By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink recently produced an “Address to the Nation” from the standpoint of what he would do about Afghanistan if he were the CNC, the Commander in Chief. It is stirring and it is stunning. It reflects the values of every soldier I know, and listening to it strengthened me to the depths of my soul. It has gone viral, and has had hundreds of thousands of views. The introduction begins with the following: “If I were president, and I had put our country into the current situation in Afghanistan, I would tell America, our allies, our enemies, and the world, something like this…”
Jocko goes on to enumerate the kinds of actions that would be taken against the Taliban in order to protect Americans and Afghanis, and it can be described in three words: courageous common sense. And while I know that these days both sides of the issue are more than capable of nuclear name-calling, there is a brilliant thing that warriors do that I observed when I was in Iraq, and if I were a betting woman, I would bet Jocko wrote and delivered his address for his own sanity and for the sanity of service members everywhere. This includes those who endured the fall of Saigon, Benghazi, and most recently in Afghanistan those who went rogue in order to rescue, or would have if they could have.
In Djibouti an incident occurred where warlords invaded a village, lined up the men, brothers, and fathers on one side, and the women and children on the other. They walked down the line of the women and children and cut off the hand of every other person. The men were so traumatized by not being able to protect and defend that they shattered completely, and joined the warlords and fought for them in exchange for no further brutality toward the families. Essentially, in a moment, they became “true believers,” albeit against their will. Their manhood had been manipulated.
In Iraq, I was told that if you wanted to utterly break a man, you did not have to touch him. If you restrained him, brought in a woman, raped her and then killed her, again, shattering would have been the result. So, what does that have to do with Jocko “broadcasting” from the White House? I saw soldiers, when they knew that they could not do anything about a situation, plan mock rescues and scenarios in order to keep their sanity. I know the effect that Jocko’s address had on me, and my guess is that it did the same for any who listened.
This brings me to my main point. Be especially aware right now of the needs of soldiers who were in the Middle East. By that, I don’t mean be patronizing or do what we have come to call “cut their meat for them,” i.e., treating them like children, just find a way to say something along the lines of, “I can’t imagine what you are going through with this, but I want you to know that I appreciate you, and I know the people you helped over there do too.” That’s it. If they want to talk, listen. If all they can do is nod and walk away stiffly, let it go and pray for them. You can’t go wrong with that.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner