Ground Zero

Firepower - - CONTENTS -

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.

TEXT BY TRAVIS HA­LEY

We all have some­thing to learn from some­one else, no mat­ter their back­ground.

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