Facing the Impossible: A SWJ Book Review of “Warrior’s Creed” by Roger Sparks with Don Rearden
Franklin C. Annis
There are many things that I wished the military would immediately teach its new recruits. The first being the term “post-traumatic growth.” While the term post-traumatic stress disorder or “PTSD” is well known for its negative impacts on the veteran community, the concept of “post-traumatic growth” or the ability to grow past the most horrific situations is often unheard of. From the day service members enter the military, they should be aware that it is possible to grow from the most extreme experiences of war to be stronger just as a bone can heal stouter after a fracture. The next lesson is that the term “hero” should be saved for the dead. The concept of a “hero” is different in the military context. Those warriors that might deserve to be called “hero” as civilians understand this term, will often shy away from it out of humility. They will often express the fear they had in their moments of valor. Inspiring to be a “hero” in a military context would be an error, for it would be far better to inspire to be a true “warrior.” The third lessons is that an individual’s will or “grit” can lead him to overcome the most extreme situations. There is a definite power in imagining yourself if you could live up to the pinnacle of your physical, spiritual, and intellectual potential. The fourth lessons is that the military can be a profession or a vocation. While there is no shame in joining the military for a stable income or “college money”, once you are in uniform you will be faced with the hard choice of “doing your time” or embracing the warrior’s vocation. A warrior will seek to continually improve himself in all that he does. Being a warrior isn’t just about being in the military but learning how to master oneself in every aspect. While a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine might retire and return to “civilian” life, a warrior will remain a warrior regardless of ending their time in service. The fifth lesson is that the military as a vocation can inspire the best in men. There are countless young men and women that are largely lost in society searching for higher meaning in life and a reason to be called to discipline. Warriors play an important role in inspiring the next generation of warriors. This is especially true today as I believe we have lost much of the understanding of what the warrior class could be to our society. Finally, warriors cannot live without philosophy. Mastering the mind and body will require close examination of thoughts and an organized way to view the world.
The book Warrior’s Creed explains these lessons far more colorfully than I could. It is the life story of Master Sergeant Roger Sparks. This Recon Marine turned Air Force Pararescueman was recommended for a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during Operation Bulldog Bite in Afghanistan’s Watapur Valley. In this book, Sparks takes us on his journey to find and share his warrior spirt and live to a Warrior’s Creed. From being inspired by a Viet Nam Veteran as a young boy to be a Marine when his life could have easily taken a less desirable path to trying to make sense of his experiences in fighting for the lives of injured Americans Soldiers on a remote Afghan mountain top, his life story is told as if it was a guide on how to discover and build a warrior’s philosophy.
Reading this book, you will find Sparks as an example of American “grit” as he repeatedly refuses to allow himself to give up even when facing devastating injuries. He is a man that truly demonstrates the use of adversity to develop and grow in abilities. Like steel to a grindstone, Sparks constantly challenged himself to refine and increase his capabilities. He turned his hardships into tools for personal development.
Throughout the book you will find quotes Yamamoto Tsunetomo, 17th Century Samurai. In the work Hagakure, Tsunetomo sought to define the need for a warrior class in times of peace. Sparks was heavily influenced by the Eastern warrior philosophy. While the Japanese were not the only culture to create a highly refined philosophy to support a warrior class, it is one of the more iconic. Sparks makes excellence use of this philosophy in his own life and recommends the audience read The Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi for further understanding of this philosophy.
I can only describe this book as “honestly” written by a man that had nothing to prove as he spent his life demonstrating his ability to stand among the most elite warriors. Sparks’ use of colorful language and a total disregard for political correctness demonstrates his integrity to his worldview. This book will take you through some rather unpleasant adventures from climbing through sewer pipes with the French Foreign Legion to the realities of trying to keep critically injured men alive in an active fire fight.
As a former paramedic and combat medic, I found this book fascinating with the accounts of both battlefield treatments and wilderness rescues. While I would be extremely hesitant to ever compare my experiences with the likes of Master Sergeant Sparks, knowing the significance of the injuries he was treating put me on the “edge of my seat” several times. Not only was Sparks a true warrior in the martial sense, he also mastered the art of emergency medicine. In this way, he could be said a true archetype of a modern warrior. Here was a man fully capable of violently dominating the battlefield in times of war while in times of peace bringing all the disciplined skills of a warrior to save lives in the most extreme conditions. I have no doubt that his personal philosophy of being a warrior didn’t end with his time in uniform and you will find him a warrior till the day he dies.
This book will demonstrate how to do the insane and live through the extreme. Sparks provides the example of how audacity and valor might be the key to surviving in the face of an overwhelming enemy. This book provides a powerful example on how we can shape our own destinies if our minds are willing. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to re-examine their lives and claim more of the greatness that exists within. I hope it finds its way into the hands of many young Americans and they are reminded of the power of a warrior’s creed. While not all have the ability to be counted among the most elite of warriors, this book may still inspire the next generation of Americans youth to not only seek entrance into the U.S. Military and the Special Forces community but to embrace a warrior philosophy. But regardless where the reader will find themselves, either in uniform or out, the philosophy this book contains may be the key in unlocking their ultimate potential.