that you think are irrelevant or inconsequential, that make you think differently about how you think. Then the byproduct will be a higher level of selfknowledge and self-actualization, which then will lead to physical change, bringing out the true Warrior from within.
We all have something to learn from someone else, no matter their background.