Defining the Warrior Spirit

Based on more than a decade of walking with warriors, and the work of fellow authors like Karl Marlantes,  Sebastian Junger, Steven Pressfield, Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Josh Mantz, and Scott Huesing, I’ve seen that the Warrior spirit is about something much deeper than combat operations.

To quote Marine Corps Veteran and author Steven Pressfield:

The Warrior Ethos is not, at bottom, a manifestation only of male aggression or of the masculine will to dominance. Its foundation is society wide. It rests on the will and resolve of mothers and wives and daughters—and, in no few instances, of female warriors as well—to defend their children, their home soil and the values of their culture.

Being a Warrior is ultimately about developing self-mastery and sacrificing immediate, self-directed rewards to protect the people and values you would die for.

This understanding of warriorship can be applied to the realm of mental warfare. To learn to be seamlessly interdependent is to reach the summit of our human potential — it is not a sign of weakness. The lifeblood of those who do battle together is love and trust between those who would lay their lives down for each other.

I have walked with many warriors who have found themselves at the end of a tunnel of despair. In the realm of mental warfare, the bond of trust they share with their fellow service members is stronger than despair. When the tribe comes together and locks shields, it has a power that can defeat demons.

What if we understood that the hardest thing to do is the bravest thing: to tell those we trust when we are not okay in order to draw from their strength? Here is a quick exercise to highlight this point. In the series of comparisons to follow, ask yourself which of these two things is the more difficult action to take. In other words, Which Is the Harder Path?  
Admitting personal struggles with those you trust Keeping your mask on and projecting an image of invulnerability    
Asking for help Pretending like you don’t need help
Seeking treatment in a mental health clinic Trying to handle things on your own
Being persistent until you link up with a good doc Dropping out of treatment in anger/disgust    

Presenting the choice between two paths one can take – the harder and the easier path - helps clear the metaphorical fog of war. Applying a tactical analysis to mental warfare helps warriors make the connection between interdependence and turning to one’s Tribe is what holds a power greater than despair.

My latest book, WARRIOR: How to Support Those Who Protect Us, develops these concepts more fully, with insights from a decade of supporting warriors in the trenches of mental warfare. Together we have developed and deployed culturally adapted suicide prevention approaches that work.

Please consider this review from Rear Admiral (Ret) Tony Kurta, who served as Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in the Department of Defense as the conclusion of over 32 years on active duty as a Navy Surface Warfare Officer, with command over active and reserve officers and enlisted, Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, Special Operations, National Guard, inter-agency and coalition personnel.

 “Doc” Springer’s Warrior: How to Support Those Who Protect Us, is a seminal work for anyone interested in solutions to the Veteran suicide epidemic.  She expertly reinforces a tenet of true experts who treat Veterans that treatment is successful only when trust is first established with the Veteran – when the provider turns from “Doctor” to “Doc”. Her most insightful assertion, however, concerns the current widespread practice of building individual resilience.  Doc Springer states “As a society, we continue to make the mistake of thinking that individual outcomes are mainly a product of individual resilience factors.”  She goes on to assert, Instead of trying to develop individual resilience, we should work to connect people to their tribe, which offers a powerful protective factor.”  These assertions call into question the fundamental approach to suicide prevention practiced by the VA and the DoD for the past decade, and military-civilian transition process as well.  And, since the problem of Veteran suicides is relatively worse (compared to the non-Veteran US population) than it was a decade ago, her challenge to current practice is timely and relevant. Read Doc Springer’s book if you want to be challenged and are interested in real solutions to Veteran suicide.

Rear Admiral (Ret) Tony Kurta

Want to Learn More?  Here is a link to where you can pick up a copy of my book WARRIOR