NCOC Featured Discussion

The Warrior’s Heart

An Interview with Eric Greitens

December 10, 2012
Eric Greitens was born and raised in Missouri. He has served as a Rhodes Scholar, humanitarian volunteer, and United States Navy SEAL officer. In 2007, he founded The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that challenges veterans to serve and lead in communities across America. Eric is the author of several books including Strength and Compassion and The Heart & the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL.

Eric Greitens most recent book,
The Warrior’s Heart: Becoming a Man of Compassion and Courage, shares his inspiring story with young readers. NCoC Communications Fellow Alice Murphy caught up with Eric to discuss his latest work.

Alice Murphy:
What sets The Warrior’s Heart apart from your 2011 adult bestseller The Heart and the Fist?

Eric Greitens: First, The Warrior’s Heart includes more stories from my childhood and teenage years growing up in Missouri. Second, while it is meant to entertain kids, The Warrior’s Heart was also written in a way to teach them about building good character, developing virtue, and making the right decisions. One way I do this is by embedding short “You” scenarios throughout the book that allow kids to exercise their moral imagination. (For example, in one “You” scenario, they are asked to imagine solutions for dealing with a bully.) Finally, the last chapter of the book is a note directly from me to the readers, asking them to serve in their communities. By following the Mission Planning Guide (which can be found at ), they’ll be able to do just that.

Alice: It’s important to engage our future leaders at a young age. How do you make your seemingly super-human accomplishments so relatable to these young adults?

Eric: In The Warrior’s Heart, I talk a lot about the incredible mentors and teachers I’ve had throughout my life. My boxing coach, my high school English teacher, my parents, and many others have guided and supported me every step of the way. Every young person can identify role models and mentors to help them accomplish their goals. With guidance and support, our ambitions become attainable. I think that the value of mentors is something that everyone, especially young people, can relate to.

Alice: What do you hope young adults take away from reading The Warrior’s Heart?

Eric: This is what I hope kids will take away from the book: The world needs you. Even at your young age, you can start serving in your community right now. You have talents, gifts, and strengths to create positive change. By taking all of your potential and developing it through service, you can become stronger, more courageous, and more compassionate.

Alice: What first inspired you to get involved in your community – to become civically engaged?

Eric: During high school, I got involved with a leadership program in my hometown. The leader of the program, Bruce Carl, knew that it was important to expose us to the needs in our community. The moment I recall realizing my passion for civic engagement was when Bruce took me and a few other students to spend the night in a homeless shelter in downtown St. Louis. In the shelter, we sipped soup from Styrofoam cups and listened to the men’s stories. As my eyes opened to the daily struggles facing these men, I reflected on my own life and the simple luxuries I took for granted. Bruce explained to us that night how the shelter was helping by providing food and shelter, but neglected to offer job training or substance abuse programs. I recognized that the world is full of need, and that it takes dedication from individuals to tackle these problems. That night in the homeless shelter solidified for me the importance of getting involved in my community.

Alice: In his book review, Kevin Powers described your memoir as the true story of how one person can be a positive influence on other people. You certainly advocate personal responsibility, the power of personal choice, compassion and courage. But you also speak about the importance of community. How have the communities you’ve been a part of influenced the way you walk in the world?

Eric: I believe that friendship is one of the most important aspects of a well-lived life. It is necessary to surround ourselves with friends who will both challenge and support us. There comes a time for all of us when we will need to be carried. When the challenges we face are too much, our friends help us to overcome the obstacles. It is also the case that there are times when we must carry others. I have learned through my work as a humanitarian, serving with the Navy SEAL teams, and working with post-9/11 veterans that good friends help us to be and to do more. In each community I’ve been a part of, I’ve been lucky to have an incredible group of friends who’ve challenged, inspired, and supported me along the way.

Alice: What kind of responses has your book, “The Warrior’s Heart,” received so far? Have you heard any memorable reactions?

Eric: The Warrior’s Heart has received great feedback so far. A few parents wrote in saying that their child stayed up all night reading the book, many who had never shown an interest in reading and rarely finished a book. It was fantastic to hear that their kids responded so well to The Warrior’s Heart. Really, that was the goal behind writing the book. I wanted to reach a younger audience who I knew could benefit from learning about the value of service and helping others. It is incredibly rewarding to hear that teens are responding to and benefitting from the stories I share in The Warrior’s Heart. To compliment the release of the book, I partnered with Youth Service America to create a Mission Planning Guide. The guide is designed to help young people plan community service projects of their own. Some kids have gotten started on projects, and I can’t wait to hear about the results. I also created a Teacher’s Guide for the book, and I’ve heard that it has been a helpful tool for parents and educators in framing discussions and activities around the book. It’s exciting to see the impact The Warrior’s Heart is making, and I look forward to hearing more from readers and their parents.
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