By Kellie Speed
Retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Jason Redman certainly knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a true leader and overcome adversity.
After all, the Ohio native and author of “The Trident” and “Overcome,” is the recipient of numerous prestigious military awards, including the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal (five awards), Combat Action Ribbon (two awards) and US Army Ranger Tab.
On September 13, 2007, during a special ops mission as Assault Force Commander to capture an Al Qaeda High Value Individual, Redman’s Assault Team came under heavy fire. Despite being shot several times, including once in the face, he and his team fought valiantly to do what he does best—overcome.
“I wouldn’t have made it through SEAL training if I didn’t have some level of mindset that I could overcome adversity, but it really got tested several years prior to getting shot,” Redman said. “It was through leadership failure and having to push forward despite a whole lot of people not believing in me and, as a matter of fact, being resentful that I just didn’t leave. That, by far, was the longest and hardest road I have ever fought—much harder than my injuries.
“Having climbed out of that hole and built back my professional leadership and tactical reputation over the last several years, both in training and in combat, put me in a position that when I was wounded, don’t get me wrong it sucked, but I was like, you have climbed out of worse holes so this is no different.”
Redman said, “The number one lesson in leadership is you have to lead yourself. You have to set the example. You have to pull forward. The great news is that when you do that consistently over time, people will follow you.”
When writing that now infamous orange sign he hung on his hospital door, it served as a reminder to him and others to come forward with a positive attitude. “I wrote it as a little bit of a warning to people coming into my room that I wasn’t going to tolerate sorrow,” he said. “It’s hard enough to stay positive when times are really hard and it makes it obviously that much harder if you are surrounded by other people that are going to pull you down and inject a bunch of negativity into a hard situation.
“I said, I am going to set the bar and forward focus, and if you can’t handle that, then I don’t want you to come in here. There’s a flip side to that coin that I’ll be honest I don’t think I put a lot of thought into but it set the bar for myself. It gave me a benchmark, setting a destination and a course that I have followed and sometimes it was hard,” Redman said. “Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of hard days when I was having setbacks, when I was having infections, when I was having problems, and to be like, man I don’t want to be motivated. I want to sit on the X and feel sorry for myself. But I was like, you can’t do that, look at your sign. I think that’s important in life when you say, this is what I am going to do and when you put it out there to the world, you set a level of expectation not only for yourself, but for other people.”
What advice does Redman have for a veteran who may be struggling in civilian life? “You have to believe the power resides in you,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy. I know I struggled a lot with post-traumatic stress and anxiety after my injuries and I hit a really low point a few years after I came home and was spiraling down.
“My wife is amazing. I had always taken for granted that she would always be there, but she kind of hit me with, hey, this is not working for me and our family. So, that’s when I went and got help. At the end of the day, to the veterans out there, you have to be proactive,” Redman explained. “Sometimes you need to recognize that you need to reach out and get somebody to help you. I am not afraid to reach out when I need to. But, you, the individual on that X, have to take the first step to get off it and recognize it may take several times to make progress. Just recognize those initial first tries are going to be the hardest, but if you continue and you grind and you have the discipline to keep pushing for that change, you will make momentum.”
Image Credit: Michelle Quilon – 3’s a Charm Photography