SSG Nate Boyer (Army Special Operations, OIF, OEF Veteran)

Fighting soldiers from the sky, Fearless men who jump and die, Men who mean just what they say, The brave men of the Green Beret.
Silver wings upon their chest, These are men, America’s best. One hundred men we’ll test today but only three will win the Green Beret...
— Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler

I’m suffering.  If you’ve ever run on an August morning at Ft. Knox you’d know what I mean.  The heat, even at 0430, is borderline ridiculous.  I feel him breathing down my neck.  That Pitbull they call a “Drill Sergeant” is coming for me.  He’s screaming so hard at the guy behind me that I feel his spit on the back of my neck.  It's 2005, I’m 17 years old (youngest in my company), in Alpha Run Group, 4th Platoon, Warlords of Delta Company Basic Combat Training.  I’ve never been yelled at directly on a run but I have a feeling this will be the day that all changes.  For some reason, the drill sergeants wanted the faster guys in Bravo to run in Alpha and I’m getting smoked for it.  I hear a very very quiet calm voice tap my eardrums.  It’s Bowman and he’s slowed his pace for me.  Bowman was one of those exceptional trainees who you know is going to do something extraordinary with his Army career.  He had a surfer dude mentality but he finished everything with startling tenacity.  When the drill sergeants scream at him, it’s mostly because they’re frustrated at his lack of weaknesses.  He’s the calming force everyone looks to when “shit hits the fan.”  He whispers so the sharks don’t get him, “Want to finish with me?”  I whisper harshly back, “Dude, there’s no way.”  Bowman was FAST and always finished near the front of Alpha Run Group.  I still see that trademark relaxed smile, “Of course you can bro… find a rhythm.”  He starts exaggerating his breathing to show me his cycle and I begin to breathe with him.  Before you know it, we are passing people on the right and the left.  I finish near the front of Alpha.  I can’t believe it.  It’s the fastest I’d ever run in BCT.  Bowman was the guy who made Basic Training look easy, and I’ll assure you it was anything but.  Bowman somehow streamlined it.  I was jealous of that kind of ease he brought to the table.    

Nate Boyer is Bowman.  Somewhere on a different plane, they are one and the same.  I don’t know what Bowman ever did with his career in the Army, but I do know that he’s the guy you want in your unit.  He’s the calming force in a firefight.  He’s the guy that cracks the joke to lighten everyone’s mood, including his own.  Most of all, he’s a kind warrior.  He loves people and that’s what brought him into the Army.  He wants to help.  Nate Boyer was a Green Beret before he earned the Green Beret.  You’ve heard me speak about it before, but I believe these guys are bred differently.  They have a certain innate quality that makes them a special kind of warrior.  The regular grunts see them as the titans of the battlefield, ghosts that are always at the tip of the spear.  Talk to Nate and he doesn’t see himself as special.  Yet he is just that.  Line two in the Ballad of the Green Beret, which is partially mentioned at the top, is Nate Boyer captured in phrase.  "Men who mean just what they say...."        

I was devastated.  My camera was stolen and with it all of my pictures from my shoot with Nate.  How was I going to tell a guy who I’d traveled 2,000 miles to photograph that I no longer had his photographs because my camera was gone.  So I sent the text. 

“Damn man, I’m so sorry…” he replied.  I didn’t think he quite understood me so I told him all the pictures were gone once again.  When he realized what I was saying in full, he was upset… for me.  There was no prima donna behavior, no huffing and puffing, he was only concerned for me and my project.   “Well, now you’ve gotta come back bro!  More time for portraits…”  He somehow managed to lighten my mood.  I was back a couple of weeks later and we re-did the entire shoot.  That’s who Nate is.  Now I can say, Nate Boyer is a good friend.  The man who is in extremely high demand has never taken more than two hours to get back to me on a text.  Having been around him, I don't even know how he has time to pick up his phone.      

I’m driving.  Nate and I are hustling to get to a red carpet premier for "Operation Chromite" and traffic has slowed to the usual Los Angeles pace; snail-like.  Wait... I’m actually not driving.  Nate Boyer is driving my car.  I’m spilling Fat Sal’s all over my lap and he’s carving through traffic.  “Bro, you’ve gotta make sure you eat,” he remarks.  This is who Nate Boyer is.  He’s always putting others before himself.  I don’t think he actually knows how to put himself first.  We get to the red carpet premier and I see it firsthand.  He’s magnetic.  The crowd gravitates to him.  Why?  Why not?  Why wouldn’t you want to be around a man who at 23 paid his own way to Darfur so he could help refugees?  Why wouldn’t you want to be around a man who started off in a class of 140 candidates and finished with 11 Green Berets?  Why wouldn’t you want to hang out with a guy who’d never played a day of football in his life and walks onto one of the most historic college programs of all time?  Yet I didn't find Nate talking about himself at the premier.  I often found him pushing my project to the front, and talking about my mission being important.    

Not enough stories about his character you say?  Here’s another.  I’m at a Thursday meet-up for Nate Boyer and Jay Glazer’s group “Merging Vets and Players.”  The group is built on creating an environment at Jay’s gym “Unbreakable Performance” where veterans can come together and work with some of the best personal trainers in the world.  The reason for the group’s existence is to bring vets into a place where commonality is found amongst each other.  Some of these veterans have struggled in their transition as civilians, some have been homeless, and some just come together to be back in that brotherhood we all need so badly.  I watched Nate closely during this time at their pow-wow after the training session.  Nothing is off limits during this time.  He’s listening to a group member speak.  He’s not just pretending to listen so he can break in with his own astute remark at any given point.  He’s truly listening to each and every word.  He wants to know each individual’s struggles.  There are silent moments when a veteran brings up their struggle.  Boyer doesn't use those moments to jump into the conversation.  He simply listens and waits.  I think back to operator Tyler Grey’s statement.  “I don’t need you to fix my problems.  We just need someone to listen sometimes.”  Nate Boyer is the listener.  He’s the compassionate ear in a world full of selfishness and self-seeking attitudes.  Do I sound biased enough for you?  I am.  Spend two days with Nate Boyer and tell me you’re not absolutely captivated by him.  

I admittedly struggle in the veteran world.  I came into it with not much knowledge of charities or veteran organizations.  I have to seek outside connections in order to gain a network because I’ll be honest...  I wanted nothing to do with the military when I got out.  I wanted to play baseball and be a “regular” college student.  It wasn't that I didn't love my brothers.  It was more about seeking separation from that Army machine and the military way of life.  The good thing is I spent so much time as a civilian that I come into interviews with absolutely no bias.  I often know who the veteran is but I have no insider knowledge, so I come in with virgin eyes and ears.  Unfortunately, there is some egotism even in my world.  I can assure you, Nate Boyer is not a part of that.  He doesn’t see himself as entitled to anything.  I’ve said enough already, but I had to at least make an attempt to show you the character of a man that meant so much to the mission of the United States Army.  I’ll let him tell you the rest.    

Left: Nate Boyer with his Special Operations unit in Afghanistan.  Nate is seen far left.  Right: Boyer stands with an Iraqi Commando.    

What was the most frightening moment for you during your deployments?  

NB: I remember one particular time over there when I was a gunner on one of the humvees, and we were down in a valley.  Our convoy had just been hit with an IED, the commanding officer of the Afghan Special Forces unit we were working with had just been killed.  There was a catastrophic loss of morale within the Afghan forces of course.  They were very sad and they really didn't want to push on anymore.  It was one of those things where we were already in a bad spot and we were headed for an extremely dangerous village.  There were reports from ISR and some other people on the ground that had said they'd seen movement in the surrounding mountains.  ISR told us that there were snipers setting up in strategic spots so they could basically ambush the shit out of us.  We were in a very vulnerable spot at the moment, and the humvee I was in was near the rear of the convoy.  So, we spun around and headed straight for where we thought the Taliban was.  And it's kind of funny because this never turned into a firefight and I've been in some very heavy firefights where I didn't feel this kind of fear.  It's almost like the nervousness you feel before a big game playing football.  Once the ball is kicked off, you kind of feel like "Whatever happens happens.  I'm in the flow of it now."  You get hit a few times and it's not a big deal.  I had that same kind of pre-game feeling in this valley.  Those nerves pick up where you are almost 100% sure someone is about to shoot at you.  Here I am looking over the barrel of the .50 trying to find something to train my sights on and I just couldn't see anything.  There's crazy chatter going on over the radios and it was just super nerve wracking.  I'll admit I felt pretty scared in that moment.  And it's so interesting because it wasn't even in the act of engaging or being engaged.  I'll always remember that feeling.  

Nate was 11 out of 140 men in his class to earn the Green Beret.  It's a prestigious honor enjoyed by America's elite, silent warrior.

What was that first deployment like for you and what that was like for you?

NB: I remember feeling really confident going over there at the beginning until about a week into the deployment when I saw my first brother killed by an IED.  I remember the whole thing and pulling security while they were cleaning up his remains.  Our medics were treating the other two guys injured and everything happened so fast.  I felt like I was looking through a straw and my senses were absolutely overloaded.  I remember the smells and a certain taste of the smoke.  I will never forget that burning human flesh smells like barbecued chicken and it was weird for me to make that connection.  That was my friend and he smelled like cooked meat.  I remember thinking "What's cooking?" then realizing what that was and saying to myself, "Jesus..."  I had to get over that hump and I had to get over that experience.  That helped me relax when things were much worse down the road.  It was a moment like that where I felt the least confident and those are the ones that stick with me, unfortunately, not the "cool dude, walk away from the explosion while I'm throwing my sunglasses on," moments (laughs).  

Nate working out at Unbreakable Performance.  

What's the hardest part about being deployed?

NB: I'd say the hardest part about being deployed is really just the grind, man.  Finding your place and finding a rhythm in the routine in order to break up the monotony is always hard.  Staying focused on the task at hand and not worrying about shit that's going on back here is huge.  That was the hardest part for me.  Stuff happening back here in the states tore me up more than falling off of a building while chasing a bad dude on a mission (laughs).  The physical injuries and the toughness of the job and the dangers of those missions are hard but thrilling in many ways.  The worst part is the waiting game and the down times with boredom.  I mean that's part of being over there too.  Trying to get yourself up for it every day and motivated can be rough when you're not sleeping or eating much.  You don't get to train for scenarios as much as you want to over there either which is really hard in the special operations world.  Your gear starts to feel like it's this uncomfortable shell and you just start feeling like you're in a rut.  There are days where I didn't feel like going out at all.  I wanted a day off.  I don't want to pretend to like that one Iraqi officer I'm training so I can build rapport (laughs).  I just want to tell him he's a turd and he's ruining his men.  Obviously, you can't do that so you just "sack up" and put that big dumb smile on your face and get back to it again.  The guys next to you are counting on you.

What's the hardest part of reintegrating into the civilian lifestyle and coming home?

NB: The hardest part of reintegrating is just staying humble with what you've done and understanding that people in the civilian community just won't be able to relate.  As much as they say they will and think they will they just can't understand us.  And you can't call them out or make them feel stupid like they don't deserve to live in this country.  Veteran entitlement is a big problem in our community.  That's one piece of it.  The second part of that is not finding purpose or something driving you afterward.  Your deployments as a marine, soldier, or whatever you were called is not who you are.  It was a large part of what you did but it's not who you are.  You're not just a veteran.  You're so much more than that.  You're someone that sacrificed more than anyone else to defend something truly honorable for very little pay, and that's a great thing.  That's the type of person you are.  But who you are is whatever you want to be.  You define yourself.  You're going to get labeled and feel labeled when you get back.  Society is going to make you feel a certain way and push you in a certain direction.  They'll tell you stuff like, "You should get into contracting or private security or something military-like because that's what you did before."  If that's not something that's still driving you or motivates you then you shouldn't do it.  Don't just try to fall into a mold that society tries to put you in, because they truly don't know all that you are capable of.       

If you could tell a civilian one thing about how to handle us what would you tell them?

NB: I don't want to say to civilians, "Handle us with care" because that's not how we handle other people (laughs).  Just be clear and blunt with us in what your expectations are.  If we're going to have to start at the bottom, just be clear that we will have to start there and I'll complete the task better than anyone else will.  Keep the lines of communication open and be blunt with me.  If you want me on your team then tell me that.  I appreciate when people tell me they're thankful for my service but just saying that isn't enough if you truly believe it.  If you're truly thankful for my service there are so many other ways to show it.  Maybe that's just being there for a vet.  Just because you haven't been over there doesn't mean you can't be a shoulder to lean on.  It doesn't mean that we can't build up relationships.  The civilian and military gap is way too wide.  And honestly, a very large part of that gap is in our heads.  We are all human beings at the end of the day.  I mean my Army humor might be a little darker (laughs) but otherwise we are the same.   

Nate sits with Brett Bartholomew, the head trainer at Unbreakable Performance Center.  

What's the biggest issue with veterans taking their own lives and how do we effectively bring that number down?

NB: That's a great question, man.  We definitely need to realize that we are different.  We talked about that in the gym a little today with the MVP (Merging Vets and Players) guys today.  Yes, we are different.  Civilians look at us differently and we look at ourselves differently.  Different is not a bad thing.  In fact, I'd say it's a very good thing.  You're breaking the mold and you're not average.  Understanding that yes I've been through a lot, I've seen a lot, I've heard a lot but at the same time, I've overcome a lot.  I'm capable and I've sacrificed more than anyone.  Why would I be ashamed of that?  We need to realize these are good things and embrace those difference.  Nobody is perfect.  I've made more mistakes myself than anyone out there I've ever met, and I bet a lot of other people would say the same.  There are a million people who've been in your shoes and are feeling the same things you're feeling now.  People feel the way you do all over the world.  Civilians, veterans, doesn't matter who it is.  

 Think about those guys that did end up passing on whether it's by combat or their own hands.  How would they want you to live now?  How would they want you to honor their death?  Probably with the way that you live your life.  They wouldn't want you to keep continually mourning them and letting their memory sadden you.  It's a struggle.  I have that struggle.  This was my first Memorial Day where I just broke down.  I didn't even know where it came from.  I feel like it didn't even come from missing my brothers lost.  I feel like it might've come from a place of worrying about my brothers that have had a really hard time handling those losses.  I worry for the guys that are thinking of hurting themselves because they don't want to live with that pain.  That was why Memorial Day this year hurt me.  I know there are a lot of guys out there that were hurting really badly.  But I also look at how many veterans there are out there being great examples and encouraging one another.  They're proud of those sad moments and hard days because they knew they were a part of something greater than themselves.  Be proud of the fact that you're hurting sometimes, and that you have those scars.     

Why'd you join the Army?

NB: I joined the Army because of my time spent in the Darfur doing relief work.  I was over there in 2004 on the border of Chad and Sudan during the genocide and I hadn't really thought seriously about the Army.  But at that time I came to an understanding where I felt like I needed to protect people in places like that.  They needed someone to fight for them because they couldn't fight for themselves.  There was more to be done than just the traditional humanitarian mission.  I felt the need to help stabilize and train them in a way where they could defend themselves.  When I actually made the decision I was sitting in Darfur with malaria, and I was sitting next to a radio listening to Fallujah going down on BBC.  I just remember that moment and being like, "Shit, maybe that's what I should do next."  

So you talked about your time in Darfur.  Why did you choose to go over there? 

NB: I was living in Los Angeles and I just felt like I hadn't done anything for anyone else in a long time.  I felt like everything I was doing was for my own personal gain, and it wasn't that I didn't care about other people.  I was working with autistic kids when I lived out here so I had an honorable job, but at the same time I didn't have perspective.  I'd never been anywhere else except on vacation to some places that were pretty nice.  I had a very comfortable upbringing living in America where your upbringing is way better than anywhere else in the world, even if you're not rich.  We are the true one percenters on the planet.  When you look at the big picture and the rest of the planet, we're so much better off.  It was actually a Time Magazine article that I read about the tragedies in Sudan and those images really hit me hard.  There were young men who'd been maimed, women who'd been raped and mutilated, and the older men were dead already or off fighting.  Whole villages were burned to the ground and it was just complete genocide.  I felt moved to participate and help the people who'd been struck by that atrocity.  

How is that brotherhood of Special Forces so unique?  

NB: I think the bonds can be tighter in a Special Forces unit in some ways because it's such a small team.  You spend time with eleven guys and that's such a small group that you're bound to get tight.  You become really close with those guys and it's all guys that train at an elite level.  From my first days to my last days out there, I was always learning.  I was never like, "Alright, I've got this figured out," because I'm a Staff Sergeant or whatever.  If you're a Staff Sergeant in a Special Forces Group you're still at the bottom of the totem pole (laughs).  That's what I really enjoyed.  I think it's been said in your blog before by other guys that even in Special Operations units there are still some shit bags, but for the most part that's mitigated by how damn hard the training and selection process is.  Anyways, you become really tight with those guys because of those factors.  I remember on my first deployment to Iraq I was living in the same team house with just these eleven other guys for ten months and that's every day spending every moment with them.  Whether you're training, eating, in a gunfight, or playing HALO you're doing it with them.  They become blood brothers where you even bicker over the same stupid shit that you'd bicker over with your brother growing up.  It's definitely a tight bunch.   

Michael John (Makeovers that Matter, a charity that specializes in giving homeless female veterans free haircuts and makeover). 

Michael John (Ra) is a hair stylist that started Makeovers that Matter, a charity that gives makeovers to homeless, female veterans.  

How old were you when you joined, what units, and where did you deploy?

NB: I didn't go off to Basic Training until I was 24.  I was an 18-Xray and I started out in 1SFG (First Special Forces Group) in Okinawa.  I'd only had my Green Beret for about three months when I was chosen for CAG Selection (this selection is for Delta Force Operators).  I was fortunate enough to be selected and went through OTC.  I think Army time wise I was the youngest to ever be selected for that and I was way too green.  I barely had been in two years and all that time had been spent in the school house (training in Special Forces terms) so I didn't have that real world experience that you needed to make that unit.  So they put me in 10th Special Forces Group and into a HALO Team in Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion and I remember getting there for pre-deployment training.  I met my team and we went straight into Iraq.  I transitioned after five years into the National Guard with 19th Special Forces Group.  I did two deployments with them to Afghanistan while I was playing college football.  

Can you talk a little bit about what you're doing now in the community and how you personally are trying to help our community? 

NB: Merging Vets and Players (MVP) is extremely important to me and you got to experience that today a little bit.  We're working primarily with veterans in the Los Angeles area that are really struggling.  A lot of these guys have attempted suicide.  Most are homeless or have been homeless at some point.  They are all OIF and OEF vets so they're young guys.  To see them come alive at least on a weekly basis and come get trained by some superstar athletes is awesome.  The Randy Coutures, the Chuck Lidells, Jadeveon Clowney was working out with us last week.  Demi Lovato has spent time with us, and even shared her story about how she's struggled with having doubts about continuing on with her life.  Those relational moments are so important and those bad feelings we have are normal.  They're obviously not good feelings but they're common.  You don't want them to consume you and run your life, but they can happen to anyone.  PTSD is a human condition, not just a veteran condition.  So MVP has been huge in my life and it's just getting started.  It's only been six months since we started it.  To watch these guys grow every week and to witness the attitude improvement is so phenomenal.  The guy that spoke today about the plays he's been writing.  That guy was addicted to some heavy drugs not very long ago and living out on the streets.  Now he's writing plays.  

The other one that I'm really proud of is called Waterboys, which was started by Chris Long who was a defensive end for the Patriots.  The initiative I started within that group is called "Conquering Kili (Kiliminjaro)."  Last year I took a single leg amputee out to Tanzania to attempt to climb Mount Kiliminjaro and in the process we raised about $110,000 for clean water wells.  We were able to be at these Maasai Villages with these warrior and watch them dedicate the wells to the people.  They were extremely grateful and thankful.  I was able to finish the climb but unfortunately, the Marine I climbed with had some issues with his prosthetic.  He's an above-the-knee amputee which is a completely different thing than below-the-knee.  He was not able to complete it but he's going to reattempt this year and we are going with a big group this time.        

Michael John (Ra) is a hair stylist that started Makeovers that Matter, a charity that gives makeovers to homeless, female veterans.  

Michael John (Ra) is a hair stylist that started Makeovers that Matter, a charity that gives makeovers to homeless, female veterans.  

Can you explain the duality of being a Special Operator, pulling the trigger, and being a peace lover at the same time? 

NB: What a lot of people don't understand about Special Operations and especially in Army Special Forces is that the humanitarian mission is so huge.  It's a huge part of being a Green Beret.  It doesn't mean that we are just over there handing out bags of rice or something like that.  It means we are doing foreign internal defense.  We are training locals and building relationships with the indigenous people of these countries.  We spend time with them and effectively live alongside them while fighting against a common enemy in terrorism.  I don't think people quite grasp that yet.  I think people still have this vision of the guys in camo versus the guys in a dish dash or whatever.  That's not what this is at all.  They don't understand that.  At the same time, yes you're highly trained in discriminating targets whether they're a threat or not.  Even when they have a weapon that doesn't mean you just take them out.  War is heavily complicated and it's an operator's job to know the depths of those complications.  The mission is to build, not to destroy.  We don't go over there, most of us (laughs), just to take ears and make necklaces of them.  That's just not the war we're fighting.  It's a really complicated situation as it's not just an "us against them" kind of thing.  It's very difficult and intricate.  It's hard to trust a lot of people over there but it's all necessary in order to have success in the mission.

If you could explain it to a civilian how would you explain how difficult it is to make it through the selection process and into a Special Forces team?

NB:  There's nothing in civilian life that you can compare to the Q Course (Special Forces Selection), to be completely honest.  How do you quantitate what that training is like?  It's the hardest thing you can possibly do and it's 90% mental.  The guys you look at when you go through a lineup of those guys and think they'd make it, don't make the teams.  There's a lot more unassuming guys that make it because it's truly the six inches between the ears that matter the most.  It's above the neck that matters and not below it.  That's really the best answer I can give.  It's extremely relentless and takes an enormous amount of endurance.  Your true colors come out in selection very quickly.


Nate with John Burk of In the Arena Fitness.

So, building off of that last statement, what's the hardest part of our conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Why are those wars against terrorism so complicated?

NB: I don't know, man.  I think if I knew the answer to why our wars on terror are so complicated, someone else would've figured that out first.  We wouldn't be having these issues if we had all the answers.  It's an issue because it's an issue.  Otherwise it wouldn't be an issue (laughs).  I don't know.  I just know that special operators in particular are trained to do the job with a small team, that's done with a much larger unit in the conventional military.  It's not that the conventional units aren't as important.  We're just trained to do it with a smaller footprint.  We need to continue to train, advise, and assist as much as we can in order to stabilize these places.  It's an uphill battle.  Just today we heard about another attack in Paris (Nice) and it seems like it's almost an impossible endeavor.  But to me, it's like what else are we going to do?  Are we not even going to attempt to help these people?  We just let them be oppressed and be murdered?  I'm not going to do that.  I don't think that's right.  People always talk about, "Well, we've gotta deal with American problems first."  We don't have problems here like they do there.  All these attacks that have happened lately are horrible, but this stuff happens every single day over there.  This stuff happens all over places like Africa every day.  Just because we aren't as actively engaged over there doesn't mean it's not happening.  I think we are just as needed there too.  I don't see this war as us building an empire.  It's us fighting against evil.   

Nate speaks to his MVP group.  Jay Glazer and Nate started the group to provide outreach to Los Angeles veterans.

If you got to choose your legacy how would you want to be remembered? 

NB: I want it to say on my tombstone, "Welp, he tried..." That's it, bro.  Then they lower me down and the guy flicks his ash onto my rotting corpse six feet below(laughs).  

Did you feel stigmatized when you got back or do you ever feel detached? 

NB: I feel detached still sometimes but I need that.  I need my "Nate time," I guess you could say. I want to be detached sometimes.  I want to be on my own doing my own thing and some of my greatest ideas come from that place where I'm isolated a little bit.  Now, if I'm in a dark place, that may not be the best idea.  I may need to spend some time with my friends and get away from that place of detachment.  But at the same time, it can be healthy to be on your own for a little bit.  We need that independence and to really think about what we want sometimes.  If you're shady or fifty percent with stuff, people won't respect you, so there are times where you need to express to people that you need that time.  I mean I have times where I get irritable or stressed out, but I know how to manage that.  Not all of that stuff is bad stress to and sometimes it's good to have some pressure.  Personally, I perform very well under pressure.  Embracing that and letting that live in me is okay sometimes.  Let that be a part of you and don't let it control you, but constant suppression isn't the answer.  If you fight it and constantly try to run, it'll keep coming back.  It's like a girl in many ways.  If you keep backing off you'll find she keeps coming after you (laughs).

Nate with Boone Cutler, host of "Tipping Point" a nationally syndicated radio show that highlights veteran issues on a weekly basis.  

Nate with one of the special guests of the Operation Chromite Premier, a veteran of both Vietnam and the Korean War.  

So how do we build a bridge between the civilian and veteran communities?

NB: We have to be sensitive to the fact that civilians won't be able to relate to our experiences and also not prideful about those experiences.  Just because they didn't serve their country doesn't mean that they're worthless and they haven't done something great.  They can still be valuable to our nation as well.  The whole purpose of what we do is so that we do have freedoms back here, and so that people can do all these other jobs.  That's why only a small percentage of us do serve so that the others don't have to.  To come back here with a sense of entitlement and thinking people owe you, just isn't right.  You volunteered.  Nobody made you serve in this day and age.  Civilians don't owe us anything.  And let me be clear that I've been guilty of it too.  I've had those moments where I've wanted to pull the "veteran card" and sort of say, "You can't do that to me!  I served this country."  You've got to stop and just realize that kind of attitude isn't helping anything and what you're truly doing is furthering the divide.  I'm doing the opposite of helping and kind of blowing the bridge up if I'm doing those kinds of things.  It's important to open up the dialogue with civilians and coming into the civilian world you may get a couple extra opportunities because of your service, but you're still going to most likely have to start at the bottom as the new guy.  You need to be eager to learn and swallow your pride.       

How did your time in service help you as an athlete and in other parts of your life?

NB: I didn't have a work ethic until I joined the Army (laughs).  I didn't know you had to sacrifice to be great at something, and it's a lot of sacrifice to be great.  It's not just going to the gym every day or eating right.  Your whole life has to be ordered so that your priorities are directly in line with your goals.  To be successful at that level is so much work.  Once I understood that it took that prioritization to be successful, it was so much easier.  It was easier than I thought it was because I truly poured myself into the work.  I made the team and won the starting job at UT in a position I didn't even know existed because I'd never played football.  I had no knowledge but I enjoyed watching it.  


Nate at the Operation Chromite Premier.  

Do you remember the moment when you made your biggest impact overseas?

NB: I think my biggest impact might've been on my first deployment to Iraq.  We weren't even getting it on in combat or in firefights every day at first.  We were training these Iraqi Special Forces and Iraqi SWAT Teams from the bottom up.  We put these guys through the selection process and you saw how much pride they had in becoming a part of that unit.  I remember when we finished the graduation class and we gave out these little paper certificates.  A bunch of these dudes had tears in their eyes because it was the greatest thing they'd ever accomplished.  It was like a couple weeks of our mini hell week.  That was pretty cool to see them accomplish that then we go off and fight alongside these guys.  Even though most of them are older than you, they're kind of like your special project or your kids that you coached.  Those kind of relationships were great and building those bridges were incredible moments, especially when there are times over there where you're wondering why you're there.  I don't want to say that those moments make everything make sense, but you feel justified at least in being over there.     

Nate with John Burk, Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said, 5 Bravo, Enlisted Nine Fight Company, Grunt Style, Soldier Hard, REDCON 1 Music Group. 

Nate with the MVP group.  

I was photographing an event for a major veteran's organization about a week back and standing next to one of the video operators.  We were in Tacoma, Washington for a group of runners carrying Old Glory on the first leg of their run.  The cameraman had never served but he asked me something simple, yet extremely profound.  "Do you think we'd have war if there wasn't pride?"  I laughed at first until I realized how truly deep such a question was.  Admittedly, the question followed me the next day on my plane ride back to Texas.   

To answer his question, no, I don't believe we would have war if pride and egotism didn't exist.  I can tell you that if we had a world full of Nate Boyers there'd be no reason for it.  Humility.  I find few qualities harder to come by in this current state we find ourselves in.  If we were all able to come to the table while admitting our failures, realizing being different is okay, and not being violent with those who disagree; how could there be a need for warfare?  The Boyers of this world are few and far between, a dying breed if you will; but they truly live by the mantra of the humble warrior.  Thank you Nate.  Thank you for being a gracious warrior.  Thank you for your humility in the midst of an often selfish world.  Thank you for living up to the credo of the Green Beret.  

If you don't already do so, follow Nate Boyer on Instagram at @nateboyer37, like his Facebook fan page Nate Boyer, and follow him on Twitter @NateBoyer37.  Thanks to Jay Glazer and Brian Urlacher's Unbreakable Performance Center for allowing me to follow Nate throughout his workout.  Check out Unbreakable Performance Center.  Check out hair stylist Michael John's mission at Makeovers That Matter.       



Tim KComment