Eric Greitens

Dec 3, 2009
Outside Magazine
Calling All Heroes

Greitens was nominated by friend and fellow subscriber Adam Flath. Know someone who deserves to be our next Reader of the Year? Let us know.

Eric Greitens

Age: 35
Organization: The Mission Continues
Greitens's résumé is hard to believe. Twelve-time marathoner with a 2:58 best. Champion boxer. Aspiring mountaineer. Rhodes scholar. Oxford graduate. Author and photographer (his humanitarian work in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Gaza, among other places, was published as a book of essays and photographs). College professor. Navy SEAL. Four tours (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, and Africa). A Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. A White House Fellows program. But the reason we chose him out of more than 600 nominees as Reader of the Year? His work since his tours. After a suicide truck bomb hit his platoon in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007, Greitens visited his wounded teammates and other marines in military hospitals. They all said that when they recovered, they wanted to continue to serve, in uniform or out. The St. Louis based Greitens then partnered with a few veteran friends and used his own combat pay to start The Mission Continues, an organization that trains wounded vets for leadership roles in their communities. He's since put 31 vets through the program. Greitens, an Outside reader for years, still finds time for six workouts a week, and he's writing a book about service. "I think people end up benefiting from serving as much as those they aim to serve," he says. Here's more, in his own words.

One of the most influential people in my life was my first boxing coach, Earl Blair. He taught me that every single person is capable of tremendous courage if they're given the right circumstances, the right training, and the right encouragement. When you challenge someone, you let them know you believe in them.

In SEAL training, I learned it's actually easier to be a leader. When you're leading a team, your thoughts are always on them. No matter how much I was hurting, no matter how tortured I had been, there was someone hurting worse than me. You don't have time for your own self-pity.

I take time every single morning to exercise. It's really important for me to get my head and spirit right before I start the day's work. I work very long hours, but when I go home, I'm home. When I'm on the mountain, I'm on the mountain. I do not constantly BlackBerry.

My two favorite marathons were the New Jersey Marathon, where I broke three hours, and the Shamrock Marathon, which we ran in Fallujah, Iraq. It was the first marathon where they start the race with a briefing about what to do in the event of incoming artillery fire.

I want every single wounded or disabled vet to be welcomed home and seen as an asset. This year, we want to have 100 wounded or disabled vets as Mission Continues fellows. At some point, if we're tremendously successful, the organization will grow larger than me.

Filed To: Politics, Iraq