183 of 190 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2011
This book should be required reading for anyone with an interest in service--from the Peace Corps to the Marine Corps. It is a riveting true life tale of a modern day renaissance man. From humanitarian intervention in post-genocidal Africa to hunting al Qaeda in coastal villages in the Philippines, The Heart and the Fist explores the depths of our world and a young man who has served it in many ways.
"The world needs many more humanitarians than it needs warriors, but there can be none of the former without enough of the latter," are the words of this Rhodes Scholar and Oxford PhD as he makes his decision to join the US Navy SEAL Teams. Rhodes Scholars are meant to contribute to "the world's fight", and none have demonstrated a willingness to do so more than Eric Greitens. Described elegantly and with integrity in Greitens' memoir are his humanitarian missions to Rwanda, the Balkans, India, Gaza, and many other of the world's most oppressed and unfortunate regions. These pursuits of the heart are juxtaposed poignantly against SEAL training and four combat deployments with Naval Special Warfare.
Greitens lives the life of a humanitarian and a warrior, and for both roles he is able to extract unique insights by virtue of his extensive study of Greek philosophy, American history, and modern-day saints like Mother Teresa. It is a defining work for our next generation of heroes.
46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2011
The Heart and the Fist is a great read that should appeal to a wide audience. The author is a masterful story teller, and he has some very interesting stories to tell. The book opens with the author being blasted awake, literally, by a suicide truck bomb in Iraq. As he is medically evacuated he says goodbye to his second in command, Lieutenant Travis Manion, not knowing that Manion will soon be killed in action making the farewell permanent. Just like in a movie the main character, Greitens, then goes back in time to tell the story of how he got to that fateful moment in Iraq in the first place.
The book can be divided into three sections. In the first section the author describes his upbringing, education, and his foreign travel where he worked in humanitarian causes, and on furthering his education. This section of the book could easily be expanded into a standalone book of its own. Greiten's has been to the scene of some of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the last 20 years; places like Bosnia and Rwanda. He is able to tell the story of the average person in these terrible places, and capture them as people with whom the reader can readily empathize. Rather than dwelling on the misery at hand Greitens is always questioning why these situations were allowed to happen to begin with, and ponders the question of who should be responsible for preventing atrocities in places like Rwanda. At the same time that he is trying to help bring aid and healing he wonders what he should do to prevent humanitarian crisis from arising in the first place. In all his humanitarian work he has always been keenly aware that he is only a visitor, a temporary player on the stage who can exit to safety and comfort whenever he wants. As an American he is very much aware that he has lived a relatively privileged existence. He has a high standard of living, a great education, and future prospects of lucrative careers. Throughout his life he has been influenced by people who have served causes greater than themselves. His boxing trainer Earl, the boxing coach at Oxford, his grandfather, and many of the humanitarian workers he has met overseas have all impressed him with the joy they get through service to others. After some reflection he decides to turn his back on his career opportunities and get "some skin in the game" when it comes to actually doing something to protect people. This decision leads to the second two parts of the book. Greitens decides to serve by joining the U.S. Navy and becoming a SEAL.
The second section of the book covers his training and qualification first as a Navy officer through Officer Candidate School (OCS), and then as a SEAL in the famous BUDS course. This section of the book was great. If you have ever seen the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman" then you get the sense of what he writes about in OCS, minus the romance with the local girls that was in the movie. His account of SEAL training at the basic selection course, known as BUDS, was fascinating. His observations on his fellow classmates, his instructors, and his own feelings are remarkable. This section of the book, like the first, could easily have been expanded into its own book.
Section three covers some of Greitens experiences on active duty as a Navy Seal officer. His experiences here, as throughout the book, focus on understanding people and turning that understanding into action in ways that serve. When Greitens talks about serving it is not a simple concept. When he tells a story that speaks of service it is told from the perspective of serving the mission, serving his fellow service members, and to the greatest extent possible service to mankind. If that sounds like an ambitious goal for any person to relate I would agree with you, but Greitens pulls it off flawlessly.
In the end the book is all about service. Greiten's message is that good intentions are never enough. People have to be willing to serve to whatever extent is possible for them. Whether it is on the front lines in Iraq, or by volunteering at a Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization we all need to ask ourselves the question of "if not me, then who?" This is the type of book that I'll pass along to my wife and that we'll enjoy talking about for years to come.
92 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2011
I am really NOT into books about soldiers and war. However, I thought I would read this book, then pass it on to my nephew, who wants to join the Navy Seals. I was totally surprised by how well this book is written, and the remarkable and gripping story Eric Greitens tells.
While going to college then grad school, Greitens spends his summers helping others in China, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Bolivia. His eyes are opened by the great need of others around the world, and how by helping those in need, he could not prevent people from being victime of ethnic cleansing and other violence. Therefore he becomes a warrior by joining the Navy Seals.
Greitens has a very gripping account of the Seal training and Hell Week, as well as some remarkable photos of it. He then relates how he used this training to serve and survive in Kenya, Thailand, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The entire book is gripping to read, and very remarkable in how much the author has done before he turned 30. It is quite refreshing to read of a life lived to serve and protect others.
63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
This is the story of someone who accomplished more by the time he was 28 than most people do in a lifetime. I had not read anything about the book, and just by the cover, I was expecting it to be "just another Iraq/Afghanistan story". . . but it's SO much more than that. Greitens, a smart, outgoing guy who is well-educated, has already been to suffering places like Rwanda and India before he started his SEAL training. Though he could have taken a much easier road, he decides to take-on the challenge of the U.S. military instead. Very inspiring book. It will leave you wanting to be a better person.
I HIGHLY recommend watching the series "Surviving the Cut" to have a better idea of what he went through during his training. Click the link below and you will see all six episodes, available for download through Amazon.com.
Special Forces Diver
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2011
I did not want to read this book. I didn't want to read about the US military, genocide and the general suffering of the millions of poor, abused, neglected and misplaced poor on the planet.
All of these issues are tough and uncomfortable, and it is so easy to just avoid thinking about them. I know there are no easy answers or solutions to these issues, and I know thinking about them will leave me feeling powerless, scared, angry or all three.
But a friend of mine gave me a copy of the book. And there was the suggestion that the book might offer me a way to become more informed and engaged on these topics without being left feeling impotent and miserable.
The Heart and the Fist delivered so much more than I could have imagined.
It's thought provoking, moving and incredibly inspiring. I know that I am not the same person for having seen the world through the author's eyes. And I am so grateful to him for sharing his extraordinary experiences and personal journey.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2011
I really like this book...it outlines the path a man can take that I admire very much. I wish that I had seen this kind of book when I was in my teens. It may have changed the course of my life.
Eric Greitens is a hero in my mind...he is a mentor for many, I am sure. His example is one to lift up to others from every walk of life. This book is well written and should be used for educational purposes for young men who are looking for a purpose in life. Eric is smart, strong and has heart...and a heart for those less privaledged.
The best part of this book for me was the intense competition that he was able to withstand at every turn. It was written so that you could share not just the excitement, but also the pain...that goes with this sort of lifestyle. Eric also proves that never giving up matters most in life when you set your sights on something you want.
Most impressive is his humility! He gives credit to eveyone he has ever worked with...and extends hope for those that come behind him in future service. This book is about servant leadership at its best. Bravo Eric, I am a big fan!
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I've read a lot of special forces memoirs (SEALs, Delta Force, SAS) and have to say that this is one of the more unique ones. Because it is unique you really have to know what you are about to read, as I thought I would get more of a SEAL memoir with a humanitarian slant. Instead you are given a humanitarian memoir with some SEAL stuff thrown in.
The book falls under three main categories. First is Greitens' humanitarian adventures pre-SEAL. This is a somewhat eye opening experience, although he never really goes in to too much detail. This, unfortunately is the style of writing because he doesn't go in to too much detail for everything in this memoir. The second and middle section of the book is his SEAL training. The final part of the book is his account of his SEAL deployments.
The first part was interesting to read about simply because of all the different places that he went to and the varying problems that each of them had. China, Bosnia, Rwanda, Bolivia, India and so on are all featured. Places where Greitens became the man that he is. The middle part of his memoir follows his SEAL training. This section was both a hit and a miss. The miss part for me were on two levels. First he skips over selection completely. I love reading about the actual selection process and the extreme tests that they are put through before they can even move on to the training. Long swims with full fatigues and boots, 40 mile mountainous obstacle courses and so on. He seemed to skip straight from Officer Candidate School to BUD/S. Maybe because he was an officer he skipped selection, but it was my impression everyone had to go through selection, just as everyone had to go through BUD/S. The second miss for me was his lack in detail. He would oftentimes list off everything he would do without really going in to too much detail. Alas, thus is the nature of the beast because in such grueling circumstances it is understandable that your memory may not be as lucid as it should. But this is also my favorite part of the memoir, his lengthy description of his SEAL training and what they all had to go through. This brought the memoir alive, made it into something that he had to strive for and accomplish, something that showed who he was.
The final section is more of a let down than anything else even though it illustrates the point that he was trying to make throughout the whole book. His SEAL deployments were curiously lacking in any detail at all, instead focusing on the political ramifications, or on how to run the system more efficiently to better help those in need and to accomplish their goals. This is where the reader needs to understand that this reads more like a humanitarian dissertation, something that he probably started or thought about when he was doing his graduate studies at Oxford. This is first a humanitarian book, and a far off second a memoir of his time as a SEAL. I wish there would have been more of a balance, more attention shown to his SEAL deployments. But when you pick up The Heart and the Fist and read it within the right context then you are in for a good read. A recommend.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2011
In reading this book (a little more than half way through) and marveling at the accomplishments of Mr. Greitens (his ability to act on his self-awareness as a college student was profound), I found my heart pounding and my brain racing with hope, motivation and inspiration. This is a wonderful book recounting the memoirs of a relatively young hero. But what's more important is the transcending power of reading Eric's stories. The book provides all Americans with a reason to continue striving to make our communities and world better.
While reading this I was drawn to one of my favorite quotes by Bobby Kennedy, "You live in the most privileged nation on earth. You are the most privileged citizens of that privileged nation; for you have been given the opportunity to study and learn and to take your place among the tiny minority of the world's education men and women...You can use your enormous privilege and opportunity to seek purely private pleasure and gain. But history will judge you...you will ultimately judge yourself, on the extent to which you have used your gifts to enrich the lives of your fellow man. In your hands, not with presidents or leaders,is the future of your world and the fulfillment of the best qualities of your own spirit."
Eric's stories are an example of how one person can embolden others into service. This is a perfect book for a high school student or any young person who wishes change the world.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2011
Most people think Navy SEAL's are these tough mean guys who inflict violence upon bad guys. While this is certainly true this guy completely breaks the stereotype of a SEAL. A lover of the arts, he would talk about sitting down at Oxford drinking tea reading books like The Grapes of Wrath. He talks about the decisions he had to make after Oxford, such as making more money than both his parents combined, become an academic, or to go down the path of becoming something more than he was. Becoming a Navy SEAL.
What is great about this book is its eloquence in writing style as well as the humbleness of the author. During Navy SEAL training he describes his lowest moment when in Hell Week they were allowed to get a few moments of shut eye, but he couldn't sleep. He starts to hit a very low mental point, but then recounts all the struggles he had seen of orphans and refugees in Rwanda the Democratic Republic of Congo( Zaire), Croatia, Bosnia. Beyond exhaustion, and beyond pain, he walks out of his tent and thanks god for giving him the opprotunity to experience all this pain and suffering so he could become stronger, become something more than he was.
One part of Navy SEAL training Hell Week was especially captivating. During "log Pt" an exercise involving lifting logs over hundreds of pounds over their heads. He describes the event so painful that he cannot really put words to it. His muscles were not burning. They were searing. He recounts how every sap of strength was gone from him and how he realized that this and SEAL training was spiritual training, through physical means. He describes how he had to dig deep into his spirit to accomplish this.
Dont want to give away too many details but overall excellent read.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Eric Greitens is an ex-Navy Seal who has written a compelling story of his journey. As an undergraduate at Duke, he took up boxing and then became absorbed in international travel for a variety of humanitarian causes. Viewing the suffering in Rwanda and elsewhere, he came to the conclusion that economic aid was often not enough, that there needed to be some force to protect people from oppression and violence. Aid alone would not address this need, as genocide and killing went on.
After a stint at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Greitens enlists in the Navy Office Candidate School and later undertakes the arduous course to become a Navy Seal. His first person account of BUDS training - Basic Underwater Demolition School - is worth the price of admission by itself. Fascination for anything Seal also coincidentally runs high in the wake of Seal Team 6's dispatching of Osama Bin Laden. In this regard, the timing of Greiten's book is serendipitous and favorable to his book sales.
Yet, I stress that The Heart and the Fist is no snake-eater special ops story, though it includes elements of that. It is part military memoir, part travelogue and part exposition on humanitarian philosophy.
We can view Greitens as a modern day Samurai, who blends the heart and the fist, matching the capacity to wield and project force with moral principles aligned to help the weak against those who would harm and exploit them. It is idealism put into practice.
I highly recommend, THE HEART AND THE FIST!!