The “why” is, as you can imagine, a matter of dispute to scientists, and of no more than casual interest to us. It’s just a fact of SF life. We are pretty deficient in the genetics, metaphysics, and epistemiology of surrender.
We actually have a course where we teach guys how, if through some screwup you wind up in the enemy’s hands, you can continue to take the war to him from what he mistakenly thinks is hopeless confinement. The course is based on the experiences of real-life SF soldiers like Nick Rowe and Jon Cavaiaini (and, to be fair, men from our sister services, and the experiences of others in history — ally and enemy) who did just that while in the jug in wars gone by. (There’s actually more than one course, but everybody does at least one these days).
Part of Never Quit is Playing Hurt. Sports coaches, players, and fans know what that is. It’s real rare to see an SF guy with a major valor award and no Purple Heart. (It happens. We know of one guy who got 10 Silver Stars and never got tagged, and probably could have had 20 if another part of SF wasn’t We Suck at Paperwork). You’re only at 100% on the first day of Game Season and the enemy, the weather, the conditions, and the mission start attriting you right away.
Over the years we’ve known some legendary guys who played hurt, and won.
The Guys Who Had to Cheat Their Way In
Like every other thing out there, SF has entrance standards; before you can go and probably flunk SF Assessment & Selection and on, if you pass, to the SF Qualification Course, you need to tick a number of boxes. Some of these are germane to mission performance: you have to have a working cardiovascular system and decent, or repairable anyway, eyesight. Others are more marginal: is it a big deal if an SF guy has red/green color blindness, which about one in ten males have in some form? Experience says “no,” but the standards say, “yeah.”
Likewise, there’s a limit for corrected and uncorrected vision. (Now that surgery can fix nearsightedness, that’s less of a problem). But we couldn’t pass an honest vision test, back in the day. (So? We arranged a dishonest one. The statute of limitations has run out by now).
Of course, these standards are just one more way in which All of Life is an IQ Test, and yes, guys cheat their way past them. They memorize the order of all the tiles in the color-blindness test book, for example. We knew a guy, Art, who did that. And we learned that there’s a benefit to having a color-blind man on the team: he can see through camouflage better than people whose visual systems have a more normal frequency response curve.
The Guys Who Had to Cheat to Stay In
Chris got news you’d never expect. He ate healthy, didn’t smoke (although he did dip), and was an avid runner and hiker who kept himself trim. And the doctors told him: he had diabetes.
That’s a career-ender right there. But it didn’t. An entire team and later, an entire company, and the battalion and group medical officers, helped him cover it up.
Andy had something that was a bit harder to cover up: a massive heart attack. But we did.
And then there was our own problem, yeah, apart from the vision thing. There was the fact that one leg didn’t really work after an unfortunate parachute jump. Yet we hung on for six more years, despite having an ankle that doesn’t exactly bend.
We’re reminded of an old SF maxim:
If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.
And its corollary:
If you get caught, you’re tryin’ too hard.
Now What Happens?
What happens to guys like Chris and Andy and Art when they get ready to retire? That’s a problem. Because they kept their problems out of their military medical records, they can’t get help from the VA.
Fortunately, that doesn’t leave them materially worse off than anyone else.
And doubly fortunately, there’s a nonprofit that helps special operators who hid their stuff through their time in service, to claim a disability. We have no direct connection to OASIS, but we hear good things about ‘em. If you are a former SOF guy who lied, cheated and stole to stay in Group /on the Teams / in an operational Squadron, they can walk you through doing the necessary stuff to get your paperwork straight.