Endurance Cartel Podcast

Endurance Cartel

#012 The Real Fight Starts When The War Is Over! Surviving The Raging Battle Inside (with author, filmmaker, and U.S. Marine veteran, Mike Scotti)

Mike Scotti - Endurance Cartel Podcast

In this week’s episode of the Endurance Cartel, Javier Pineda is joined by Mike Scotti, author, filmmaker, and U.S. Marine veteran who shares his story of surviving the trauma of war and the raging battle that many of the veterans face upon returning from active duty.

Mike Scotti joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves while he was still an undergraduate at the University of Miami, Florida. After graduation, he attended the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served four years on active duty as an artillery officer and platoon commander in the First Marine Division. Mike was among the first American troops into both Pakistan and Afghanistan in the Fall of 2001. In early 2003 he was deployed to Iraq and was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” for actions under fire and was honorably discharged.

But, his fighting days were not over yet, as he found himself struggling to survive his post-war darkness. He found solace in helping others get through their own traumas, and while he was attending NYU Stern, Mike founded the Military Veterans Club. Later on, he was a founding Board of Directors member for the military charity Reserve Aid. Through the organization, he raised over $5 million and assisted over 4,000 veteran families in need.

In hopes of finally letting go of the past, Mike decided to openly talk about his experiences. He co-produced and starred in the award-winning documentary Severe Clear, which uses his personal combat footage that chronicles his time in Iraq, and wrote The Blue Cascade: A Memoir of Life after War.

What Makes Someone a Marine? Endurance, Determination & “Warrior DNA”

We all have childhood dreams, about what we wish to become when we grow up. We dream about being pilots, astronauts, doctors…But not all of us manage to hold on to those dreams. It takes a certain kind of person, with a strong will, tenacity, and determination to transform a child’s play into reality.

“There are certain folks who are just born with what I like to call a worrier DNA. That is who they are, whether they are a protector or a fighter”, says Mike Scotti, a former U.S. Marine whose journey in the military forces started just like that: as a childhood dream.

Mike grew up in Redbank, New Jersey, in an era when the Cold War was still dividing the world. From the smell of the cigar the owner of an old Army Navy shop was smoking to the poster of a bulldog calling for troops to arms, everything stuck with him and implacably traced his destiny.

So, there was no surprise to anyone when he enlisted. Mike was still an undergrad at the University of Miami when he joined the Marine Corps training boot camp and discovered a new sense of belonging.

“There’s just this brotherhood, this sisterhood, this sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself. And I think that I sensed that in a way that I didn’t sense from other services. I love the Marine Corps more than anything on earth. It’s one of the few things left on this earth that I feel is still very pure organization-wise. It’s unadulterated.”

Training Like a Marine (survival of the fittest)

The mindset of a Marine is defined by an uncommon willingness to fight and an unfaltering focus on victory. They are prepared for anything and everything, training their minds, their spirits, and their bodies with the same dedication. Surviving the obstacles they’ll have to face depends on that.

“It’s a culture of excellence. Marines pride themselves on being in really good shape and they pride themselves on understanding history and understanding how battles will fall. They always train live fire. It’s a big thing about Marine Corps training. We lose a marine or two every few years, sometimes more, but you train how you fight and you learn the lessons very quickly. You have to. That’s one of the reasons why the Marine Corps are absolutely vicious in combat.”

Marine boot camp is extremely challenging, both physically and mentally. It is considered to be tougher than the basic training programs of any of the other military services. Besides marksmanship training, swim qualifications, field training, and other physical drills, marines’ training incorporates core values like honor, courage, and esprit the corps, a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty shared by the members of the group.

“The Marine Corps will not let a unit that is not deployment ready go on deployment. For a year before you deploy, there are these tests. If you fail to qualify, your commander gets relieved of duty. His career’s over. They have this thing called the McCree Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation. It still makes me nervous thinking about it. MCCREE Hump is a 26 miles march in formation with combat load on your back. Now I’m only five four and that load kicked my ass, kicked my ass. But it’s worth it.”

Surviving The Raging Battle Inside

When 9/11 happened, Mike was already enlisted in the marines so he deployed to Iraq in early 2003. He commanded a detachment of forward observers and fought with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, Fourth Marines. He was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” for actions under fire, including destroying enemy strongpoint positions and neutralizing enemy forward observers.

After being honorably discharged from active duty, Mike attempted to leave the past behind and return to a normal life. He went back to school and attended the New York University Stern School of Business. He became the founder of two organizations dedicated to helping wounded veterans and their families and started to work his way up in the high-paying finance world.

But, the truth was his fighting days were not over. As one of the soldiers on the front line of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mike was taught that weakness is what gets you killed. Upon returning from war, he approached his new life the same way. So, he ignored the raging war inside to the point he started contemplating suicide.

That’s when he decided the only way to heal was to speak openly about his experiences.

“For me, the will to fight and do all these other things just comes from a love for fellow veterans. It first started with seeing young marines and young soldiers coming back from the war, and there was that little bit of an echo. There’s a whole generation of young marines and soldiers who have seen sustained combat that need to talk about it.”

“The Blue Cascade: A Memoir of Life After War” & “Severe clear”- Mike’s Outlets for Surviving Post-War Trauma

As a twist of faith, Scotti was ultimately able to find a path to healing. After showing his family some of the footage he recorded during his tour of duty, they convinced him to share them with the world. That’s how Scotti became the subject of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning documentary film Severe Clear, which was created from the extensive video journals he kept while serving in Iraq.

“The movie was my outlet so I didn’t blow my brains up. It was my therapy and I just needed to get it out there. It was like a piece of history. And when I saw the human beings, the veterans, and their family members that were coming to see the movie (…) mothers would say now I understand why my son or my daughter are the way they are after they came back (…) I realized that I needed to tell the other story as well”.

So, he laid his emotions on paper and released “The Blue Cascade: A Memoir of Life After War”, a searing and beautifully written memoir about surviving depression and trauma upon returning from active combat.

Today, Mike is working on releasing a new novel, a series of self-help books, and a tv/streaming series called “Tailspin Finland“, which depicts the struggles of two American idiots that, after the post-combat suicide of their little brother, set out to fulfill his lifelong wish: to create the world’s most kick-ass 80s-style-rock-n-roll hairband Supergroup.

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