June 26th is an important day in my life. Nine years ago today, I came within about eight inches of dying on a battlefield in Afghanistan, and it changed my entire worldview.
Nine years ago, my squad and I were ambushed by some Taliban soldiers. Outnumbered nearly 3 to 1 in the middle of an open field and surrounded on three sides, it was my first taste of true combat. It took 57 minutes to force them to retreat. As we later learned, they took more than twenty casualties compared to our one.
At some point during the shooting, I almost joined that list. I lay on the ground, firing my weapon when suddenly a dirt mound less than a foot in front of my face exploded and showered me with dirt.
I won’t lie. I was terrified. I distinctly remember my entire body locking up as I realized someone was actively trying to kill me, and was very close. After what felt like ages, I finally found the strength to the pull the trigger on my weapon, and broke the spell that brush with Death put me under.
As I mentioned above, this event ended up changing my entire worldview. Raised up a fairly typical George Bush Republican, I was heavily pro-war…until June 26th, 2011. After that, I began to question if that war was really worth it, after all. I questioned my foreign policy stances, and from there I embarked on Cartesian-esque search for the truth.
Nothing I believed was off-limits as I took each piece of my worldview and examined it in the light of pure reason. If it made sense, I kept it. If I could see errors, I discarded it. And frankly I discarded all but one or two of my previous beliefs.
June 26th is a tough day for me. It reminds me of a close call with Death, but also it reminds me that I changed after that. All in all, I reckon I’m grateful for my experiences that day, as it made me the man I am now. If you wish to take a lesson from me, consider this: it’s okay to be afraid; it’s not okay to let that fear dictate what you do. I pushed past fear to rejoin the fight nine years ago, and I ignored fear as I abandoned the worldview I’d grown up with.