As a young boy exploring the mountains of Northern California, I felt compelled to protect those smaller and weaker than myself. Although I was just a child, I was bigger than the other kids. I didn't regard my childhood stature as an excuse for bullying; rather, I chose to protect my smaller counterparts from the abuses of bullies (many of whom, admittedly, were also much smaller than myself).

During my early exploits, I was able to protect others while experiencing little risk on my own behalf. That all changed when I joined the military. I was well aware of the physical, mental and emotional risks, but instead of scaring me off, these made me even more convinced of the importance of offering up my service as a protector, not only of other servicemen, but of liberty itself.

My passion for protection was definitely tested in Iraq, when my detail was targeted. Somehow, my three cars managed to make it through a particularly dangerous intersection without getting hit. Unfortunately, those behind us weren't as lucky. We lucked out, however, as the roadside bombs were placed poorly enough to ensure that our forces remained safe. The only damage was a single dent in one of the bumpers -- and this was merely the size of a thumbnail. This was certainly a relief, but at the same time, it was truly terrifying, as this could have been a devastating incident. Imagine if the enemy had actually proven competent? If they had known exactly where to place those roadside bombs, I might not be here to share this story. A combination of traffic and poor timing on our part was ultimately to blame, teaching me that bravery, on its own, is not enough; excellent preparation is absolutely essential.

The battlefield, with its many physical and mental dangers, is the ultimate atmosphere for personal growth. That being said, only a fool would take advantage of the growth offered in overtly dangerous settings while ignoring the opportunities that, while quiet and unassuming, are every bit as essential.

Bravery is, unfortunately, often associated with stupidity. When a warrior puts himself at risk, naysayers claim that he is either incredibly brave... or incredibly stupid. I, however, have found the opposite is nearly always true: the bravest individuals are, more often than not, the most insightful. They know exactly what they are sacrificing and why that sacrifice is necessary. Although they remain optimistic for the best, they also make a point of preparing for the worst.

Mental preparation is necessary, of course, but physical readiness is also required. In addition to keeping the body strong, healthy and ready to handle whatever challenges the battlefield might present, a warrior must come equipped with high-quality gear befitting of the situation at hand.

For me, choosing the right gear for the task at hand was paramount. With the advance in technology, the gear we use has evolved as well. Some of the gear that was with me during my most grueling days in the Bad Lands, has also been with me during the softer, gentler times during which I also showed exceptional growth as a warrior ...and as a human being.

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