This week we kick off our series about The Warrior’s Heart with Josh Mantz, who was shot and killed in Iraq but came back to life – now he’s on a mission to help veterans and non-veterans alike recover from the emotional wounds that severe trauma can cause.
Two mentors and role models had a significant influence on Josh’s life, and his decision to be a soldier.
The first was his stepfather, a police officer and former infantry officer who brought Josh into a military and police family. He had an incredible positive influence on Josh’s life, and got him thinking about the military as a possibility.
Second was a gentleman named Sergeant Major Doug Van Der Pool. After retiring from the special forces, where he ran anti-drug operations in South America, he took over the Junior ROTC program at a small high school in Pennsylvania.
SGM Van Der Pool and Josh’s stepfather drove home the importance of appreciating foreign cultures, appreciating the capacity of human beings wherever they come from, learning language, understanding cultural norms, and understanding empathy.
Josh entered West Point in 2001 and graduated in 2005. His class is considered “the class of 9/11” because they were freshman on that fateful day, and four years later there was no doubt that they would be sent to fight.
Josh and the other cadets wanted to quit the academy – not to leave the fight, but to enlist and ship off immediately – but, for the most part, they waited and graduated.
The Day Josh Died
Because Josh majored in Arabic, his unit was partnered with the local Iraqi police force and tasked with training them.
One day, they were on a humanitarian mission to deliver school supplies. The operation went off without a hitch, and the Iraqi police did a great job. On the way back, a RPG was fired at an American unit.
While investigating, they noticed a suspicious vehicle driving in the area. They stopped the car, and then they were engaged by an enemy sniper. A bullet ripped through the aorta of the Staff Sergeant and then severed Josh’s femoral artery.
At first, Josh didn’t know he was shot. Time and sound were distorted. “I could only hear the muted sound of the sniper shot and my own voice calling for a medic.”
Despite a brilliant evacuation effort, Josh started to die. “I consciously knew that was it. I took my last breath, said my last thought, and I died.”
His last thought was, “Please take care of them.”
Two days later, Josh woke up in the green zone. He had flatlined for 15 minutes straight and, while he survived, his Staff Sergeant did not. “I would soon come to learn that the experience of dying would pale in comparison to the decade-long emotional struggle that I’d go through as I sought to find meaning in a second life.”
The Beauty of a Darker Soul: Overcoming Trauma Through the Power of Human Connection
Trauma isn’t always what it seems.
It took almost a decade of struggle for Josh to uncover the meaning in his second life – and to admit that the experience of dying wasn’t the source of his trauma… It was the guilt in his ability to heal when so many others in the hospital couldn’t.
This may seem like an unimportant distinction, but when it comes to the resolution of trauma, it’s incredibly important to do the forensic investigation and piece the sequence of events back together, in context.
Josh wrote his upcoming book, The Beauty of a Darker Soul, to help others uncover and validate the true source of their pain, too, and to give them a shared language they can use to express that pain productively.
You can join the Darker Souls community and get news about the release of the book at DarkerSouls.com.
Don’t be a podcast junkie…
- Learn more at DarkerSouls.com
- Watch: “Overcoming Moral Injuries | Joshua Mantz | TEDxSantoDomingo”
- Watch: “My Second Life — Joshua Mantz”
- On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman
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Production & Development for The Impact Entrepreneur Show by Podcast Masters