By Luis Rosa
So, I feel like I should explain something. I really don’t feel like I can call myself a Ranger. Bear with me now, it can get complicated.
Of my 9 years in the Army I spent 3 of them at 6th Ranger Training Battalion. While there I learned a great deal. “A great deal of what?” you may ask? Everything. I learned what it was to be a true leader, a warrior, an animal, a man. I learned about tactics, light and air-borne operations and that a tarmac really sucks when you land on it during air field seizure training. I also learned what a Ranger is.
A Ranger is a lifestyle of great pain and sacrifice. It involves war at an intensity that would make the greek god, Mars, say “Fuck that shit.” It involves training so hard that war is actually a nice breather. Most importantly I learned that a Ranger isn’t a sums of schools but a standard. It’s that man that pushes harder even though his body quit miles ago. He will strive for perfection and keep going because it’s still not good enough. The Ranger standard means that you will never accept out of yourself, or those around you, anything less than your best. The Ranger creed is a pretty good summary of what is expected of anyone who thinks of calling themselves a Ranger. It outlines how one is expected to conduct themselves on the field of battle and in life. Period. There is no margin for error in this conduct and just one infraction will have you expelled from this society. Excellence breeds excellence and the amount of excellence churned out from this is exemplary (the amount of breeding too. Testosterone isn’t just for aggression).
Now, where have I been? I was assigned to 6th Ranger Training Battalion’s OPFOR platoon also called RSE (Ranger Support Element). Fancy acronyms aside I pretended to be the bad guy for the students going through Ranger School. I’d pop off blanks, yell “durka durka” and then play dead so that emaciated and unwashed student can jump on top off me and search me for intel. The students are then graded and I go do it again somewhere else. There’s a lot more to it than just that (we actually have to write it as an Oporder and plan it right and yadda yadda but this isn’t why I’m writing this) but when boiled down I was just a training aid.
So, that leaves me in an odd situation but a situation I’m glad to be in. As I said before this is how I learned what a Ranger was. I knew what I wanted to be and I knew what I had to do. From there I set about living the Ranger standard. From PT to home life to the battlefield I pushed myself beyond what I ever thought possible. On my last deployment that standard guided me through a hell of a battlefield. I wouldn’t let anyone take point from (despite WAY too many near misses) because the standard demanded I be stronger than my enemies and lead from the front [I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it be and then some]. When a sniper took a shot at me he ended up passing that round between my legs and hit my buddies leg instead. I turned around shouted for the medic and when he didn’t immediately respond I began to run to the back to go get him. I took a few steps and realized “Shit! Morales is still in the open”. I turned back around to face my enemy and took a couple steps closer to the middle of the road. You see, Mo was in the open with absolutely no chance of cover. I knew, if he was going to live I needed to get that sniper off of him. So, I started blasting everything down the street and made myself a juicy ass target alone and in the open [Never shall I fail my comrades]. It was only thirty minutes later that my life changed forever.
While assaulting up the street I was blown up. I woke up after two weeks in a coma. When I first opened my eyes I was blind (I could see light and the outline of people), deaf and mute(my jaw was wired shut from massive facial fractures and I was breathing through a tracheotomy). I couldn’t move and soon realized something was really wrong. After taking quick stock of the situation I realized my senses weren’t the only things missing. Both my legs and my arm were gone too. Soon a red cross worker realized I could still write and got my a dry erase board. When people wrote big enough I could read it and respond by writing back though slowly. Though my situation was grave my first questions weren’t about myself. The very first questions I asked were “where are my men” and “are they OK?”
The following days were filled with terror and confusion. It was difficult to distinguish between the waking reality that was my nightmare and the realistic nightmares that was my sleep. To make matters worse I couldn’t tell anybody what was going on because I couldn’t speak to them. I couldn’t hear my families comforting words and their encouragement to help lay rest the demons. When I was able to get someone’s attention I still couldn’t fully articulate my needs on the dry erase board. All I could get out was “help” and “nightmares” or “chaplain”. This, in turn, would elevate my heart rate and blood pressure and the staff were forced to sedate my for my safety. But that didn’t help my plight. This only served to send me back to the demons that waited for me in my dreams. The same demons I was begging to get away from. As I would slip from conscience my mind would scream in agony “NO! DON’T SEND ME BACK! THEY’RE GOING TO KILL ME!” But they couldn’t hear me and they couldn’t help me.
Days passed and I had lost all will to fight. The demons delighted and I resigned to my hell.
In that moment, that moment when I willed myself to die, I surrendered to the only thing that had never let me down.
In one or two days time I made a recovery that defies medicine and even science. That will was returned to me and the demons were destroyed. I was transferred from surgical intensive care to intermediate care and a day later in to ward 57, recovery. Though I know God has not ceased to have a hand on me it was at this time that his direct intervention was no longer in play. Now, it was up to me. I began my physical and occupational therapy. I was introduced to the next phase of my life. Although the pace was overwhelming and the pain was always there I never for a second asked for a reprieve. I never ceased to keep pace and I never thought to stop. Do you know why? Because now that it was left to me to fight I fought with the only thing that fire and Hell could not take from me.
The Ranger standard.
With what I learned and what I observed while at 6th RTB I knew what a Ranger was. But, my dilemma is in the fact that even though I have modeled my life to the standard there is still one thing amiss. I have neither tab nor scroll. Even though I believe (and the Ranger community as well) that a Ranger is not just a piece of cloth on your shoulder, I still have not lived inside the regiment. I’ve never hunted with the best hunters or even fast roped or done a spies/fries exfil. I don’t know what it’s like to stand in that Ranger School graduation and have my father pin on my tab. I don’t know what it’s like to take a scroll and affix it to my right shoulder. What I do know is that my strength derives from that standard and no matter what I will continue draw strength from that.
I get asked quite often how I’ve been able to do what I’ve done since the blast. I usually go on about theology and family support networks and vaguely in to military experience. But, a couple weeks ago I was able to catch up with someone that I haven’t seen since high school. Turns out that he had gone on the 3rd Ranger Bn and made quite a name for himself. His name is Nick Irving (I’m totally name dropping right now but I’m really proud of my buddy. Also, he has a book that comes out on the 27th, Reaper 33. BUY IT!).
The reason I bring this up is because he also asked me how I did it. Instead of going through all the explaining I simply said “the Ranger standard, man.” And, without another question he just says “oh yeah man.” He immediately understood because he feels, lives and knows the power of the Ranger standard.
The standard gave me life when the world sentenced me to death. But, since I am sans tab or scroll I won’t be putting any ranger bumper stickers on my truck or demanding free drinks or any such stuff. What I will do, though, is continue to live the standard and as a direct result, live. RLTW.
SSG (ret) Luis Rosa-Valentin 11B3P (not V