by Rusty Brooks

USMC Veteran

Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs

Instructor and Team Leader


Ice in my heart, cold blood in my veins. Years of the rifle left me estranged from society, filled my head with anxiety. I became numb to deal with the world that had gone insane. I was subtle, subtle like a freight train, with a broken heart and hate inside of me. Blinded by the material world that sold lies to me. Liquor and lust filled my left hand while my right twist the throttle, through the strobe light of adrenaline, sex, and empty bottles. Violence and vengeance filled my grit teeth and clinched fists, while nights of lust just added more women to my list. Kissed by death through the haze, 273 days, I escaped that abyss. All those fake friends amputated from my life like my leg. Cliché and outdated, I expected better, but flies will lay eggs. Confidence and body shattered, all the dreams that mattered, scattered, diving back into the blindness. I define this time in my life as the blackness. The fact is it was easier to stay there than the effort to get out. I never back down from a challenge, so I kicked in the door and burned down the home of self-doubt. Each step of my climb seemed to put the top further out of reach. That only strengthened my resolve allowing no thoughts of quitting to breach my fortress, no sorceress to sing her way into my heart with actions contradicting her speeches. Changed my way of thinking with the wisdom that God teaches. To each his own, I found my path to climb. Resigned myself to never quit learning.

The burning inside, ignited a spark of confidence that exploded into a star, when I looked back and saw how far I had come. My strength increased by a sum beyond all calculation. The weight on my shoulders came off, shedding years of pain and devastation. I opened my eyes, for what seemed like the first time to a new self-awareness, and declared this life as mine. I’m living in the sunshine. I look up now, and I can see the peak of the mountain in the sky. My enemy tries hard to temp me, sneak in and change my mind. I wasn’t designed to quit, so I lift my hands and let my birds fly. I’m holding aces, I’m throwing in all my chips. I have a hold of this mountain, and nothing can break my grip. I set sail long ago from that dark island, when I reached this new shore I burned the ships, because there will be no return. I set fire to self-pity, and regret, and watched it burn. I learned to love myself again. I’ll stand and die for what I believe in. I’m blessed to be a part of life’s university that I have a seat in. I no longer let riches and material things consume my thoughts. True happiness cannot be bought. No one remembers you by your possessions, but rather unequivocally by your actions. I’ve learned there is a difference between knowing the path, and walking it. I’m not just talking. If actions speak louder than words, I’m screaming. I’m seeing a greater meaning in life worth bleeding for. Therefore my new obsession is to leave something behind, from the lessons I have learned, before I go into that big goodnight.

I’m telling people to fight for a better life, leave the dark, and escape the insanity, rise up and leave a positive mark on humanity. If your opponent continues to knock you down, keep getting back on your feet. Dig deep in your heart, and don’t accept defeat. Give it everything you have, stop thinking in terms of success or failure this very day. Let those be the thoughts, and words of those who lack the courage to enter the fray. I challenge you to make a stand. Demand the life you dream of, and start living. Give something back, and leave a path to follow. Find the light within yourself, escape the starkness, and through confidence, shine like a beacon for others to follow out of the darkness. Swallow your pride; be the man you are inside, and lead your people to higher ground. As long as I’m alive, I will strive to lift people up around me, because this life isn’t just about me. It’s about the man on my left, and the man on my right, and for my brothers, to the last breath I will fight. I am a drop of water falling in a pond, but the ripple I make, reaches far beyond. If you want to reach a higher level, leave your comfort zone. You’re not alone; we all have to fight.

Don’t go gently into the night. I’m here to show you something real, shed my armor, and humbly reveal my vulnerability. I’ve learned the value of humility, I use my abilities to bring others out of the dark to see the summit, and climb with me. I’m not selling snake oil, this is no hoax, we will rise from the ashes to become mighty oaks. By the bonds of brotherhood we unite, to stand for a higher purpose, and fight the good fight. We’re burning torches to light the way to glory. This is my legacy, what’s your story? Where ever you are fighting, where ever you may be, stand up for what you believe in, and don’t go quietly.

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