The Warrior Ethos

The Warrior Ethos

Coming Home

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 18, 2011

Chapter 23   Coming Home

But what about us? What about the soldier or Marine who steps off the plane from overseas and finds himself in the scariest place he’s seen in years:

Home.

Coming Home

Jon Voight and Jane Fonda in the Vietnam-era "Coming Home"

Has everything he knows suddenly become useless? What skill set can he employ in the civilian world? The returning warrior faces a dilemma not unlike that of the convict released from prison. Has he been away so long that he can never come back? Is the world he knows so alien to the “real world” that he can never fit in again?

Who is he, if he’s not a warrior?

The answer may not be as far away as he supposes.

The returning warrior may not realize it, but he has acquired an MBA in enduring adversity and a Ph.D. in resourcefulness, tenacity and the capacity for hard work.

He may find that the warrior skills he has acquired are exactly what he and his family need. And more: that these skills possess the capacity to lift him and sustain him through the next stage of his life and through every succeeding stage. The war remains the same. Only the field has changed.

The returning warrior possesses the Warrior Ethos, and this is a mighty ally in all spheres of endeavor.

Chapter 24   “Purity of the Weapon”

The civilian sometimes misconstrues the warrior code; he takes it to be one of simple brutality. Overpower the enemy, show no mercy, win at all costs.

But the Warrior Ethos commands that brute aggression be tempered by self-restraint and guided by moral principle.

IDF

The principle of "purity of the weapon" is taught to all recruits of the Israeli Defense Forces

Soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces (who often must fight against enemies who target civilians, who strike from or stockpile weapons within houses of worship and who employ their own women and children as human shields) are taught to act according to a principle called Tohar HaNeshek: “purity of the weapon.” This derives from two verses in the Old Testament. What it means is that the individual soldier must reckon, himself, what is the moral use of his weapon and what is the immoral use.

When an action is unjust, the warrior must not take it.

Alexander, in his campaigns, always looked beyond the immediate clash to the prospect of making today’s foe into tomorrow’s ally. After conquering an enemy in the field, his first act was to honor the courage and sacrifice of his antagonists—and to offer the vanquished warriors a place of honor within his own corps. By the time Alexander reached India, his army had more fighters from the ranks of his former enemies than from those of his own Greeks and Macedonians.

Cyrus of Persia believed that the spoils of his victories were meant for one purpose—so that he could surpass his enemies in generosity.

I contend against my foes in this arena only: the capacity to be of greater service to them than they are to me.

Alexander operated by the same principle.

Let us conduct ourselves so that all men wish to be our friends and all fear to be our enemies.

The capacity for empathy and self-restraint will serve us powerfully, not only in our external wars but in the conflicts within our own hearts.

[Continued next Monday. To read from Chapter One in sequence, click here.]

Posted in The Warrior Ethos

3 Responses to “Coming Home”

  1. JP Rooney
    April 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Are you sure about using “Coming Home” on your site? The movie offers a questionable scenario about a Marine Officer’s wife……..

  2. Chris
    April 25, 2011 at 2:08 am

    This post struck a chord.

    I served for 11 years, including a couple of combat tours. I had difficulty envisioning life after life in the service. And then it was all over; checked my rifle into the armory for the last time, collected my papers, put the guardhouse in the rearview mirror for the last time and hung up the uniform. That was 2007.

    The scariest part was losing the sense of security I had long taken for granted.

    As I’m sure many have discovered before me, “Once a Marine always a Marine” looks considerably different from the outside looking in. It’s difficult to relate without the uniform and the hard earned chevrons. In the world of has beens, you’re only as credible as your most recent experience, and that is rapidly fading into the past.

    One of the hardest things to let go of was the mindset cultivated over a career and really reinforced with combat experience. It took a long time and at a dear price to accept the inevitable in order to be able to be effective under fire. And now that’s fading.

    My first job after the service was as a contracted combat tactics instructor. The uniform changed, the pay got better, the work conditions and hours were more civil. While it was meaningful work, the sense of purpose wasn’t there, so I took another huge risk and took a nerve wracking walk off the plank into the world of self employment.

    I’m learning to sail stormy seas in rough, uncertain waters. The most difficult thing is trying to substitute the term “entrepreneur” for “Marine.”

    • OPD
      January 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      Its a very good point you bring up, Chris. The sense of identity is amazing. The weirdest feeling I can think of when I get out, is not being able to say “I’m in the Army” or “I’m a soldier”. What else can we call ourselves?