Last night Pam and I had the privilege of sharing dinner with Kevin Lacz,probably one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. Kevin was a Navy Seal. You may remember the movie “American Sniper.” He played himself and he is every bit as impressive as he was on the big screen . All of 6’3″ and some 230 pounds, he has that boy next store smile that anyone could warm up to as he approaches. There is something though in his demeanor that says so much more. His 33 years belies a life experience only few could imagine.
Born in central Connecticut, Kevin had enrolled at James Madison University. He was inspired by the attacks on September 11 which took the life of a good friend’s father and he decided to leave school. Even he admits that school was not for him at this time in his life. He was immature and needed something else to direct his life. He saw a poster in a Navy recruiter’s office and decided to enlist with the intention of becoming a Seal. Before going to BUD’s training in Coronado he attended the Combat Medical School at Fort Bragg to learn to be a Hospital Corpsman. He did two platoons at SEAL Team Three as a platoon sniper, breacher, and combat medic, each with a deployment to Iraq. It was there that he met Chris Kyle, the subject of the “American Sniper,” It was his experiences in Ramadi that most of the movie is based on. He was awarded the Bronze Star with a Combat V along with other medals before leaving the service.
After his enlistment ended, he returned to school at the University of Connecticut eventually graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Political Science in 2011. Drawing on his experience in combat medicine he applied to Wake Forest with the goal of becoming a Physician Assistant, Today Kevin works with Regenesis Llc in Pensacola, Florida. He works actively to support his brothers and sisters currently in the service and with veterans in the community.
Introduced to Clint Eastwood, Kevin was hired to play himself shortly before shooting was to begin on the basis of a Skype interview. He also served as a technical advisor for the film. For those of you who saw the film, he was the guy in one scene who had a target tattooed on his back and his buddies played darts at it. He neither confirms or denies the veracity of the scene. However, he denies having the tattoo.
So, why am I writing all this? Lacz explained to us why people are able to do extraordinary things in the most stressful circumstances. In an incident in Ramadi while his platoon was pinned to a rooftop an RPG landed in the middle of his team. One of his friends, immediately dove on the device smothering the blast and saving his buddies. He of course died in the effort.
“We were a team”, Lacz said. Nothing got accomplished without a cooperative effort. There was no hesitation on the part of that man and you got the impression if it wasn’t him, someone else would have made the sacrifice. The field hockey pitch or any other playing field are not the streets of Fallujah or Ramadi, but the lesson is similar. He said the difference between success and failure is always on top of the shoulders and between your ears. If you need to run faster, you have to think and believe in yourself to run faster. Defeat is not an option, whether it be in an ordinary life or on the battlefield. Yes, there may be losses along the way but you can not be defeated unless you become defeated in your mind. Lastly. he defined leadership as calm in the middle of chaos. Your heart may be racing and world may be collapsing but the leader expresses that calm that keeps everyone to the task at hand.
We need heroes to remind us what is possible if we just let the human spirit within ourselves drive our actions. We may think we live mundane lives, but the next time we see little bumps ahead think of Chris Kyle or Kevin Lacz and their model of living. As we departed, Kevin gave me a friendly embrace, the warmth of which will remain with me the rest of my days.