[January 22, 2021] Many years ago, shortly after the tragic events of 9/11, when Muslim terrorists hijacked three commercial airliners, crashing them, and killing nearly 3,000 Americans, two of my soldiers said something that surprised me. The events of September 11, 2001, were fresh in our minds when these Soldiers said they wished they were on those airplanes.
Not only did this pique my curiosity at the time, but I got to ask a question everyone wanted to be answered. “Why would you wish you were on these hijacked airliners?” Then came the second surprise of the day. Both said that if they had been on any of these planes, maybe they could have helped save those on board.
“I can do it!” was these Soldiers’ motto. I know, they told me so. Give them a task, and they would do anything – legally, morally, and ethically right – to get it done. Another similar motto from my days working with Army Engineers was the saying “Essayons”1 (in French) or just simply, Let Us Try. “Get ‘er Done” is another.2
“The moral is to the physical as three is to one.” – Napoléon Bonaparte
The phrase, I Can Do It, is not about ego, bragging, or overconfidence. In my many decades of service in one of the most dangerous occupations, I have found that those who say this also can do what they think they can do. Typically these are very rugged, focused, masculine men. Little scares them, but they will step forward when called.
The first step to get something done is to convince yourself it can be done. Those who claim victim status or who are first to run and hide can never be satisfied with the world. They cannot be happy because they can never accomplish the impossible. Like my WWI Doughboy neighbor3 who “lost” his rifle at the Third Battle of the Aisne, het was able to pick up another because so many were lying around. Nothing would deter him.
I’ve said many times that combat brings out the bad in men and the good. Yet, a war for the men I’m writing about is not required to make them good. They are good men. They are the ones you want around you when things go sour on the battlefield or in corporate American. They are dependable, protective, loyal, and mentally and physically strong.
As I have pointed out before, a passage in the Bible is often mistaken. In Matthew 5:5, Jesus said that the “meek shall inherit the Earth.” The translation from Greek is a misinterpretation of a Biblical phrase. Meek refers to someone who is capable of force and decides not to use it unless needed.4
I take several lessons from these two Soldiers. First, masculinity works to help those in harm’s way. Second, it gives me hope that not all of the younger generation is swayed by the global narrative that “we are all one people and should get along.” Third, a positive attitude, willingness to take risks, and confidence are not lost in our society. These are good signs for the future.
- US Army. Engineer unit mottos (military-quotes.com)
- Leaders Get er Done | (theleadermaker.com)
- The Doughboy Next Door | (theleadermaker.com)
- A little more accurately, it refers to those who have swords and know to use them but are determined to keep them sheathed.