The Daring Cost Of Having Priorities For One Brave Man

By Guy Cortise, BUD/S Class 89

Usually, when a person asks me what it takes to become a SEAL, I tell them that it takes a person with a really warped sense of priorities. I answer the follow-up questions with my own experience of consciously choosing to be crippled for life, rather than be medically dropped from training. But that’s a story for another time.

This is the story of my friend, Michael Maxwell. Mike was in BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) Class 89 with me. I was nineteen at the time; Mike was twenty-nine, an old man by trainee standards. He had already served a hitch in the Marines, and was currently a corpsman in the Navy.

Even at twenty-nine years, Mike was incredibly fit. He won our class “Iron Man” competition, meaning he outperformed everybody else in the class in push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, and pull-ups. Yet Mike wasn’t all about Mike. On the fourteen-mile run, when he and I were vying for first place, he would encourage me with Scripture about God supplying me strength, or running a race with endurance! We ended up tying for first place, but I suspect he waited for me.

After Mike and I made it through “Hell Week,” I figured there was nothing that would keep him from graduating. A week later, we were sent to San Clemente Island for two weeks of land warfare and demolition training.

The day before our departure, Mike came to me and said he was quitting.

I was gobsmacked. “What!??  Why?” I choked out.

Mike explained that he did not want to leave his wife for those two weeks.

“But, if you quit,” I reasoned, “you’ll get sent to the fleet, and you’ll be gone from her for six months at a time!”

“I understand,” he said, “but I just can’t be away right now. I believe that it’s not right for me to leave her alone now.”

I figured there was a lot that wasn’t being shared. I also knew that his commitment to his wife was part of his Christian faith, and it was unshakable, so I sadly stopped my protests.

I saw Mike about eighteen months later. I expected him to be full of regret and bitterness at choosing to give up his dream of becoming a SEAL in order to placate his wife, not to mention having to spend all those months at sea!

Mike was completely at peace with his decision. He made no excuse, he didn’t even give the typical “I could have made it…” (he’s the one guy, I believe, who could have!). Furthermore, Mike was never transferred to the fleet! He was given the job of being ann admiral’s driver. Maybe God rewarded his faithfulness?

In the final analysis, Mike did not make it through SEAL training, not because he couldn’t, but because he did not have a “warped” sense of priorities. Whatever was going on in his marriage, he prioritized it over becoming a SEAL.

In my opinion, Mike did not fail SEAL training. Mike succeeded in his faith and marriage.

All to say, this man, had priorities that mattered more than any worldly goal that man can imagine.  Hooyah Mike Maxwell!



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