colonel william reeder through the valley

I just finished listening to episode 63, “Through The Valley: My Captivity in Vietnam” with Colonel William Reeder on The Jocko Podcast. Not ashamed to say that is not the first of Jocko’s podcasts that made me cry. These podcasts have become increasingly more important to me and I wanted to say why. In part as a thank you. In part to share with friends and family why I think they are worth listening to. And in part to hear myself say it to strengthen the resolve to make changes in my life that seem to be reiterated time and again on this podcast.

These podcasts have had a tremendous effect on me. Initially, I was interested in a form of entertainment and to hear discussion on leadership from a special forces officer. That turned into something more important. Gratitude. Every Memorial Day you hear people talk about “the ultimate sacrifice” or of the risks men and women in the armed forces take. Not to belittle that, but it doesn’t have nearly the same effect of hearing first-hand accounts of true evil and the horrors of war. Or real loss or sacrifice or suffering or tragedy directly from the people that have really seen some truly terrible and evil things. So to hear those accounts first hand creates in me (and I am sure everyone that hears them) a tremendous sense of gratitude. I think that is important for me to hear and for those that have served to share. I was sober and active in AA for 9 years and have seen the life-saving power when one person shares those things with another. It can be life-saving for both.

This last episode made these podcasts even more important to me. Hope. I know conceptually I understand hope. But I know that I do not know hope the way Colonel Reeder knows hope. 1 Corinthians talks of faith, hope, and love. The definition I found for hope is lacking in that it does not mention a critical component: despair and suffering and pain and the real possibility that there is no way out of them ever. Otherwise it would just be synonymous with want or desire. So I feel now I do not want to know hope the way Colonel Reeder knows hope. The price is high and I am so grateful he paid it because it was not for nothing. It mattered.

“Every day is a gift.” I think the last bit of the podcast was the hardest to hear. I imagine everyone has the feeling that they are not truly hitting their complete potential. And it has become so cliche that I feel stupid for even saying it, but I really do not think any of us really appreciate how much we are capable of. Colonel Reeder breaks it down in 8 Steps of Survival. 1. Eat. 2. Personal Hygiene. 3. Exercise. 4. Do not give up the fight to stay alive. Take that chance. Fight for it. 5. Establish communication with others. 6. Follow code of conduct. 7. Keep the faith. In family. And God. 8. Maintain a sense of humor. I love that he ended that with a call to action. I am grateful but the real test will come when I treat every day like the gift it is.

I feel now that I got to a point where I worked through my demons and thought I was done. And in being done I haven’t done anything. Like I said when I started, I did want to say thank you to Colonel Reeder for his story and his sacrifice and also to Jocko for taking the time to share those these stories on his podcast. As I said, it has become so important to me. I also wanted to write this to strengthen my resolve to get after it again.

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