His journey as a SEAL
Eric Greitens has led an amazing life by any standard. He has done so in two extremely different roles: humanitarian and Navy SEAL. His book takes you along on the journey from young idealistic college student trying to make a difference in some of the worst hellholes on this planet, to SEAL officer trying to put down the bad men making those places hellholes.
It will surely give you pause to consider the depths of human cruelty and the often insurmountable challenges facing those who try to counteract this barbarity.
Mr. Greitens does a tremendous job of drawing you into the events he experienced, and the details are vivid and compelling. He introduces you to people who were affected by war, famine and man’s inhumanity to man. His personal relationships with these people form the backdrop for tales that will leave you wonder- ing how these horrors can be so pervasive. You travel along with a young American who could have spent his free time at Daytona Beach partying but instead chooses a life of service and then, after college, marches to the sound of gunfire.
The chapter titles read like a trip down the memory lane of recent human suffering: Bosnia, Rwanda, Bolivia, Kenya, China and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. The young Mr. Greitens dives into them, hoping to change the world, but as he matures, the scope and intransigence of the problems force him to confront the difficulty of actually effecting those changes. The book is called “The Heart and
In the special-operations community, each unit has a particular mission, and the SEALs specialize in killing terrorists, as the recent mission taking down Osama bin Laden illustrated. This can provide tremendous satisfaction, but you can sense a frustration in the stories Mr. Greitens tells about how the military deals with civilians.
the Fist”; a more apt title might have been “The Heart Then the Fist.” The humanitarian work he did may have led him to military service as a way to combat the evils he saw, but the two worlds remained discrete.
In the special-operations community, each unit has a particu- lar mission, and the SEALs specialize in killing terrorists, as the recent mission taking down Osama bin Laden illustrated. This can provide tremendous satisfaction, but you can sense a frustration in the stories Mr. Greitens tells about how the military deals with civilians.
All too often, the human factor falls by the wayside, and Mr. Greitens was not in a position to do anything about that. Army special-operations forces (my background) has a mission that fuses kinetic action with winning the hearts and minds of the local populace. It is hard to avoid the thought that Mr. Greitens would have made an excellent specialoperations forces officer and effectively combined the two aspects of his professional career.
As a walk through the life of someone who has devoted himself to serving others, this book is a great read. If you are looking for higher-level analysis of the causes of these human tragedies and the difficulties faced by those trying to help ameliorate them, you will not find much.
Mr. Greitens saw firsthand how aid groups, transnational organizations such as the United Nations, and our military fail miserably in trying to work in harmony, or even to work without harming each other’s efforts. But he doesn’t discuss these issues, and that limits the book’s scope to a personal memoir. Nevertheless, it is a personal memoir of someone who has lived serving a higher purpose and deserves high praise for what he has accomplished. He continues this today with his organization “The Mission Continues,” which awards fellowships that allow wounded and disabled veterans to serve their communities.
Jim Hanson served in 1st Special Forces Group and now writes for the military site blackfive.net.