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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Beneath the Armor

If you watched the HBO series Band of Brothers, you were most likely amazed by the assault on Brecourt Manor.

Often cited as a classic example of small-unit tactics and leadership in overcoming a larger enemy, this fast and furious battle between the Easy company and several entrenched German artillery cannons is a marvel to behold.

Having not watched Band of Brothers for years, I rewatched the battle on YouTube.

There is a scene before the battle that jumped out at me. In it the men of Easy company are told to drop all their extra gear and load up on ammo.

Never enough ammo, Hooah.

They are told to do this so they can move fast and not be hindered by stuff they won't need.

The fighting begins with a stealthy approach to a tree line several hundred meters from the Germans.

Easy company sets up and the assault begins. What is so evident during the assault is the courage and fluidity with which each soldier operates.

Nothing but what's in front of them. Clear mission. Clear adversary.

The only person that's not smooth is the FNG who misses a German at 25 yards.

Friggin new guys.

What is very evident from this assault is the fact that during battle things change and you have to adapt.

The plan didn't go as they hoped so they adjusted.

What adjusted?

If you watch these clips you'll see that there was no time to think. These guys were taking rounds every second.

So what took over?

Simple. The Warrior Spirit.

Don't know what that is?

It's the spirit the military tries to uncover in you during basic training. It's the spirit that the drills force you to tap into to finish a ruck march or get over an obstacle.

It's the spirit that allows you to keep fighting when you're injured in battle and then gives you the strength to carry your battle buddy to safety.

Now here is a bigger question: where does that spirit go for some of us after we come home?

We know it's in there. The drills brought it out of us. The war put it to work. So where does it go when we come home?

After coming home much of what I had running through my head was crap.

Shame, frustration, anxiety, fear and dissatisfaction.

I wanted that peace back and I looked everywhere outside myself for it.

Think about it. In battle it's life or death. I don't know about everyone, but I found a beautiful sense of peace under fire. My mind was clear and I trusted my instincts. I did my job. There was no BS running through my mind

For years I could never find peace of mind.

Like the constant whiz and whine of bullets during the assault, my own friggin thoughts were assaulting me.

When things got real hairy, I would shut down and end up sobbing in the corner.

I find it endlessly ironic that breathing can be used to steady a trigger squeeze as well as calm the mind.

Practicing mindfulness meditation in its many forms has enabled me to cut through the stuff I don't need, the armor that I no longer need to carry.

I'm even starting to catch glimpses of what's been there all along.

This post was guided by the 35th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba
Armor Down now has a website. Check it out.

Like the AD Facebook page and I'll send you a great book about Mindfulness!

Listen Here to one of the Meditations I practice at the VA in DC.

Armor Down your shoulders. EXERCISE OF THE WEEK.

Thrive as a civilian.

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