The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL

Image of The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL
Release Date: 
April 9, 2012
Mariner Books
Reviewed by: 

A Bosnian woman once asked author Eric Greitens “Why don’t you do anything?” At the moment, the question led to a frustrating conversation; Mr. Greitens was doing something, he was there to help in the Croatian refugee camps. Why couldn’t she understand that?

After weeks in the camps, Mr. Greitens would come to understand her frustration. Americans could send aid or even come and serve in the refugee camps, but that did nothing to stop the violence of ethnic cleansing. Mr. Greitens determined that in order to truly serve humanitarian needs, he would have to protect as well as aid, he would have to be as strong as he was good. Years later, on the eve of September 11th, he would complete Hell Week, the toughest test of U.S. Navy SEAL training.

The Heart and Fist is more than a memoir. It is the intense journey of a man who will stop at nothing to serve others. Eric Greitens has served in humanitarian efforts across the globe and is now the CEO of The Mission Continues, an organization that helps disabled veterans continue to serve their country as “citizen leaders.” He is also a combat tested Navy SEAL, and a recipient of both the Purple Heart, and Bronze Star. This book is a chronological collection of his experiences, as well as the lessons he learned along the way.

The Heart and Fist is simply hard to put down. It is nothing short of captivating. Mr. Greitens recounts his story with fascinating prose and exhilarating dialogue. Readers will feel their chest tighten as they relive his weeks with abused children in Bolivia, and they will cringe as they experience the bitter cold and crushing pain of SEAL training. But Mr. Greitens does more than tell a gripping story. This Rhodes Scholar weaves into his storytelling the history behind each pocket of suffering and every military action that he encounters. He offers a breathtaking voyage that will leave the reader both heartbroken and well informed.

This is a book for both genders, but it is a must-read for men. A true renaissance man, Mr. Greitens is athlete and scholar, warrior and humanitarian. He not only observes and records suffering, he also takes extraordinary action in his efforts to relieve it. He demonstrates what it means to be a leader and a man. As spring commencements quickly approach, fathers of high school or college graduates would do well to read this book and then pass it on to their sons.

More than 15 years ago, the woman in Bosnia posed a question for all of us: “Why don’t you do anything?” In The Heart and Fist, Mr. Greitens doesn’t just tell us how to respond, he leads the way. All we have to do is follow.