“I have it pretty good,” Dr. Howard Wasdin, a Georgia chiropractor and former Navy SEAL, told Culver Academies students at an April 30 all-school meeting.
A best-selling author and motivational/inspirational speaker, Wasdin shared how actors Vin Diesel and Brad Pitt were on a conference call bidding for the movie rights to his latest book. (Diesel won).
But life for Wasdin wasn’t always so good.
His earliest memory is as a 5-year-old and his mother’s boyfriend, reeking of liquor, pulling him out of bed and smacking him around. Wasdin’s mother was 15 when he was born. He didn’t meet his biological father until four years ago.
Wasdin said he was beaten daily until he was 16, when he left home. But “I don’t care what any of you have gone through as a child,” he said, “don’t use it as an excuse.”
Wasdin and David Goggins, a Navy SEAL and ultra marathon runner, shared their stories of overcoming adversity as part of the Class of ’62 Student Enrichment Series. Mike Hood ’62, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and a Vietnam veteran, introduced the pair, calling them heroic examples of “selfless service” who have made “incredible contributions to society.”
Wasdin was a SEAL Team Six sniper who spent time in Somalia and received the Purple Heart and Silver Star. He was severely wounded during the Black Hawk Down mission. As a chiropractor, he treats veterans as a way of giving back for the recovery of his own injuries, which nearly cost him a leg.
That injury ended his days as a SEAL. From there, he “jumped into a Jim Beam bottle and lived there for three years.”
Goggins is still active as a SEAL and trains potential SEALs. He served in Afghanistan and saw many of his buddies killed. His unique training regimens and long-distance running has raised more than $200,000 for the families of fallen comrades. Goggins also participates on “Lone Survivor” author Marcus Luttrell’s Patriot Tour.
Goggins holds the world pull-up record (4,025 in 17 hours). But it took him three tries; the first two ended because of injuries. He also has appeared on the cover of Runner’s World magazine, having run 100 miles in 19 hours having never run a marathon. He also completed the Badwater 135 across Death Valley.
But like Wasdin, life wasn’t always so good.
“I came from nothing…”
“I came from nothing,” Goggins said, adding he was babysat by rock musician Rick James, his dad’s best friend, and grew up in an environment of booze, dope, and prostitutes.
Goggins twice tipped the scales at 300 pounds,
His family moved to Brazil, Ind., where they were one of two black families. Goggins said he was the target of bigotry and bullying.
His mother remarried and they moved to Indianapolis. That stepfather taught him self-respect and how to tie a necktie; then his stepfather was murdered.
When he was of age, Goggins joined the Air Force and underwent special ops training, until he was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Weighing 305 pounds, he tried out for the Indianapolis Colts, but was cut.
He then decided to become a Navy SEAL and the recruiter “laughed his butt off.” Goggins was eligible because of his prior service, except for his weight. He lost 105 pounds in 59 days. He started his special ops training over twice – once because of a hernia and once because of a broken leg.
And though he didn’t like running, he took up running – long distances and often – for a cause. Call me “the black Forrest Gump,” he said.
During a question and answer session, Goggins said he has persevered because he always ran toward his fears, not away from them. “It is impossible to become mentally tough by living in your comfort zone.”
Wasdin told students to have “a good family support system and never lose your faith. I moved away from the light. The light didn’t move away from me. Continue forward with a belief in your purpose.”
“What our country is missing is love,” Wasdin said, noting there’s too much special interest, self-interest, and selling out.
“Shame on you if you waste any” of Culver, he told students. “Take all you can from here and apply it to your life. We’re putting our hopes and dreams into our greatest asset – which is you!”