Going Beyond Yourself
As a 23-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, Fred Godbee, now 53, did not actually see combat but he learned two of the principles upon which the military is founded: service and hard work.
“Being a servant is the highest calling we can have – whether it is public service, military service, or service at home,” the Vidalia resident emphasized while recalling a conversation between himself and Bob Kerry, fellow veteran and former Governor of Nebraska. Kerry had lost his leg while serving in the military, and Godbee asked Kerry what he had taken away from that experience of loss. The answer was simple: “It all came back to ‘service,’” Godbee explained.
Godbee further commented on the importance of service throughout society. “I think service has earned a bad name,” he said. “Everything we talk about in society has become so ‘me, me, me’…if people even think of anyone else, they are usually thinking about how to avoid offending other people.”
He stressed his frustration with this perspective within society and spoke of his gratitude towards his experience at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training, which presented an opposing view to this phenomenon. “One thing I think was great about BUD/S is that you learned a bullet doesn’t care who you are. A bomb doesn’t care, either. If you’re not doing your job properly, bad things can happen, and you can die,” he noted. “No one is going to apologize for it either.”
According to Godbee, American society has grown comfortable with separating itself from what may seem uncomfortable or problematic to confront. “People who are insulated in their own rich society can easily move back into their little enclave,” he explained. “Here in Vidalia, that is not the case – no matter what you do, you’re never separated from society’s problems. I’m OK with that, honestly. I don’t think a lot of people get that in other areas; they want services, like mili- continued from page
tary, to deal with issues, but not around them.”
Godbee said that he had experienced this type of lifestyle when living near the Buckhead area within Atlanta. “We would go do missions with the homeless that were living under bridges in Buckhead, but then we would go back to our affluent neighborhood,” he said.
Yet, it is difficult to block out the evil behavior which veterans and soldiers witness on a daily basis; Godbee noted that it was this reality that made it difficult for Former President Barack Obama to follow through on his campaign promise to withdraw incarcerated individuals from Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba. “I don’t think people understand what those bad guys in Afghanistan and Pakistan that we’ve fought are really like,” he remarked. “One reason you saw a change in President Obama’s mindset and why he didn’t push to have people removed from Cuba is because of the change in perspective you undergo when you see how true evil operates.”
He continued, “Evil happens there. It happens here in the United States with pedophiles and sex trafficking. People who participate in these activities are truly evil. Evil is present everywhere, and I think we have to have people out there dealing with it.”
Summarizing his findings about evil from his time in the military service, Godbee said that the armed forces are essential to prevent evil from further infiltrating the United States. “People are not coming around us on the borders to hug us – they want something,” he outlined. “They want free money, they want a better place for life, they want to not deal with the heartache where they are – and they think we have some paradise here. I’ve learned people aren’t nice out there and we have to have people standing on our border to take care of us.”
Godbee also emphasized the importance of hard work accompanying service throughout society and the military. “Service and hard work correlate: it’s all the same thing,” he stressed.
BUD/S training has a 20% pass rate within cadets, which Godbee said is because of the difficulty of the experience. “Most military operations are currently focused in Syria; thus, a lot of the training has turned toward land more than water,” he said. “Basically, we were constantly cold and wet. We would be wet for hours in 40 degree weather. Those training us would put us in the water until we were almost hypothermic, then tell us to get out and immediately exercise until our body heat got up. We did those types of exercises repeatedly.”
According to Godbee, the rigor and difficulty of these exercises produced grit and drive within cadets. “If you don’t quit during that, you won’t quit in combat, and that bullet with your name on it won’t hit you,” he commented.
These intense training sessions and unimaginable warfare experiences forge strong relationships between soldiers. “I don’t think many people understand what a lot of my friends went through in combat,” Godbee noted. “No one has to understand – after all, they chose that. But that common choice creates a unique bond between us. I haven’t kept up my friendships with many of my fraternity brothers or college friends, but I keep up with my friends from BUD/S. It’s just not the same type of bond.”
When he was asked what singular gift was the greatest which the Navy gave him, Godbee answered quickly with a smile: “Purpose.”
He added, “There is truly something about serving something bigger than yourself, and working for something more important than earning a dollar,” he informed. “It is a sense of purpose that you cannot understand until you have been in the military yourself.”
It is the loss of that sense of purpose that makes transition back to civilian life so difficult for veterans; yet, Godbee shared he felt we were doing all that we could to help veterans reintegrate into society. “It is really a difficult journey to transfer back into a life where you have to find that sense of purpose in something bigger than yourself elsewhere than the military,” he continued. “The best thing we can do is support them while they navigate that territory in their own time.”
Nevertheless, regardless of the difficulty of reintegration into society, Godbee concluded that he felt everyone should serve in some capacity in the military. “Find a branch that fits who you are the best and give it your all,” he said. “There’s a lot of great lessons to be learned from it.”