Our honored guest this evening was more impressive than I could have imagined, particularly in his willingness to answer direct questions with honest and thoughtful answers. Here is how I introduced him:
The name Nathaniel is derived from the Hebrew phrase, “Gift of God,” and Captain Fick’s presence here on Veteran’s Day reminds us that we should be thankful for the members of our nation’s and our allies’ armed forces who have stood as the front line in the defense of liberty around the world. Many of them have been buried not far from where they made that stand.
Captain Fick served tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, in the latter leading a platoon of an elite Recon Battalion that was at times the northernmost one in the march toward Baghdad. He is now enrolled in a dual-degree program at Harvard’s Business School and Kennedy School of Government. Tonight, he joins us to speak about “Eating Soup with a Knife: A Marine Officer's Perspective on Afghanistan and Iraq.”
It was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who made an observation sixty years ago that has become part of the Marine Corps lore. She said:
The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale and the lowest morals of any group of animals I haveEven a quick glance at the role of the military in American society shows that the life of an American soldier is full of contradictions. There is no easy way to reconcile the world’s most lethal military force with the world’s most open society. But the two are inextricably linked. The more representative is the democracy and the freer is the republic, the more it is worth fighting for.
ever seen. Thank GOD for the United States Marine Corps!
We can do our best to bridge this gap by hearing the stories from the veterans themselves, and although some experiences are off limits, old soldiers do like to tell of their adventures. As a result, the list of fascinating books about military campaigns is long. It has just gotten one book longer and a whole generation better. I believe that Captain Fick’s One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer is destined to be the classic military memoir for our times.
What do we learn from Captain Fick’s treatise? We see example upon example of how American soldiers use force deliberately rather than indiscriminately. We come to realize that operational mistakes in war are inevitable, but when they occur, Marines on the ground have been trained to overcome them. And we feel reassured that having a Dartmouth classics major at the helm of an elite platoon in Iraq makes for not just a great read, but it helps get the mission accomplished and keep the troops alive.
We are grateful to Captain Fick for being with us today to share the insights he has gained from his unique experiences. Earlier today, he had lunch with the Rockefeller Center’s PoliTalk discussion group and students in the Dickey Center’s War and Peace Studies program. He met with some of Dartmouth’s ROTC cadets. Tonight, he will lead a session of the Rockefeller Center’s Leadership Fellows program. It’s not quite a day of training at Quantico, but it is more than enough to show Nate’s affection for his alma mater.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Captain Nathaniel Fick.