Serving In Iraq

My 7 months in war as a non-commissioned officer with the US Marines

Serving in Iraq

In 2007, I spent 7 months fighting the war in Iraq as an infantry non-commissioned officer with the US Marines. This was of course, unlike any of my other adventures in nature. But similar to my other expeditions, it was a journey onto the very edge of humanity…

Before joining the Marines, I squandered away a year and a half of my life with drugs and alcohol. Aimlessly wandering on a path toward self destruction, I used to cut myself, burn myself, and continuously engage in acts of sheer lunacy that could have easily killed me. I lost two friends to that lifestyle and was heading down that path myself until one day when I saw the movie Black Hawk Down.

Watching the courage of men sacrificing their lives for another human being triggered something deep within me. I wondered what kind of person would do that? Would I? This made me question the selfish, worthless and meaningless life I chose to live at the time. After watching the movie, I read the book Black Hawk Down and began devouring book after book on the military and life in combat.

Almost overnight, I stopped doing drugs and decided to enlist in the Marines. But with flat feet, scoliosis and a blood disorder that two doctors told me would kill me in boot camp, I had to fight my way in. It took me a year a half to get the medical waivers I needed before I finally set foot on the infamous yellow footprints at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California.

Looking back at my life now, I see that moment as the birthplace of Fearvana.

The Marines first taught me the beauty of fear, suffering and adversity. Having lived a comfortable life before that, I threw out the relative silver spoon I was born with and embraced the purity of pain.

I not only survived Marine Corps training, I thrived in it. Despite what all the doctors told me about my capabilities, I graduated infantry school as the honor graduate in my platoon.

As soon as I came into my unit, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion 23rd Marines in Austin, Texas, I volunteered to go to war every chance I could. War reveals the duality of man at its most extreme. It brings out the absolute worst, and the absolute best. Although I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, and taking into account that I was perhaps a bit naive as well, I wanted to go to war in order to know first-hand the farthest reaches of the human condition.

But it wasn’t until 2007, 3 years after enlisting, that I got my opportunity…

In the Marines, especially in war, my personal well being did not matter. All that mattered was the men and the mission. It is a profoundly beautiful experience to live in a world where the good of the group matters more than the good of the individual.

Of course, I had my share of low moments as well. War was not exactly easy or comfortable…

One of my jobs out there was to walk in front of our vehicle convoys looking for bombs before they could be used to kill me and my fellow Marines. But despite the adversity, the suffering, the risk of death, by the end of my deployment I wrote in my journal, “I’m really going to miss this place when I go home.”

Separate from all the politics of the war, on the ground, I witnessed first-hand people from opposing, even conflicting worlds coming together as one in service of the greater good.

As just one example, I remember meeting a man who spent 8 years as a prisoner of war in Iran, tell me with great passion and enthusiasm how American’s and Iraqi’s must work together to make each other better.

Serving in the Marines is one of the proudest achievements of my life. It planted the seeds of Fearvana that have now blossomed into a global movement extending far beyond me as an individual. Being a Marine is an essential part of who I am today and I am forever grateful for who it made me, and more importantly what it made possible for every other life that has been touched by Fearvana.

Expedition Journey

This is the map of the route we took from Kangerlussuaq, on the West Coast of Greenland to Isertoq, a tiny hunting village on the East

Greenland Journal

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Fearvana inspires us to look beyond our own agonizing experiences and find the positive side of our lives.~ The Dalai Lama

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