So, I planned on starting this section when I arrived in Europe, but I met a young man on the plane flight that I thought represented the epitome of what I am looking for in people.
He asked me to use only his first name, so I will call him Captain Andy. I’m not making a loose Deadpool reference. Andy is a Captain in the Army, and he is a Ranger. He’s one of those guys in his 20s that looks like a young Adonis born out of the perfect weather of California.
Andy and I got to talking, sharing a little about ourselves, when he got really animated.
“Have you ever jumped out of a plane! If you haven’t, you have to try it. It’s amazing.”
He even had numerous pictures and videos of his jumps, which are largely a part of his job. I told him that I hadn’t as of yet, but, if I had the chance, that I would definitely give it a go.
I asked him if there was someone in his life that had inspired him to pursue a career in the Army and particularly in becoming a ranger. He told me about his time in the Boy Scouts, his involvement in ROTC, and his love of martial arts–especially jiu jitsu.
He told me that his recruiter had also been involved in martial arts and had played a role in him pursuing his career, a career that took him to Afghanistan and was currently taking him to England where he would participate in a military exchange program for a number of weeks.
All of that information in and of itself is laudable, but that’s not why I’m writing about Captain Andy. Andy emanates a positive spirit that is palpable and impacts everyone around him. He’s incredibly respectful and polite, and he struck me as being completely genuine in his courtesy.
We talked about education a little. I told him that one of the greatest problems today in the American education system is that the institution is so afraid of students failing that it does any thing and everything to prevent it.
He immediately saw the problem with that. He told me about how he had washed out of Ranger school the first time, but that he worked to give himself another chance as quickly as possible. He went on not only to become a Ranger. Now, he’s in position where he might soon be asked to train Rangers.
He said, “I’ve been reading a book called The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It’s really inspiring.”
He shared the book with me. Holiday is inspired by the writings of Marcus Aurelius of ancient Rome. I would say that Holiday’s writing has influenced Captain Andy, but I really think that it is reaffirming qualities that he has developed throughout his life.
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about pain and struggles. But when Captain Andy described the grueling training of Ranger school, falling asleep standing up and crumpling to the ground, and spending the night in a foxhole with waist deep water in it, he did it all with a smile.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to sit with a member of our military and to see him and hear him reflect those qualities that we would hope every US officer has–honor, patience, kindness, courage, dedication, and self-control.
I told him about Searching for Stella. He said that kindness is clearest when it’s a really bad time. He said, “Imagine you’re in a fire fight and your buddy gets hit. The ultimate act of kindness is to run into the line of fire to pull him out of it.”
I didn’t take a picture of Captain Andy. He works overseas from time to time, and I didn’t want to cause him undo grief with Army’s PR department. So, I’m including an image of the Rangers.
Wherever you are, Andy, be safe, and thank you for your service and for your kind spirit.
Until my next post, keep looking to the heavens and seeking your own star.