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.


501 Mike April 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm

My Dad was w/1st Marine Division at Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, & Okinawa.
I followed w/1stMarDiv around Da Nang 30 years later.
Semper Fi Marine

502 scrapcan April 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Nice article. I know what you discussed as unwaivering resolve. I learned that it also includes humbleness and humility in ones self.

503 Manny April 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm

What a powerful story.

I think this is what our younger men are missing. Adversity and the opportunity to rise above it. And it’s our (the Fathers) fault.

My family came from Cuba in 1960. We had only a few dollars ot our name. But in two years, my dad was able to buy a house for us. We had adversity, and we overcame it.

As parents, we work too hard to give our sons (and daughters) a better life than we had. Then we scratch our heads over their attitude of entitlement. We took struggle and the chance to grow from it away from them. We took away losing and having you be proud for knowing you had at least given it all you had, and that there is pride in loss as well.

We’ve done our children a disservice. We don’t necessarily need or want a war, but we need to give them that opportunity, to struggle, and to become a better person because of it.

504 Jamie Taylor April 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I want to have more “defiant gratefulness” in my character. The only way to get it is to go through hardship and make the tough choice to accept it for what it is and see it as something God can use to make me more like His Son, Jesus.

505 Gabriel Cody April 10, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I agree with many of the comments. Most Americans have never faced real adversity; have never had to fight for or against anything. While I think the egregiousness of war should be avoided in all but defensive situations, our soldiers show a bravery not understood or comprehended by the majority of Americans.

506 Mack April 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I agree completely with the notion that a man is but a child unless he has faced a large moment of adversity and challenge in his life and has summitted the problem and planted his flag conquering it. I myself am currently facing a large moment of adversity in my life that has been fighting against me for nearly a year now. I can see the light at the end of tunnel now but this article was a good read to help drive me through that last climb to the summit. Thank you to Mr. Brotherton for writing this article and to Mr. Burgin for leading by example everyday of his life. He is truly a great man.

507 Lance Johnson April 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm

My Grandfather served on Okinawa in WWII and his stories as well as the stories and words of wisdom I read on here help to put in perspective what it means to live and to live well. Being in my early twenties I am grateful to have had the time with my Grandpa as well as having discovered this site early on. I look forward to showing this site to many more people and reading many more articles like this.

508 Zach April 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm

This is a great article, and something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve certainly dealt with adversity in my life, but by and large I’ve got things very easy. That hardship that defines us as men is not something I’ve had to experience, and as you’ve written, I feel a bit like a child because of it.

I find I’m looking for ways to test myself. I want to get in a fight. I want to get lost in the wilderness. I just want something that I can work through and look back on knowing I handled it like a man.

Tons of respect to the author and Mr. Bergen.

509 Brandon Wood April 10, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I am very interested in hearing the true account stories and struggles and the triumphs of what it was like back then, real inspiration.

510 Gordon April 10, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Inspiring article, a great perspective to have when tackling hardship. Thank you

511 Naomi April 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Working together, toward a common goal is something this country needs to get back to. Hopefully not via another war but it does seem like we’ve gotten complacent about core values.

512 Michael K. April 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Manliness, indeed. As a current United States Marine, I can attest to Sgt. Burgin’s experience that the Marine Corps teaches one to remain calm under extreme pressure. It’s an intentional part of the extreme-intensity, long-duration indoctrination training and a recurring theme throughout Marine Corps life, especially in the infantry. When confronted with adversity, we have a saying (well, many related sayings actually of which this is one): “Improve, Adapt, Overcome.” There’s no option in that process for “Give up” or “Avoid” the problem.

I have incredible respect for Sgt. Burgin and the fellow Marines of his generation. They endured hardships that even today’s riflemen may never be able to fathom, and they weathered it all with grace, class, and a quiet professionalism that even our eternally grateful nation may never be able to fully appreciate.

Semper Fi, Sgt. Burgin.

513 Stefan B. April 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Wow, an amazing excerpt from the book.

This is actually a concept I have been struggling with. How to look at certain situations that have happened in my 35 years and wonder how they are shaping me. A matter of perception could swing it in so many different directions.

The gentlemen in this book obviously experienced extreme situations and I am wondering how it shaped their lives.

514 Chas April 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Truly inspiring article. Thank you for writing it, Marcus. The courage and dedication it takes to remaining grateful in the face of darkness is what separates the men from the boys. My hats off to you, Mr. Burgin.

515 Jake April 10, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Great Article…I have recently been tested and somehow, in the middle of it all, I felt a strenght I haven’t felt before. Ultimately, I hated being “tested”, but now I know how strong I could and can be.

516 Jorge Viramontes April 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm

I may only be a young college man, but every day is a challenge that i have to rise up and face. Waking up in the early morning after a long, hard night of work and studying is difficult. Paying for my own education, without the financial help of my family (not for lack of wanting to help me, but they are going through a difficult time as well) has been the most toilsome part of my life. But i feel, i know that this is only the beginning of my path to a better life. These challenges have been shaping my life in ways i could not have imagined when i was younger, but i’m absolutely grateful for them. I look at some of my peers, who all they worry about is their grade point average (and even then, very loftily) and wonder what kind of men (and women) they will develop into. These challenges have made me more punctual than ever before, have helped me develop a stronger work ethic (which i’m slightly bending at this particular moment), and have taught me to value everyone in my life. There are times that i do experience some challenges negatively, like your friend, Nick, where I have too much to drink over a small problem (in retrospect) but i end up learning from those failures, I learn to avoid over-exaggerating my problems, and learn to avoid or climb over the obstacles without hesitation. Thanks for sharing this interview.

517 Jerry April 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm

When I first started Army BCT, I was terrified and feeling abused. Then one day it hit me: Everything this man is doing to me will only make me stronger in the end. He smoked the dog sh!t out of my that day, but never again. After that point, I went from boyhood to manhood as I realized that I could only grow from adversity.

518 rob April 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm

“Defiantly Thankful” its the stuff that hope is made of. When the world tries to steal your joy, resolve etc, it requires us to say, nope, not today

519 Greg April 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm

At the time of these two events I never thought I would be defiantly grateful. In fact I have a tattoo to remind me of them, how precious life is.
1-13-2001 my 41 st birthday I was with friends in El Salvador when a horrible earthquake hit. I won’t go into details but right after the quake I found a boy about 9-10 laying on his side dead. Airport was closed so for the next two weeks we dealt with after shocks. If one started grab a kid and head outside as buildings there are not really stable. Did not know from 1 day to the other if we would be alive. We stayed calm, kept up our courage by having a sense of humor about things. Even with the death of that boy and many other people I would not change anything. I know what it takes to get through a traumatic situation. 9-1-1 happened 8 months later. The building manager of the high rise I lived in had no clue of what to do that day. I went into her office and made suggestions on how to secure the building and they worked. The worst part of that day was, you could not get a hold of the police they were all at the Pentagon, we did not know that the terrorists liked landmarks of significance, so we were not sure that if a plane were going to hit our building or if the terrorist had people out there to gun us down. I learned that day that I could think on my feet and respond. That has helped me more than once since then.

520 Paul April 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I constantly draw on my experiences having served on submarine duty, where every member of the crew must learn a working knowledge of every system. If I did that, I know I am capable of things that seem overwhelming. And my initiation as a Chief Petty Officer and the lessons learned from that initiation. When I get stressed out, I draw on those accomplishments to remind me that I’ve overcome struggles before and saw the reward for that hard work.

521 Cody April 10, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I was fortunate to have “Defiant Gratefulness” demonstrated to me from the time I was young. Both of my grandfathers were WWII veterans, one was in the Marines, and the other in the Navy. Both fought in the Pacific theater, and both remained proud of their service until the day they died.

It is challenging to view the hardships of life as opportunities for growth, especially while living in a generation that embraces self-pity. But like anything else good in life, learning from the hardships you encounter takes great discipline – you must be intentional.

522 Jeff April 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm

This is a great article. Reminds me of James 1:2-4 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Not only being grateful, but embracing the hardship that comes our way with joy as the means to growing into a man more complete – that takes uncommon humility, grace, and courage.

523 Christine April 10, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I couldn’t agree more! There is such a confidence you get from going through hell and coming out on the other side. You simply cannot know what your made of unless your tested.

524 John D April 10, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Excellent read. I’m reminded of an excellent essay called “A Message for Garcia,” by Elbert Hubbard. It’s about being the kind of man who can be handed a seemingly impossible task, and without grumbling or questioning it, simply do whatever needs to be done to get the impossible done. I plan to write a forun post about it someday soon.

525 David Humble April 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm

This is the kind of thing I encourage the kids who work for me to read. Be thankful for the challenge, and your ability to rise up above it. I work as a Corporate Chef and still work through challenging services constantly while over seeing 5 kitchens in 3 cities. The one thing that’s kept me working through the hard times is an attitude of Get in there, get it done and get ready for round two. break yourself down and build yourself up. I wish more people would adopt this attitude and mind set. it seems a difficult lesson to teach.

526 Stephen April 10, 2013 at 9:19 pm

After I broke my back in a skiing accident, I didn’t really have the motivation to continue anything. I really just wanted to die. But then my father came in and just talked to me about how a man couldn’t ‘roll with every punch,’ but even if you’re knocked down you have to get back up. That’s really what I get from this article, and it has finally put a name to what I think my father was describing.

527 Andy April 10, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I’ve learned as a medical resident that during and after a crazy 16 hour night shift in the hospital one can choose to either view the experience as one in which he becomes merely tired or one in which he becomes a better doctor and a stronger man. Great article with daily practical application!

528 Tate April 10, 2013 at 10:17 pm

It astonishes me the brotherhood and endurance built through WWII. There is nothing I truly feel I can do to pay those who served. I cannot explain how pissed I am at how my generation (freshmen in college) is miss treating the freedom fought for and the amount given to us, I am doing my best as an engineering student but my generation is wasting the biggest potential offered to any generation in human history.

529 Conrad April 10, 2013 at 10:32 pm

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… great story.

530 Michael Penner April 10, 2013 at 10:52 pm

That’s so true. In order for a boy to become a man, he most be tested.

531 Jim April 10, 2013 at 11:36 pm

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs? ~G.K. Chesterton

532 Nate April 11, 2013 at 12:15 am

This sounds like a great book. I have become obsessed with WWII after reading many books on the subject, and cannot begin to fathom what those guys went through. Simply astonishing. I am a teenager and I’m sure my friends are tiring of hearing me tell and retell heroic stories of GIs that went above and beyond the call of duty, but everyone should know the lengths to which men will go to preserve freedom. Society is losing sight of what is important. Too many people have forgotten what those brave men went through and take for granted the liberty and equality that we have today.

533 Aaron Davis April 11, 2013 at 12:53 am

Burgin reminds me of the Vietnam vets I’ve been interviewing, the war was hard on them and so where the American people but they are all proud to have served our country and always recommend it to me and tell me they would do it again if they could because it made them better and stronger men.

534 Lynda Sladko April 11, 2013 at 3:02 am

Great article! Something we all need, whether we are men or women; to be able to learn and grow from our hardships and be “defiantly grateful” is a sign of spiritual maturity.

535 Tyrone Peterson April 11, 2013 at 4:54 am

Adversity comes every single day from the moment you open your eyes in the morning. There is an adversary that does not want us MEN to get in its face. We are constantly faced with challenges that hit the heart of men. What to do or what not to do is the challenge? Here is a scripture from The Bible one of Davids mighty men and what courage he displayed. “There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two champions of Moab. Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it. (1 Chronicles 11:17, 22 NLT)” Courage is the antidote to adversity!

536 Rohit Ramachandran April 11, 2013 at 5:15 am

Nice article. In simple words, what you’re saying is to not identify with the abandoned child archetype and instead embody the warrior archetype.

537 Jon April 11, 2013 at 7:44 am

Great story, and so true. Gratefulness through hardship helps to define us, whether we want to admit it or not.

538 Travis April 11, 2013 at 7:48 am

I’ve long had a mantra of “Head down, push forward” in trying times, but until this article I never really thought about how it was shaping my character. Thanks for the article.

539 BenL April 11, 2013 at 7:50 am

Man, that is awesome. They don’t make them like they used to.

Thank you Gentlemen for your valor and service.

540 Randall April 11, 2013 at 9:10 am

Very apropos for me. I just spent the last year fighting for my life with a bizarre medical issue, and still feel a bit on the edge of a precipice. I didn’t want to fight at all (I did it for my family) but I have been totally transformed by it. Would I go through it again to be where I am now emotionally and spiritually? ABSOLUTELY! It was a small price for substantial character.

541 Luke A. April 11, 2013 at 9:37 am

I’ve been experiencing this firsthand lately.
Three years back, I maxed out a credit card, figuring I’d pay it off over two months. I had a decent job and could’ve knocked that out of the park. The day after that large purchase, I lost my job. I had very little put aside, and I needed that for living expenses.

I was unemployed for two years.

Living paycheck to paycheck, dealing with car issues, gas prices, etc., and generally having to budget every last dollar was leaving me exhausted, frustrated, and angry with the world and myself.

Then, one day, I decided to re-frame my experiences. I realized that the whole experience had made me more frugal, more responsible, more aware of my finances, and generally tougher. After that, I began seeing each new hardship as as a sparring match with life, and with each match, I learn new grapples and become better at taking control out of the hands of chance and placing it in my own.

542 M. Ismert April 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

great article, thank you. When you write about the greatest generation, it helps keep these lessons learned and true memories alive so we can still benefit today. We need all the help, motivation and grittiness we can get! I know I do.

543 Sanjeev George April 11, 2013 at 10:46 am

A very rational and logical article. Thank you

544 Steven Windey April 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

My grandfather had a somewhat similar experience. He was a mechanic/technician on a bomber in WWII and during one run, his plane got hit so bad that the crew needed to evacuate over enemy territory. He was able to keep the plane flying long enough for the men to escape successfully and once they were on the ground he took charge of making sure everyone was able to stay alive. He found locals who were willing to help and hid his men in a hay cart that was then transported to a safer area where he was able to lead the men to safety. He name was Andrew Reis and he received the Flying Cross.

545 Raoul P. Sheridan April 11, 2013 at 11:12 am

Wonderful article.
Men like Burgin are the inspiration for my life. I am currently in the Marines and we collectively hold men like him up as the examples of how we should be.
“Defiant gratefulness” is the a key to success at life. We see Marines who blame others and get disgruntled because of the seemingly endless challenges associated with Marine life, and those are the ones that get out and often fail to be successful. Those who are thankful for each opportunity to prove themselves either stay in and become great leaders, or get out and do great things in the civilian world.
True gratefulness for life’s challenges and rewards is guaranteed to steady one’s path to success.
Thank you for the article.

546 Camon April 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

Thanks for the story, my father is a veteran of the Gulf war and he talks about it in this way as well (he was one of the few to see combat).

With plans of joining the Corps this summer this article really drove home how the military instills manliness into its soldiers (or marines).
Again thanks for the article.

547 Chris Johnston April 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

I have definitely not experienced adversity such as this, but I have had my fair share of difficulties, and this article has helped me most recently in helping me convince myself to just hunker down and push myself through completing the task at hand. For that, I thank you.

548 Christina April 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

Such a great and touching article. I’ve never served but I have family that has & I can’t even imagine what they go through!

549 Parker April 11, 2013 at 11:47 am

Fantastic Article! Reminds me of my grandfathers. Both of my grandfathers served in the military. One was in WWII and fought on Omaha Beach on D day and the other was in the Korean War and Vietnam War.

550 David Malcolm April 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm

The challenges I’ve faced in my life, especially in the US Army, have definitely shaped me into the man I am today and continue to inform my outlook on life.

551 Scott H April 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Muscles don’t grow unless challenged with resistance; likewise, men don’t develop without adversity of one form or another. I like the concept of defiant gratitude, I’ll have to remember that when working with the Scouts.

552 James Fazakarley April 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

My great granddad served in WW1 and i still have his issued bayonet for his long lee rifle. I’ve been military minded all my life, i plan to join the royal marine commandos and become like the men who fought in WW2. there men had to fight through true hardship and come out the other side nearly always stronger from the experience. I’m a big fan of both band of brothers and the pacific having watch both end on end over many weekends. i would love to have this book and read more stories like R.V. Burgin

553 Patrick Bohm April 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Wow, a great article more men need to read. It definitely will make me think twice before complaining next time.

554 Anderson, gj April 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm

And this too shall pass. Courage – not the lack of fear but the determination to go regardless. So many people today have never known adversity. They bitch and moan about their latte being cold or their sandwich slow.True adversity can bring about that Defiant Gratitude and totally change your perspective. It is important to cultivate this view and do whatever it takes to maintain it.

555 John April 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm

It’s posts like this that remind you that you always have a choice.

556 Ryan April 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm

It’s remarkable that Burgin overcame those hardships. Watching “The Pacific” helps to get a close glimpse of the horrors of war. I admire every one of the soldiers that fought in the second great war.

557 Anthony Howie April 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm

The ‘greatest generation’ speaks well, always, of their values, and shows how lost so many men have been for the past fifty years or so. As church attendance declined in the late 1950′s, families fell apart. Men’s identities were lost, as more and more elements of society called for feminization. Rather than valuing the gifts of masculinity, so admirably displayed in this article, it was beaten down and emasculation became the flavor of the latter stages of the 20th Century. And now, in a clear attempt to save humanity, we awaken the men, hoping that there are enough left to teach the young men of today that there was a time when men and women were different and it was good. May God grant us enough time to train enough young men to save us from the colossal errors of the 1960′s and 1970′s.

558 Michael H April 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Just went thought a hard time my self but I know you form steel with out fire. I’ve always been right that its not the adversity that you face it is how you respond to it. I just try and get up shake the dust off and get back at it.

559 Gregg Kimball April 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm

I’m the “runt” of the brood, being only 51, but my Dad served as a chief of pharmacy in the Pacific during WWII, most notably assigned to Merrill’s Marauders in the China-Burma-India Theater. Typical of his generation, I could never get him to talk at length about his service, other that to tell me his Purple Heart was for suffering through a Japanese raid while hunkered down in the latrine! Lost him too soon (I was 11) but your series brings him and all those who served a little closer. Am looking forward to reading your book.

560 Carlo d. April 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I’m working at a comfortable job after college. I still plan to join the Army and this entry just does it for me. Thank you so much.

561 Jonathan April 11, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Reminded me of a conversation I had with a WWII vet that was in my church growing up that I looked up to and worked for often. I was in college, and feeling sorry for myself and complaining to Duke because I would have to spend the summer apart from my fiance, whom I had recently proposed to.

Duke listened without comment, allowed a decent space in the conversation, and then simply related his story. He got married one day and was shipped to the Pacific the next. He didn’t see his wife again for four years.

He didn’t have to make the point. I got an immediate and lasting lesson on perspective and gratefulness.

562 Schmidty April 12, 2013 at 12:17 am

Copied to my son.

563 guy moldovan April 12, 2013 at 2:46 am

The unity of the marines amazes me. I’m looking forward to my service

564 Zach P April 12, 2013 at 6:02 am

Thank you for this message. As a father of two young ones, a four year old boy and 10 month old girl, I constantly attempt to reflect and integrate these lessons into my own life and then dispel them to my children. As a high school English and History teacher I asked both explicitly and implicitly to teach character education. I’ve never believed in the scripted programs that one can purchase in a box. I do believe in modeling the proper behavior for them and I do my best in that regard. I also offer “life lessons” to my young adults that often take the focus and theme from your articles. Such lessons stick with my students and grab their attention far more then some of my best laid lesson plans. In fact, I had my students read an article you wrote on the value of being a life long learner. Surprisingly, one quite 14 year old boy told me he often read your website and he then emailed me a great article from the past to read.

This article certainly bears sharing with my children and students. Thank you for the time and effort you and your team put into this cite. It does make a difference.

565 Jude April 12, 2013 at 7:06 am

Thank you for this story. A great reminder that in spite of any hardship we can be thankful. For years I resented the fact that an accident took a part of me and I was no longer “like everyone else”. Today I am thankful that I am who I am, and that through it all, and despite it all, I have learned much, am fully functional, and definitely a much stronger person. Not everyone understands this, but I understand, and that’s enough. Not always easy, never giving up, I am very thankful. To be thankful for who I am, I have to be thankful for all hardships, no matter how great or small. Regardless of the situations in this story, I can hugely relate. Thank you.

566 Kenneth Payne April 12, 2013 at 8:09 am

Being “defiantly grateful” is a new idea to me, but one that I recognize and embrace. Having lost a son to cancer at age twenty-one and raising another with Down Syndrome for thirty-six years I know something of hardship in life, but I am truly grateful for the strength and the capacity to empathize with and help others that has come with it. Constructively dealing with adversity and trial is one of the hallmarks of manliness – of being a grown-up, man or woman.

567 Bob April 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

I am thankful for every experience I have had. The experiences I regret are the ones I was too afraid to try.

568 Lalo April 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

I totally agree with what this article teaches about life and its struggles.

569 Allan April 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

Great article, I agree that we must be grateful for trails and adversity. Through adversity we are able to recognize our own weaknesses and if we confront that weakness we always grow and become stronger in the end. This is what I have always tried to teach my sons. Our trails and our adversities are what builds strong character.

570 Nicholas DeAngelis April 12, 2013 at 11:03 am

Great story of endurance and perseverance not only in the face of hardship, but also throughout an entire life.

571 Ed Sizemore April 12, 2013 at 11:44 am

As a young sailor in 1973, I tried for duty in Saigon because I felt that it was my duty. As a Coast Guard officer, I pushed to go to Desert Storm in 1991 and successfully did so then and again in 1992 to 1993 and was grateful for the opportunity to fulfill my duty. Now, I remain grateful that I can continue serving my country as a Senior Instructor (15 years at this time) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center training the Federal agents and officers of the future. I am truly grateful that I sought these roles and grateful for all the challenges that I have faced and overcome.

572 Jeremiah D April 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Great article! How we view and respond to hardships will mold the type of person we ultimately become. Having this outlook of thankfulness for the end result is a huge step in being able to endure life’s trials.

573 Michael April 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

This was an amazing article. I agree that there is a definite need for people to accept diversity and even be grateful for it. I am only 18 years old but I have already experienced a great deal of diversity in my life. However, I recognize that without it I would not be who I am today. I am not glad that some of the things have happened to me but I am glad that I have had the opportunity to become who I am. Most people today, especially the younger generation, do not recognize how important challenges in life are. They just want to give up when the going gets tough but that is not an acceptable response. When the going gets tough you just buckle down and face it. Weather the storm. I too have struggles with being grateful for diversity but when I look back at it now I can see quite clearly that it was good for me in many ways. It made me man up and find ways to deal with the problems in my life. This was an inspiring article for me and in some aspects easy for me to relate to.

574 Minerva April 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Ductus Exemplo.

575 Matthew Arant April 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Thank you. This is true from start to finish.

576 Erik April 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I enoyed this article. Since I am only 18, I am just starting to experience real “disappointments” and failures in my life. It is tough, but I am learning and trying to respond in order to become a better man, and this article was a great reminder and inspiration for me to evaluate my attitude, thoughts, and actions.

577 Anthony April 12, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Well timed like the rest of your work. Thank you, my friend matthew and I were just discussing a similar topic.

578 Nick April 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm

This article reminds me of the movie Batman Begins. When Bruce Wayne’s father asks him, “Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again.”
This lesson is simply one of the most important lessons that I feel a man can learn. As a soldier in the U.S. Army, throughout my initial entry training, a topic constantly discussed is resiliency. There are all kind of resiliency trainings, techniques, etc. that are taught time after time. The military can be difficult, exhausting, stressful, and often times completely thankless. Because of this, the ability to take difficulty with stride, learn from it, and drive on is extremely important. Learning to have fun when things are at their worst is a lesson I learned at basic training, and have carried on with me all the way up to my current deployment to Afghanistan.
My life was changed the day I realized that there was nothing that I couldn’t get through with the right attitude, and an appreciation for the lessons learned. The idea that “whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger,” is not only a testament to human spirit, but also an ideal that truly turns a boy into a man.

579 Carl April 12, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I almost didn’t read the article, but then I recognized the memorial wall in the picture. I’ve seen the vietnam memorial, and I’ve seen the Pacific War Memorial in Fredricksburg, and I can tell you, seeing a face to go with the name is a very powerful thing. The article is great and makes me think of my grandfather, who has really opened up once about what he saw as a marine. I think he could stand to give it a read. He’s in his 80′s by now, but I think it could help him out with his own horrors.

580 Sam April 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Great article. So many in today’s generation are easily duped into thinking that adversity/hardship should be avoided at all costs and is “unpopular” if you will. But it’s what builds character. Thanks, Marcus.

581 Alex Emerick April 12, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I always thought that joining the military gives men purpose and training that will last a lifetime. AoM did a podcast with the Navy Seal that went through intense training but came out appreciating the little things more often. I really liked the saying “an untested man is a child”, Ill keep that one with me.

582 Steve Barrall April 12, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I appreciate the mention of Paul of Tarsus. Defiant Thankfulness doesn’t come to those who experience hardship in battle or something as seemingly “courageous” or “heroic.” Rather, as you mentioned, men ought to be “thankful in all circumstances.” For Paul also mentions that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character produces hope. Suffering and hardship can either lead to despair or to hope and development. I’m thankful for the examples of many men who have gone before us.

583 Jordan April 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

I really enjoyed this article. It makes one realize that regardless of what we are going through on any given day others have gone through worse and have come out stronger. Great read to start off the day.

584 Shane April 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

I wanted to thank you so much for this. I’ve been defeated by adversity most of my life. I would quit and give up, turning to alcohol, depression, video games, sloth. As a 38 year old man, I’m starting to understand the value of fighting for what I believe in. The first step of course, is understanding what you believe in!

Gratefulness is important to me, its an attribute I’ve attempted to cultivate my whole life. But I’ve never felt grateful for adversity. I know the old saw ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, but I’ve never managed to actually appreciate adversity. One common analogy is plants. Plants that grow outdoors, subject to the wind and the rain, that survive are stronger. Plants that grow indoors in perfect conditions are often not quite as healthy as those subjected to a little stress.

Thank you for this article. I will try to appreciate adversity, to become defiantly thankful.

585 Joe DeFraga April 13, 2013 at 11:33 am

Great article, reading about great men who overcame struggles really puts your own problems in perspective

586 Mike Liu April 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for giving every one a chance to win this book. I would really treasure the signatures of three WWII vets.

587 Daniel Foley April 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Your bit about the hardships was expertly written. It seems like you can naturally pump out these finely crafted motivational writings like nothing! And the book, that sounds like a fantastic read!

588 Sean Whitty April 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm

My mother died when I was 8. Through that life-changing experience, I first learned at a very young age how to remain calm, accept hardship and move forward with determination. This article is exactly right and at the age of 23, I continue to find myself seeking out difficult tasks to accomplish because of that very lesson. If you are never challenged, when the time comes to stick it out and grind through something difficult you won’t be able to do it.

589 Jeremy April 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Excellent article. Hardship and difficult situations when coupled with optimism and a can do attitude is what builds character. We need more people like those that sacrificed in wars. Defiant gratefulness, what an awesome term and way to live life

590 Christopher C. Price April 13, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I can relate to Mr. Burgin’s feelings…I feel quite the same about serving in Iraq. I made the best friends of my life during that time, and learned things about myself that I doubt I would have ever known had I not fought there. I feel like through any subsequent hardship I have that experience to compare it against and I seriously doubt anything will supplant it as the defining challenge of my life.

591 Malcolm Cairnie April 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Have you ever read Nietzsche, Mr. Brotherton? This is exactly what he writes about- amor fati. Loving your fate. Saying ‘yes’ to everything that happens, and loving your life so much that you want to do it all over again, detail for detail, all because your life has made you who you are. Nietzsche was a chronically ill man with a very unsuccessful career, and he lived most of his life in poverty, but he found the strength to be grateful for it anyway. You should also read about the ancient Greek Stoics too, if you haven’t already; they said a lot of the same things. As someone who identifies as a modern Stoic, I loved your article.

592 Logan April 13, 2013 at 10:51 pm

This is something I struggle with, it’s a hard thing to be grateful in trials. Something inside of me keeps telling me to not give up. I think if we can get threw the hardships it will make us more confident which of course is really beneficial.

593 Jordan Smith April 14, 2013 at 10:21 am

This is a good piece of advice to maintain through out life’s journey. The trials and tribulations that one will experience through out life can some times be a downing moment, but it is also a life lesson that is being taught through each trial and tribulation. “Keeping your chin up” can be hard to do and to be able to see past the problem or issue that is in front of you that day can be hard. It is a few things I have struggled with as I have crossed trenches and ditches along the way through life. Being positive and constantly learning something from everyone will help to over come the bumps in the road. In the words of Galileo Galilei; “I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.” Stay true to yourself, push on, and keep smiling.

594 Mathew Davydiuk April 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Although I can agree that adversity can become character building, it doesn’t always, often time it takes having the privilege, access to services, and simply time. Many people never make it that far, committing suicide, getting addicted to drugs, depression, anxiety etc.

” Most Americans have never faced real adversity; have never had to fight for or against anything”

Responses like this concern me. This is straight up not true. How about we take a look a people that are living in poverty in Canada or America. American Indians, first nations people, any of the ghettoized nieghbour hoods in america. Plenty of people that do not fit into ” The privileged man brand have lots of adversity.
If were going to talk about adversity lets get a little more diverse than stereo typical men, like war hero;s and fire fighters.
How about a gay man struggling to come out, or a man struggling with his desire to wear womens clothes, or a man who is been called a pussy his whole life because he shares his emotions or has passion for something other than dominating other men and women. How about men killing men for what reason? Or how about male violence against women, is adversity planning your life around not being raped, or sexually assaulted.
Thing is I am a man, and I would like to expand our narrow definitions of what we experience as men. A real challenge in my life is listening and engaging in a culture of violence largely perpetuated by men.

595 Mathew Davydiuk April 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Our greatest adversity might be transforming male culture from its violent roots too more diverse shoots…….

596 Len April 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm

This is a great lesson for my sons. They need to learn that adversity is what creates our character, and that it is beneficial. This book must go on my shelf!

597 Zach Carpenter April 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I’m glad there’s finally a phrase that defines this mindset!

598 Chris April 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm

This was a great article. “Defiant Gratefulness” reminds me of the spirit embodied in Kipling’s “If”, and is definitely something to aspire to daily.

599 Matt Tantillo April 14, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I’ve long been aware of the incredible growth men can achieve through overcoming hardship, and envied those who had even longer, but this article really put it to words.

Never have I had to face real hardship–real challenges where I can only rely on myself–but ever since I began following AoM (about a year now), I’ve sought out challenge knowing the pain would lead to greater gain once I could say I defeated it.

I can’t say I wish I had been in WWII, or any war really, but I do wish I could meet these men on the same level of knowing I was victor over some trial which turned me into a truly independent, confident leader and man like Burgin. Until such time, I can only admire and learn small bits of life from him and his brothers.

Thanks for this article.

600 Juston S. April 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm

This is an excellent article.

It is hard to put into perspective the kind of situation that these heroes went through. When we look at the adversity in our live, it pales in comparison. There are so many people around these days that are just living luxury live with no respect for the challenges in life, and when they come across something, they just whine and complain about them. I wish in my life that there was more adversity.

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