Every Man’s Call to Defiant Gratefulness (+ Book Giveaway)

by Marcus Brotherton on April 8, 2013 · 608 comments

in A Man's Life



By early morning, Nick the waiter was still sloshed.

He staggered into the upscale restaurant where we both worked as 22-year-olds. His eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and all the rest of that shift he worked with a gruff and annoyed attitude.

During break time, the other waiters and I ate our meal in silence. Everybody gave Nick space. Then the head waitress said, “So, Nick, what were you drinking last night?” And the story came out.

Nick had caught his longtime girlfriend cheating on him. He chose to be true to his feelings of anger, sorrow, and betrayal by emptying a fifth of vodka. But he still felt miserable. The problem was not resolved, and whatever angst he felt the night before was still with him the day after.

Can you relate? I know I can. Maybe not to all of the specifics of the story, but every man encounters adversity in his life and responds. I’m not talking about a barista at Starbucks getting your order wrong. I’m talking about genuine trouble—life-changing, throat-crushing, spirit-sucking hardship.

Here’s what I know now as a 44-year-old man. A quick and harmful response to adversity is what Nick did that day years ago. It’s easy to do as a man, and I’ve made the same mistake. But more important than the quick response is how a man sorts through adversity and handles it over the long haul.

Some men are defeated by adversity.

Some men are made stronger.


RV Burgin

R.V. Burgin

Consider the epitome of trouble: a life or death experience.

In a recent interview with me, 88-year-old WWII veteran R.V. Burgin described the first wave of Banzai charges he encountered during the battle of Cape Gloucester. Warning: he describes one night of pure hell. But listen to the stoicism and resolve in his voice 67 years later.

It was a sleepless night—I’ll put it that way. We could hear the Japanese in front of us as we were digging in. They were only about a dozen yards away. After dark they started yelling. You could just see their silhouettes.

What was making them come forward? I don’t exactly know. That was the Japanese attitude. You can picture it: an enemy soldier standing straight up with his rifle in his hands running straight at you.

One Jap charged right into my foxhole. I stuck my bayonet into his chest just as he was leaving his feet, heaved him right over my shoulder, and pulled the trigger, emptying my M1 into him. He was very dead when he hit the ground—I’ll tell you that. It all didn’t take but just a few seconds. I kicked him out of the way and didn’t give him another thought. I just paid attention to what was happening in front of me and got ready for the next charge.

They kept charging and charging. That was all that was going through my mind—“kill that bastard. Don’t miss. Make sure you get him.” You’re not thinking. You just try to get your sights on a man and get him down. I think most of us were wondering, “My God, how many times are we going to need to do this?! For crying out loud, how many of them are out there?” We fought off five charges that night. There wasn’t anybody who had much ammo left by daylight.

Do I remember what any one specific Japanese soldier looked like? Hell yeah. I can close my eyes today and tell you exactly what he looked like. Instead of running like we run, he had a funny fast-paced trot. Leggings. These tennis-shoe looking shoes. That brownish uniform. That silly looking helmet. Weapons—yeah, it’s that long rifle with mechanical sights—I’ve got one in my closet today. Unbelievable determination in his face—like nothing was going to stop him. Squint-eyed. Yelling. Hollering. “Marine you die! Marine you die!”

Oh yeah, I can see him. I can see lots of them. In the morning there were more than 200 dead Japs in front of us. You could literally walk on them without stepping on the ground.

I asked Burgin to reflect on that experience of horror in his past and how it affected him as a man today. Without missing a beat he said,

Quite frankly, I’m glad I got to fight in the Pacific.

Sure, the horrors never leave you. But I can say until my dying day that I fought with the United States Marine Corps. I fought the Japanese on the islands.

The men I served with were outstanding Marines. They were great men. Maybe the best warriors the world has ever seen.

That first line of his stops me cold. Read it again if you need to—Quite frankly, I’m glad I got to fight in the Pacific.

Do you see how staggeringly uncommon that is?

Burgin is actually grateful for the adversity. Not for the horror, no, but because of the benefit it produced in his life.

Burgin at 88

Burgin at a monument to fallen WWII vets at the Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg, TX. RV stands next to a placard dedicated to his brother, Joseph Delton, killed in the European theatre.

Because of that adversity, Burgin experienced unparalleled camaraderie with his fellow Marines. In that same narrative, he shows a huge level of pride in being part of an elite group of rough and ready men. During another part of the interview, he described how his training in the Marines provided a necessary skill set—how to be calm under pressure. This skill set helped him immensely with his career as a postal supervisor after the war, as well as in everyday dealings as a husband, father, and community member. Certainly not the same level of drama, but still settings where a man needs to be calm under pressure.

That’s the challenge for all men. Most of us will not encounter life and death situations, but we will all encounter serious adversity. The interplay with adversity is human and universal.

How will adversity sit with us? Will we work through it, acknowledging that the trouble was genuine trouble and yet knowing that it strangely helped form us into who we are today? Or will we become victims of adversity, forever dismayed by it, perpetually sorrowing at our losses, continually hurt by our disappointments?

In simplest terms: Will that hardship make or break us?


My term for Burgin’s attitude today is “defiant gratefulness.” It’s what I have a bit of already in my own life, and what I want far more of.

The “defiance” doesn’t mean rebellion. Rather, it’s a determined sort of gratitude. It’s an attitude of resolve. Defiant gratefulness is when a man says, Screw it, I won’t be destroyed by hardship.  In fact, I choose to see adversity as something that makes me stronger.

Imagine the opposite: what would your life be like if you never encountered any sort of a challenge?

A man who lives in a completely problem-free world—where he never needs to summon courage, or show backbone, or get along with someone who doesn’t agree with him, or have the fortitude to work out a problem without taking a hike—is a man untested. He’s a child.

Because of hardship, we see that we can be brave.

Because of hardship, we learn to have backbones.

Because of hardship, we are able to work amicably with people we don’t agree with, or we can shake hands in disagreement and walk away.

Because of hardship—and our ability to navigate through it—we become men.

Pulitzer-prize winning novelist William Faulkner (1897-1962) likened gratitude to electricity. “It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all,” he wrote.

In ancient history, St. Paul of Tarsus issued an extreme call. He was an older man by the time he wrote about the problems he had endured. Five times he was publicly whipped. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once an angry mob pelted him with stones. Three times he was shipwrecked and once spent a day and night alone on the open sea. Yet he extended this blanket call to defiant gratefulness: “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

The “all” is a tricky word to navigate. No, we are not called to be thankful for the hardship itself. Nick the waiter isn’t asked to be thankful that his girlfriend cheated on him, much the same way R.V. Burgin isn’t grateful for an enemy soldier trying to stick him with a bayonet.

Rather, we are called to be thankful through hardship. Or in spite of hardship. Or, thankful for what the hardship produces when we see beneficial change in our character.

Can you echo the words of R.V. Burgin—Quite frankly, I’m glad I got to fight in the Pacific—whatever the specific adversity was that you went through?

Are you defiantly thankful?

That’s the invitation offered to every man today.

Voices of the Pacific Giveaway


Voices of the Pacific, Marcus Brotherton’s latest book, (written with coauthor Adam Makos), released April 2.

Dale Dye, military advisor for the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific, said about the book: “These are the true—and terrifying—stories of combat Marines struggling against a fanatical enemy on the far-flung islands of the Pacific. A powerful new book.”

We’ve got a copy of the book signed by Makos, Brotherton, and 3 WWII veterans, and we’re giving the book away to a lucky Art of Manliness reader. To win a copy of Voices of the Pacific, just leave a comment related to your thoughts on the article.

Remember, comments are moderated, so it won’t show up right away; don’t comment twice.

One comment will be randomly drawn as the winner. Giveaway ends Monday, April 15th, at 5pm CT. Post will be updated with the winner within 72 hours after the giveaway ends.

Look for another chance to win a copy of Voices of the Pacific later this month when we interview Marcus for the AoM podcast.


The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered — your comments were truly thoughtful and interesting. One winner was randomly drawn and he is:

Eric from Farnhamville, IA

Look for the podcast this week for another chance to win a signed copy of Voices of the Pacific.


401 Adam Latham April 9, 2013 at 4:27 pm

A great topic. How a man deals with problems in times, either very severe, or day to day says who he is. The fact that this man chose to honor the most difficult time in his life if a wonderful lesson an reminder for us all. The world today needs more reminders of this type. Thank you for sharing.

402 Colin April 9, 2013 at 4:39 pm

This article is exactly what I needed to hear as I enter into this week of school! I have a lot to do over these next couple days, and more importantly for the rest of this semester and of my entire college career. Thank you very much for providing the manly insight and motivation needed to not merely hold out through the adversity, but to truly grow and become stronger by it, to conquer it.

403 Jack April 9, 2013 at 4:57 pm

This article reminds me of my uncle – - he served as a Marine Raider in the Pacific Theater, and I believe that he would have been there on New Gloucester with Burgin. He survived the war but it changed him. He was a heavy drinker and a sad man as his health declined in his later years. Interestingly, even with the shakes and a couple of highballs of whiskey in him, at age eighty, he was still a crack shot. And until the day he died he kept an old navy issue sheath knife nearby. One day, when I was a snotty teenager ’round about sixteen, he noticed me admiring it – - he handed it to me – - and then asked in a cold voice, “Do you have any idea how many men I killed with that? Most of the nips I killed, I killed with a knife, I could smell their breath.” I will never forget that – - it is a constant reminder that I walk in the shadows of a greater race of men than I will ever be. He was sixteen when he went into the Marines to avoid going to prison for running moonshine. By the age of eighteen he had done and seen things that would break those we think of as “real men” today. As he would say, God Bless the Marines! I say, God Bless Uncle Robert, wherever your are.

404 Greg L. April 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Sometimes in my life when I’ve experienced adversity, I’d ask myself “Why me?” This article helped me rewrite my view of that adversity and made me realize how much I actually gained from my experiences. This is something we have to continually remind ourselves of–that no matter what happens, we need to face it head on and use it as a stepping stone for greater things.

405 Phillip April 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm

All our experiences shape us into who we are. Defiant gratefulness is needed to take the adverse and turn it into a positive experience, to grow instead of shrink from the adversity.

406 Michael April 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I am in debt to not only father but also to my father in law. My dad was in the Army Air Corp and a POW in Germany for 13 months arriving at the stalag the day after “The Great Escape” occurred. He was a quiet man yet taught all of us to care for our fellow man and to give of ourselves. He wrote two collections of poetry regarding his experiences is now at rest, but lives in his children and grandchildren. My father in law was in the Pacific theater and fought in Cape Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa. He has lived with us for the past 4 years and I have yet to hear him complain. Both men are examples of defiant gratefulness – my dad witnessing the horrors of the Nazi camps and my father in law coming home from the battles in the Pacific and sharing his story on the website noted. Both have shown us to stand up for what is right even though it may not be popular. I miss my dad and am honored to share our home with my father in law who is slipping into dementia. He has given us so much. Defiant Gratefulness describes these two men for the hell that they endured and grateful for the chance to share their faith and love with all..

407 Bodie Spark April 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm

An interesting concept, I think Burgin’s words can be applied to a lot of things. Some of it makes sense even to my issues of depression.

Good read though, like a magazine without the fee.

408 Lori April 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Excellent article.

The WWII era truly did give us The Greatest Generation.

409 B. Allen Peterson April 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm

A fantastic piece and some fantastic advice. As always, AoM provides its readers with some serious food for thought.

410 Scott April 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I agree. I served as a pilot in the USAF. And, I’ve done search/rescue since. Doing both , I witnessed things that were not easily forgotten. One day it dawned on me that the way to deal with it was not to “forget it it” but to build inner strength. The way a tree becomes stronger internally from winds bending and stressing it in different directions throughout it’s life.

411 Matthew April 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm

This article is exactly what I needed to face the adversity of the coming weekend in presenting a graded oral argument. It is a good reminded to be thankful for all things, even the tests in life.

412 Zach April 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Thanks for writing an excellent piece that put a lot of things in perspective.

Most of us will never know hell like Mr. Burgin did, yet we carry a much worse outlook on life.

I hope I can now see my problems better as a test rather than just misfortune.

413 Todd W April 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Great post, I feel indebted to these great men and strive that I can become like them. It puts into perspective the miniscule things that get me discouraged and make me want to run and hide.

414 Waykno April 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Very good article. Even though we no longer have the draft, I think many men never know the privilege of serving in the military that they would not have missed if the draft was still in play. Sure, they could volunteer but choose not to, whereas the draft would take the volunteering part out of it. Many heroes were draftees.

415 Lou April 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm

“A man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” -Hemingway

Here, here! Great article and great story, be thankful for what you have and be especially thankful for the people who helped you get it!

416 Kevin Land April 9, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Thank you for the great read, Marcus. Last week I approached a potential employer, after weeks of planning how we might work together. He shot me down crushingly, and I realized that evening how much I need straight-talking business partners in my life. Luckily I have my own business with such people in my partners, and from last week’s experience I garnered yet another reason to reinvigorate my devotion to our production. I am eternally grateful.

417 Alex Mitchell April 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm

The way a man faces adversity is truly the best sign of his character. I have never face adversity at the level described in this article, and it’s a very poignant look at how a man faces adversity, but I always try to face adversity in a defiant or in spite of it manner.

418 Paul burbach April 9, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I think that if a person can look back at his life experiences, be thankful for them and understand that is what has made him who he is today and be proud of who his is that is a measure of a great life.

419 Josh April 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm

What a great story. This website is amazing.

420 Daniel April 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm

This is actually why I want to join Navy Special Warfare when I finish college: a man untested is no man at all. I want to see that my mettle is a match for my father and his father.

I think this is a far better articulation of why I want to do it than I could have come up with myself.

421 Jeremy R April 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Great article.

422 Robert April 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I like that you mentioned that it was a choice, because it is a choice. Although I don’t believe that it needs to be gratefulness, then again what I’m working through may just be too new and raw to look back and feel as such.

Rather I look at it as something that you can choose to take in and use to steel yourself, but just because you can use the situation to make yourself better doesn’t mean that you need be grateful, merely acknowledging it should do.

423 Bw April 9, 2013 at 7:23 pm

The epitome of manliness! There is so much we can learn from the men of WWII. It is a shame that we as a country are so quickly forgetting these heroes.
Thank you for sharing the story and the lesson.

424 Dan Blaz April 9, 2013 at 7:34 pm

As a Combat veteran, prior Drill Instructor, Parent and Marine of 15 years experience (and counting), I whole heartedly agree with your explanation of defiant gratitude. Burgin’s explanation of universal application of stoicism is absolute fact.

425 David Macari April 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Thanks to the men who have embraced hardship and faced their deaths for the benefit we enjoy today.

426 Mike April 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I’m really happy I read this article. As a current college student I don’t face the same adversities as the men of that generation and it’s tough to imagine being in that situation at my age. I’m especially grateful I read it since I will be joining the forces and I hope I will be grateful for the adversity I will soon face.

427 Max D April 9, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I am amazed by the seemingly endless library of encouraging articles challenging my constantly refined boyish nature. Thank you AOM for providing a place where I can find camaraderie and know when I choose to be a man I am not alone.

428 Russel Ferguson April 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm

I’ve read a few articles on gratefulness on this site and they have helped me grow tremendously. As the Student Senate President at my university it is hard to remember to be grateful when there is always another task to be done. However, that is when it is most important. My work as a student and a leader on campus has not only increased, but improved, in worth to me and my community, because I am grateful for it. I guess you could say the unappreciated life is not worth living anymore.

429 Kaylee April 9, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Another amazing WWII hero with an incredibly chilling and inspirational story. An excellent opportunity to reflect on our own lives and aspire to emulate the attitude and mental toughness of these fine soldiers.

430 Lucas April 9, 2013 at 8:06 pm

As a member of the Armed Forces I find this to be a very inspirational article!

431 Ken Moore April 9, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Great article. Those were different times for sure. However, the basics remain the same I believe. We all have challenges albeit not all life threatening. It is not easy making the tough choices unless you happen to be born with that “gene”. I enjoy the articles that come my way from this site and have shared it with a few buddies. Keep up the good work. Just sent my oldest son off to USMC boot camp.. Got the call last night that he made it safely. Hurrah!!

432 Ian V April 9, 2013 at 8:12 pm

As an active duty Marine, I am so grateful for those brothers who have gone before me and have set the standard that I try to match every day. SEMPER FIDELIS MARINES!!

433 Kevin Buck April 9, 2013 at 8:21 pm

What a great and motivating story. As a former Marine myself, I’ve always enjoyed the accomplishments of those that have served before me. This will be a great read. Semper Fi.

434 Josh P April 9, 2013 at 8:22 pm

To reflect on a past situation with true appreciation for it and the wisdom to know what you gained from that experience is not something taught. Our culture is pushing forward so fast men dont have as much time to reflect on the past, its all about what the next hurdle is.

It time to meditate.

435 Jesse April 9, 2013 at 8:22 pm

As a 28 year old former Marine this article hits home, not just with past experiences but with my future as a contributing member of society. I can’t think of old military men without thinking of Jack Jones of Centerville TX. He must have been 85-90 when I met him and had a Model T that he swore he could drive across the country. We formed a bond as as we were talking in his garage he told me stories of how he kissed his wife goodbye and said,”God willing I’ll get to kiss you again right on this porch.” 2 1/2 years later he did kiss her and they stayed married for the next 60+ years. I asked this WWII and Korean War veteran why he could do it, how he could do it, when my generation is stuck playing video games, being violent toward each other, wanting handouts and generally not living up to what a “man” should be. Mr. Jones said,” I grew up during The Depression. People say we are ‘The Greatest Generation’ and we aren’t. But we are the toughest…” Jack’s whole life was a testament to defiant gratefulness. Semper Fi.

436 Julio April 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

II immediately recognized the name-R.V. Burgin and was excited to read more about him. I remember him from reading E.B. Sledge’s Pacific War Classic “With the Old Breed:” He was my favorite Marine chronicled in the book and was in awe of his actions and bravery. He was a Corporal if memory serves and was the epitome of a gung-ho Marine. God Bless Mr. Burgin, you are my hero in the true sense of the word!

437 Craig Wolfgang April 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Amazing read and great sentiment. I agree 100%.

438 Christopher Pelletier April 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I teach at a High School with a lot of students that are…well politely I’d call it challenged. Many of them live in some kinda hell. Most of them come from broken households. Each has some unique story of difficulty and struggle that just leaves me wanting to shed manly tears of consolation and sadness at the end of some days. The worst part though is that so many of them don’t get the moral of this very article. That they could turn their struggles to strengths. Its a theme I’ve been trying to work into the classes but many (probably due to my inexperience as a teacher) don’t seem to get it. Some do though. Those ones will be a right, I think.

439 David Campbell April 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm

As a Marine, it makes my heart warm to hear from a past warrior such as R.V Burgin. And as it so happens, I am GLAD to have served in Afghanistan. There are no finer fighting men in the world than the United States Marines. Now and always.

440 Opher Banarie April 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm

How can we truly express the gratefulness we have for those who gave up their lives for our freedoms? God bless you every one.

441 Joe Kenyon April 9, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Great article. I love hearing stories from great people. I just lost my hero in January and the hardest part is not hearing all of his stories anymore. WWII took ordinary men, put them into extraordinary situations and brought out the best of our country.

442 Josh April 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Very good read. Very much needed with work related incidents this week. Thanks!

443 Chris H April 9, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Love the notion of “attitude of resolve”. This article reminds me of another featured piece on AOM – Rudyard Kiplin’s “IF”. Defiant Gratitude indeed.

444 Damian Gwak April 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Your articles are great, and this one especially. The interviewee’s story about his experience in the war really makes me reflect on my current state and life. I agree, be grateful at all times, not matter what happens!

445 Angel April 9, 2013 at 10:00 pm

almost bought this book the other night, its on my reading list for the future. Article was great, my husband is active duty and I see some of the same sentiments in him that are stated here. Life makes you stronger, its not easy, but he is a better person for what he has done over the last 15 years of service.

446 Ryan Hagenson April 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I must say, as a young, male college student, I think this defiant gratefulness is something most young men do not have. That makes it a true tragedy. I have met more men who scurry away at the sight of adversity than I have seen adversities met. The United States macroculture seems to say that no longer are trials to manliness accepted, but rather a man is made by age. I would find it difficult to believe a man in my university community has ever been called out or lost respect for avoiding difference, change, difficulty, or the blanket word, adversity. It seems strange to realize I have surrounded myself with young-men whom do not accept adversity. I include myself in this class of young-men, an admittance I regret, but know true.

447 Daniel April 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Thank you so much again for your wisdom and articles. I have been through adversity in my life having lost my house twice in floods, having to man up as a young father for my wife and kids. Your articles through the years have helped me be strong and to man up for the ones I love. You guys I believe have the best site on the internet.

448 Luke April 9, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Relevant to my life right now. And I couldn’t help but think about my grandfathers (one of whom fought in the Pacific theater) as I read it.

449 James K April 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm

My grandfather was a veteran of WWII and the Korean war, and he never told me stories of the war.
It’s horrifying to see the perspectives of others and wondering if he went through the same struggles.

450 Chris April 9, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I loved the tie-in with the apostle Paul. Very apropos!

451 Greg Duke April 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm

True words from wise men. Thank you for the invitation. Reminds me of another man: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.” -Thomas Paine

452 Erik Lindstrom April 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Defiant gratefulness, so counter-cultural and refreshing to hear about. Especially thankfulness in adversity when so many times I catch myself toeing the line with a challenge. Loved the article, inspiring through medical residency too. Good stuff to pass along.

453 Gary April 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm

This has meant a lot to me.. Sometimes what it takes in tough situations is to be grateful.. Even though I have never been a soldier, I can relate to what it means to overcome situations and give thanks, even when having to live with what a person remembers (whether good or bad)..

454 Lee April 9, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Marcus, Another great article. I have not had to endure the horrors of war but i did have somewhat a challenging upbringing with parents that were drug and alcohol dependent, mental health issues and quite violent which caused no end of adversity into becoming the person i am today. I know there are many people in the world that are far worse off than i was, even with bad parents, at least i had a house over my head, running water and food (most of the time), and that i lived in a country that is relatively peaceful with adequate education and healthcare etc.
I learned very young that you can’t change what cards you are dealt but you can certainly choose how to play them and how to learn from the experiences, and i chose to ensure my life was nothing like my parents, i chose to make sure i did reasonably well in school, that i didn’t fall into the generational cycle continuing alcoholism and drug abuse, in fact i chose to work in community services to help people, and lastly i choose to bring up my children in a loving and caring environment without being subject to much of what i was as a child.

455 Louis April 9, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I’m grateful that I had strong men in my early life. In dealing with adult problems of all kinds I’ve gone beyond wishing I could talk to my father or grandfather about them to remembering they gave me all the guidance I needed. I didn’t know it until I needed it.

456 Tim V April 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Thanks for the thoughts. As I read of times like these I am constantly reminded that my trials and tribulations are not note worthy. Even what seemed tough when I was in the Navy.

457 Brian Burress April 10, 2013 at 12:26 am

I love this article. It is exactly what drives me, the desire to experience more challenges and grow. It reminds me of the movie “Jarhead.” In that movie, they train and train and train, then go to war, but never get to engage directly in battle. They never get to experience the challenge to let them know how much they’ve grown, and they are very frustrated by the experience.

458 Bryan April 10, 2013 at 12:54 am

Defiant Gratefulness is a concept I have relived several times over my 23 years as a street cop. Working the southside of San Antonio, Texas For the last 14 of those 23 years has resulted in injury, stress, tears, cheers and an ocassional choir practice. Through it all, defiant gratefulness sums it up pretty well. I wouldn’t be the man I am. Nor would I be the husband, father, son, brother, neighbor or human being I have become.

459 Chad April 10, 2013 at 1:02 am

There is a reason that we called them The Greatest Generation. I hope that as a parent I can help my son follow in that kind of thought process instead of the more common attitudes of the current generation.

I think we may be starting to see a small percentage of the population going back towards this. The popularity of this site, for example and the feeling I know I have that there is something intrinsic of “man” that Is lacking is the first step.

Can we ever be as tough as The Greatest, I don’t know, but I sure hope we try.

460 Abraham Castillo April 10, 2013 at 1:21 am

Wow, I’m simply amazed at one who saw the opportunity to be toughened by his hardships. I can only hope that I see this in my own hardships and become a stronger man, on a physical level as well as mental and spiritual one. I’m honored to have learned of such strong men.

461 brad grundy April 10, 2013 at 2:20 am

try to deal with the diversity in a small town and to overcome demons in your life and have them walk by you daily and taunt you . i overcame the ready made lifestyle that awaited me from my parents and first wife and am gratefull that i got another chance to proove to my kids and my true love that i am not the victim of society that crumbles and fades away and i am glad i fought in the small town wars. never killed anyone but i have had to pile a few bodies on the other side of my fence, never seeing them again and not noticing or caring about thier existance. grateful for my good life now because of the bad

462 Adrien April 10, 2013 at 3:16 am

Well I believe it will be hard to get tested as much as those men but I think it is good to embrace adversity. Trying to get to your limits and get humbled by life that is a lifetime commitment to becoming a full man.

463 Justin April 10, 2013 at 3:59 am

We owe such a tremendous debt of gratitude to our WWII vets. I make a special point to shake each vet’s hand while saying, “thank you,” in the most sincere way. I believe that they truly appreciate the gesture.

464 Yuri April 10, 2013 at 4:13 am

Another great article about a situation most of us have been in. I can’t talk about any war experiences, but the love and losing your love part is one we surely all must have gone through at some stage. The crushing pain in your chest, the anger, the wonder why, the sadness…and maybe the feeling of losing one of your best friends. At the time and moment it seems like the end of the world. You feel you’ll never feel happy again. It will take time, and later, after some time you can see clearly again, and will realize you have learned from the experience. Reading this blog makes me realize once more how much I have grown over the years, and how happy I am with everything I have now.

465 Harry April 10, 2013 at 4:52 am

Defiant gratefulness… I would like to say thank you to “The Greatest Generation.”

466 Rusty DIcks April 10, 2013 at 6:06 am

After reading about Burgin, any adversity I have ever dealt with does not even compare to the adversity that he dealt with. We can all take a lesson from his “defiant gratitude.” In the simple words that what does not kill you makes you stronger.

467 Jaredd Wilson April 10, 2013 at 6:16 am

I’ve just started to learn to listen when older people talk. Still to much teenage rebellion? Reading a book like this would be good for that skill.

468 Billy Brown April 10, 2013 at 6:19 am

As a former U S Marine I certainly understand the feeling here. Sometime all you want is out of a situation at the time, but later you realize the value of the experience. Now I was never a part of such a great struggle as WWII but as a veteran of Iraq I understand the special closeness the danger of combat creates.
Thank you to all those WWII veterans out there and you have moved on, your like will not pass this way again, I fear.

469 Dave April 10, 2013 at 7:26 am

Adversity, life would be easier without it, but I would not be the same person without going through what I have. thanks, it was good to read that today. I wish I knew more veterans personally, the ones I do know have made my life richer.

470 Paul April 10, 2013 at 8:11 am

This column is exactly the inspiration I needed today. Thanks.

471 Peter G April 10, 2013 at 8:19 am

That’ll preach.

472 Phillip April 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

I think the lesson is one that must be learned over time. After enough experiences where you feel sorry for yourself and nothing gets fixed you get the backbone to say, Im done with this Im moving on! That said awesome refresher on the idea that sometimes being a man is jsut sucking it up and defeating the day.

473 Aaron April 10, 2013 at 8:36 am

Sometimes I think the lack of any kind of challenge is making my generation weak. People my age seem to expect to be molly-coddled, rather than rolling up their sleeves and getting down to work. It’s a little phenomenon I like to call “the sissification of America”.

474 Zach April 10, 2013 at 8:42 am

This goes to show that was a time when men where men; a time when men shouldered their responsibility and anything that came with it with pride and determination. At 27 I can think of many peers that I could say that about.

475 Jake April 10, 2013 at 8:46 am

Supremely interesting subject matter. How do we, as men, unpack and emotionally process a traumatic event. As evidence in this article, with pride. Hearing such inspirational truths from a man who has gone through horrors that I will never understand make me proud carry on. As an EMT, I have been on some intense calls but car crashes don’t compare to WWII and as this man handled himself with a poise I will strive to achieve, so much can still be learned from these great stories.

476 Keith April 10, 2013 at 8:54 am

An amazing story, but I don’t think that it’s all that uncommon among his generation. Our generation, on the other hand…

Let’s just say, we could certainly learn something from men like Burgin.

477 Mutia April 10, 2013 at 9:48 am

Powerful, simply powerful. Toughness lies inside, it’s not just about what a man is capable of doing by strength. Every moment teaches. Every moment is a gift, but beauty is again in the eyes of the beholder. Thank you very much for the wake up call.

478 Joe April 10, 2013 at 9:48 am

A nice article. Reminds me of my grandfather, a rather tiny Portuguese-American who fake his age to serve his country and conscience as a tail gunner. His ease and calm through the rest if his life showed us all that, really, whatever today might bring, you’ll probably be better at the end, at least you’re not being shot at while trying to fly a plane.

479 Kalith April 10, 2013 at 9:48 am

I left two jobs because of hardships. It was easier to find something new than to fight for what was right. The timing of this post is perfect for me as I have come in the last few years to a point where I am able to respectfully disagree with someone who is my superior in my work. Bending to ever whim does not make you a better employee and certainly not a better father or man, you must find a way to clearly, concisely and nicely relate your opinion. When we as men capitulate on every point to be a better father, employee or friend we miss the point of what it is to be ‘effective’ at anything.

480 Matt S April 10, 2013 at 9:49 am

Awesome article – and thank you for your service Mr. Burgin!

I am loving AoM as I hone my own skills and become a born-again man.

It is amazing how soft our current culture is. I understand my statement is a blanket one, but let’s be honest … today everyone is a winner, no one is wrong, no one has to take responsibility for anything, mom and dad will handle everything for you, etc.

In addition to embracing hardship and seeing it as a learning opportunity, our young men and women need to learn what it means to be accountable and to live a life of integrity.

I am doing my own part (and throwing in a challenge for good measure as well), documenting my journey on upmountainbattle.com – take a look

p.s. I really hope I win this book!

481 Dan April 10, 2013 at 10:04 am

I remember Burgin from the HBO series “The Pacific”. That show and the Marines that they follow throughout the series really piqued my interest more in the Pacific theater. You look around today and it makes one wonder whether we’ve got the guts to sack up again if it came down to it. But then, you come to websites like this and see how many like-minded people are actually possessed of the give-a-crap mentality. It’s refreshing to see. Thanks for the article.

482 Josh April 10, 2013 at 10:19 am

Unwavering, honest gratitude is a trait many lack and not enough strive for. I, for one, will continue to look up to men like Burgin and will aspire to become a better man because of it.

483 mike April 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

Stoicism. Defiant gratefulness. It comes down to making the best of the situation while trying to improve the outcome.

484 Rick Shelton April 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

Too often we succumb to bemoaning our fate in times of adversity, at least I do. “Why does God hate me?” “What did I do to deserve ?” And ad-nauseum. It’s time to stop all that nonsense.

485 Michael V April 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

I remember him from the DVD set The Pacific and really look forward to reading this book. Thanks for highlighting this!

486 Dave April 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

Great story and hard to imagine being thrown into a life or death circumstance. You have to admire the people who actually face the most brutal of obstacles and believe they’re better people because of it. Burgin probably knows more about life than most.

487 Dan C. April 10, 2013 at 11:15 am

defiantly thankful /defiantly greatful.

Yes. My first fiancee asked me, as she had just exited another marriage and we never discussed it. Months later, she asked me to leave, that we just weren’t working out.

To say I was crushed, is an understatement.
But I picked myself up, and learned from my mistakes. And now, I’ve found the most wonderful woman alive, and married her. 10+ years ago, now.

“Those who do not learn from their past, are doomed to repeat it.”

488 Mike R. April 10, 2013 at 11:17 am

So good to see more light shed on the war in the Pacific, I’m still awe-struck by how much suffering those Marines, soldiers and sailors endured throughout the war.

Just ordered this book, it can keep ‘With the Old Breed’ company on the shelf.

489 Kyle R April 10, 2013 at 11:17 am

What a great reminder from reading this. Men, we don’t have to fight in war to face adversity. These experiences are meant to grow us, to prepare us for what? The next adverse situation.

490 Gene April 10, 2013 at 11:20 am

This article came at a most opportune moment. I can’t say that I am going through difficulties that compare with those experienced, by Mr. Burgin, however things in my life have not gone as planned. It is easy to get cynical and turn negative, turning into that guy whose constant complaining drives his friends and family away from him. The other option is defiant gratitude. This article helped me see not only the importance, but how to turn my situation into an opportunity to learn and grow through defiant gratitude.

491 Gabriel Richard April 10, 2013 at 11:36 am

That is some serious food for thought. Thank you, as always, for the great article AoM.

492 Karl S. April 10, 2013 at 11:44 am

I feel like the hard times of a man’s past is to his wisdom and personality as to what scars are to a man’s body, it’s what makes him an individual.

493 Richie April 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm

This makes me remember my friend Ned Smith. He was EOD in France and then into Germany during WWII. He loved to share his amazing stories from the war and show his momentos. But to his dieing day just two years ago he still saw German soldiers stepping out behind trees in his yard. However, I have never known a more greatful man. Thanks for the article and for sharing part of Burgin’s story.

494 M Rhodes April 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

You can also judge a man’s character by his level of grateful defiance. Without a doubt, Mr. Burgin is man of strong character; somone you know will be there when things go sideways.

495 Steve G April 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Excellent article! I’ve been reading a lot of biographies lately and a common thread through many famous peoples’ lives is overcoming adversity. The phrase that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger is often very true. I’m a historian by education and have always been fascinated by WW II and the greatest generation. I have four uncles who served and one of them (the Marine) didn’t return. Interestingly, just today I finished reading Adam Makos’ book “A Higher Call.” I pray that future generations will face and learn from their adversities with the courage and spirit of the greatest generation.

496 Tank April 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm

The Marine Corps will defiantly make a man out of you, I know it did for me. I’ve always had a certain appreciation for the hardships in life as they have made me the man I am today.

497 Brian April 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm


498 Charlie M April 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm

This is a fantastic article, and quite fitting for me right now. I’m facing some serious adversity in my current job and while I’m not necessarily happy about the situation, I am “defiantly grateful” for the experience and opportunity to learn from it. I know things are difficult now, but they’ll get better and I’ll become a better man because of it. This couldn’t have come out at a better time for me. It is the extra boost I needed to read to keep persevering through my adversity. Thank you.

499 Andrew Johnson April 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Such situations are the ultimate test of our ability to trust God. Much like Job, when after the most unbelievable series of tragedies said, “Even though the Lord slay me, still I will trust Him”. There can come a point in our lives when we can’t find that bit of blessing in the hardship, when the pain far outweighs the good we can see.

500 Michelle April 10, 2013 at 1:45 pm

This is something that, as an adviser to a collegiate organization, I see is lacking in the young men and women of today. It’s great to see the college-age men on here realizing that they are capable of being the outstanding men their fathers/uncles/grandfathers were, and are working towards being those men. This is certainly an article that should be given to both men and women when they enter college (or even earlier), to see the adversity their elders (let’s not forget the women who dealt/deal with the adversity of watching their men go off to war, and stepping up to the plate to take care of so many things on their own) went through, and why they are such amazing, awe-inspiring people.

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