October 1st will mark 5 years since Robert Sanchez lost his life over seas, and Cory Remsburg was about as close to that as you can get. Both of these Airborne Rangers were/are friends of mine and I am honored to have served with them. I suppose I was compelled to write this piece to honor them both, and to share a large part of the story about how my mindset has developed to the state it is in today. Rob’s memory and Cory’s story are two things that have provided me with great inspiration and continue to drive me forward on a daily basis. I believe in sharing my story of how these great men have inspired me, it will help others find their inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it is through them. All that matters is that people find something positive to lift them up when they are feeling down. To move them forward when they want to step back. And to fill them with hope when it seems as though all is lost. We live in a modern society, which glorifies celebrities and fictitious heroes over the actions of people that have truly done great things. Man seldom knows the stories of those individuals, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be told. I am sharing this story in an effort to help people in a positive way every single day. In honor of the Airborne Ranger in the sky, and all of those who have worn the scroll, I submit these words to you.
Let me help you understand where I am coming from when you talk to me about the “challenges,” and the “problems,” in your life. I think this piece will help put a few things into perspective for you. Now, I am not special in any way, nor am I a great man by any stretch of the word. However, there was a time in my life, which I earned the right to walk amongst giants. I was surrounded by human beings that did not believe in the word “quit,” or the phrases “I give up,” and “this is too hard.” All they knew was there was a task to be completed. They knew the conditions under which the given task was to be performed, and they knew the standard it was to be performed to. That was all of the information they needed. They had sworn an oath to their Ranger brethren to carry on with the mission though they be the lone survivor. This meant that no matter what the odds were against them, or how bleak the outlook may have appeared, they were never going to give up until the task was accomplished to the desired standard. They had an unflinching faith in their iron-forged hearts and their innate ability to move mountains with every beat. These human beings are living proof that every single person on this planet is capable of more. Proof that human potential knows no bounds.
When I moved back to California after leaving 1st Ranger Battalion I had a difficult time adapting to civilian life, as many veterans do. I would get frustrated and angry with ease as I watched those who have never served live their lives in a manor bordering disdain for integrity. I had yet to develop any sort of patience at that point in my life. I was surrounding myself with people seemingly only invested in their own personal gain. When I reference personal gain I am not specifically speaking about the acquisition of financial wealth. I am commenting on their willingness, or lack there of, to do whatever it took to help lift the spirits of a friend in need. It would cost too much of the time and energy they had in reserve for partying or lethargy. I was used to a different world and found myself struggling to cope with a society quickly sinking into a quicksand of selfishness and an acceptance of mediocrity. It seemed as though many people were/are willing to watch their friends fall by the way side as they skated through life never having faced what I considered to be “real challenges.”
I let the negativity build for a long time and started to slip into the behavioral patterns I had once grown to loathe. The fucked up part is, I knew it too, but felt as though I was unable to grab a hold of anything as I continued to slip further into the darkness I had left behind when I enlisted. My depression hit a new low in October of 2009 when I found out about my friend, a great man, Robert Sanchez losing his life in Afghanistan. In the same incident another Ranger buddy of mine, Cory Remsburg, was blasted into a coma by the same IED. I was racked with guilt over not being there, even just the fact that I wasn’t in Battalion anymore played a huge part in that. My heart was crushed, as I had never lost anyone close to me before. I hurt for my Ranger brethren, I hurt for their families, and I especially hurt for my own family. Rob was my brother’s best friend, Mike had to see this happen, and I hated that he was hurting so much. I knew my “friends,” at the time could see me in pain. They could see me breaking down, as I became a slave to my negative thoughts and negative emotions. I allowed my mind to become a cesspool of anger, frustration, sorrow, and guilt. I felt like I needed help and when I turned to my friends their solution was always a drink or a joint. You see, many members of modern society seem ill equipped, or unwilling to step up and truly help their friends when they are in need. I needed to be smacked in the face and told to unfuck myself, like my Ranger buddies would have done for me. I was losing my shit, but nobody would be honest enough with me to help me out of it. Perhaps I was too prideful, and afraid at the time to truly admit to anyone I needed help. In the pit of self-absorbed behavior, materialism, and greed our society seems to have dug for itself nobody can escape if we are all too busy trying to crawl over our fellow man to get out. Fortunately for me I had known better men than myself.
Cory Remsburg was in a coma for 3 months. He was never supposed to wake up, but he did. The Ranger spirit was still strong inside of him. I heard about this and it gave me hope. Cory was told he would never talk again, walk again, and pretty much never live a “normal” life again. Now, Cory would be the first to tell you he isn’t anything special. He would tell you he is simply another Airborne Ranger working until the task is completed, under difficult conditions, to the desired standard. Life presented him with a huge challenge and placed many obstacles in his path. There were many people that did not believe Cory would overcome these, apparently, insurmountable odds. None of those people mattered. Cory knew the reality in which he wanted to live. It was the reality in which he could talk, walk on his own, and live life with as little help as possible. He knew his goal and has been willing to put in whatever work it takes to achieve it.
Cory set an example. At a time in my life when I had no inspiration, he provided me with some. I know it was not his intention, but that didn’t matter. I reminded myself about his struggles, and about Rob’s sacrifice to help me put things into perspective. I slowly started to make head way in the battle against the person I never wanted to become.
In January 2012 I was able to hang out with Cory for the first time since he was wounded. He had been rehabbing for 2 years by this point, every single day. When I saw him that day I lit up with happiness. This man that was supposed to be incapable of anything, was talking to me and had gained the ability to move one of his arms quite well. He talked slowly, and I could tell it was a struggle, but it was evident that Cory’s personality was as alive as ever. He had undergone over a dozen surgeries by this point and was confined to a wheel chair. Not surprisingly, he still had a smile on his face. Even though he had that smile it was apparent he was not satisfied with his state at the time. As my brother and I drove Cory to the restaurant for lunch he asked Mike about what happened in Afghanistan. He asked “why me?” It was difficult for me to hear, and even more so for my brother. My brother, our parents, and myself had dinner with Cory that night and enjoyed our time quite a bit. It was obvious he wasn’t done moving forward.
After I saw Cory that day in January it strengthened my resolve to stop feeling sorry for myself. I began my quest to become the person I wanted to be instead of telling myself I was stuck being who I was. Every moment of life was an opportunity to change for the better. I saw Cory again in July of 2012. It blew my mind how far he had come in only 6 short months. He was speaking with greater ease, moved better, and seemed like he was in a much better place mentally. I think he was starting to see his hard work paying off even faster than before. He stayed motivated and continued to drive on towards his goal. This motivated me as well, but there were still times I would slip up and get down on myself. I still held onto guilt over not being on that deployment. I still felt like I had let everyone down when my Ranger career, and my dream was cut short by an extreme heat stroke in 2006, which led to me getting out in early 2007. I didn’t know it at the time, but I could not truly progress until I let go of that guilt.
November of 2012 my brother and I drove to Arizona to participate in a charity event for Cory at Crossfit 480 (owned by a fellow Ranger). Cory had continued to make progress and able to stand up at this point. It was a beautiful sight to see. Prior to seeing Cory that day I had hit what I considered to be my breaking point in August. An event took place in which I allowed myself to lose total control over my feelings towards myself and I blew up on one of my friends over something incredibly stupid. I apologized, but that simply wasn’t enough for me. I decided then that I needed to truly confront my demons in order to vanquish them and become the person I wanted to be. After all, if I, as a business owner/trainer/coach was going to truly help people to better their lives, I had to learn how to help myself first. As a Ranger you were supposed to lead by example. It is something Cory was doing, and it was something my brother always did, but I was not doing.
A few months before I had hit that “breaking point,” a psychiatrist I trained had suggested I write a letter to my mother because she felt I harbored much negativity towards her, and those feelings held me back. I didn’t have to mail it, just write it and read it out loud to myself. I hadn’t spoken to my mother since 2002 (still don’t) and no interest in doing so. I decided to ignore my client’s advice for a bit. Once I hit that “breaking point” I was willing to give writing that letter a shot. The moment I put pen to paper and wrote Dear Mom, I was hit with a flood of emotions I had never felt before. The tears immediately began to flow. I have never been someone that cries easily, but in that moment I lost my shit, in a good way. I wrote the most honest words I had ever written in my life. Turned out the reasons I “hated” her so much were all of the same things I “hated” about myself. The lying, the half-truths I would tell, hiding in a glass of alcohol. All the reasons I cut her out of my life, the things that led to her alienating her two sons were all things I was doing. I realized then, in order to move forward I had to forgive her for her mistakes in order to truly forgive myself for mine. It felt so good to be 100% honest after all of that pain; I know it was what I needed.
This is when I knew I had to learn more about how the human mind worked and find ways to navigate through all of the lies and bullshit we all tell ourselves occasionally in order to move through life. When we do this we compromise ourselves and those around us. I was no longer willing to compromise myself or the people I cared about. Most of us are not always comfortable with the real truth, but just because comfort is what we want it doesn’t mean it is what we need.
Once I began to be 100% honest with myself about why I thought what I thought, why I felt what I felt, and why I did what I did, I became much better at being 100% honest with others. I created good habits, after fighting to destroy my old negative ones. I could connect with other people better; therefore I could do a better job of helping them to overcome many of the obstacles I had placed before myself in the past. Cory had become another example, in a world full of them, of how immeasurable the power of the human mind is. We have the ability to change the world within ourselves, and therefore we can change the world around us. My father told me when I was a teenager (and a dipshit) that “your inner world determines your outer world.” At that point in time I was incapable of comprehending how true those words really were.
I believe Cory will tell you, I will tell you, Rob would tell you, my brother, all good Rangers, and anyone who has truly overcome challenges would tell you, they overcame these challenges because they decided to do what it took to do so. Not because they are special. Not because it was the easiest thing to do. Human beings overcome challenges because they make up their mind and let nothing stop them until they have achieved success. These people experience “failure” but instead of getting discouraged and giving up, they learn, they grow stronger, they strengthen their resolve, and they rise up again and again and again.
In 2013 Cory began walking on his own again. According to many, that was impossible. As long as he had a beat in his heart and a goal in his mind he was going to do whatever it took until that impossible idea became a physical reality. That is an example of the power of the human mind. Every single person on this planet has the ability to overcome any obstacle placed in his or her paths. Will everyone make the choice? No, sadly, the vast majority of people will make excuses, place blame on others, and search for reasons why they don’t deserve, and/or can’t have or accomplish their goals. Little do these people know, they are fully capable of achieving anything when they choose to create that reality and put in the work to achieve it.
So, I apologize if I do not accept your excuses. I am sorry if I call you out when I see you giving less than you are capable of. I’ll tell you what I am not sorry for….My belief in you. I will not stop making an effort to help you realize that you have limitless potential. You are a human being. The most powerful creature on the planet. Your mind will be as strong as you are willing to make it, and that strength is unlimited. Cory is proof, my brother is proof, Rob is proof, and everyone that has ever stepped up in the face of a challenge and conquered it is proof of that.
I love you. I believe in you and your potential. I will never give up on you. I need you to believe in you like I believe in you. I need you to see yourself the way I see you. I need you to never give up on yourself. More importantly, you need to believe in you. You need to love yourself, and be honest with yourself and those around you. Above all else, you need to make your life worth living. Appreciate the opportunities you have every single day. And never ever, ever give up.
I guess with all of this I am simply making an effort to help people. My definite chief aim in life is to help as many people as possible in a positive way everyday of my life. I feel like I see people getting caught up in so many things that are doing them more harm than good. I worry that people don’t even see themselves slipping. I do not want people to go through the same kind of pain I did. I want people to learn from my mistakes and understand how incredible they all are. When you love people, you want to protect them from pain, and sharing this story with anyone willing to read it is an attempt to help them learn how to protect themselves against negativity, disappointment, and a whole lot of unnecessary frustration. Changing bad habits into good habits is not easy, and it takes a lot of time, practice, and patience. Sometimes it will be easier than others. Just know when those tough times come, if you keep your chin up and keep moving forward, you will succeed in the end. If we all start working together to lift up the world, how can we possibly fail? THERE IS NO QUIT. EVERYBODY LOVE EVERYBODY. LET THERE BE LIFT. RLTW. SUA SPONTE. NIL SATIS NISI OPTIMUM