Nathaniel Serling
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Nathaniel Serling

Courage Under Fire

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About Him

Living… in Arlington County, Virginia, where he just came back from Iraq. He’s never seen it get so dark as it did in Iraq. No city lights, just black. Black. It's hard to describe to someone who wasn't there. Trouble is, that’s all anyone in Arlington wants to hear about.

Profession… Lieutenant Colonel who served in Al Bathra during the Gulf War. He was involved in an incident in which my own men were killed by friendly fire. He gave the order. The investigators cleared him and his men of all the blame. They didn't know that the target signature of  tank being hit was the same as one firing. They’d never trained under live fire.

Relationship Status… in a strained marriage. Serling’s wife is getting the brunt of his self-loathing. The children don't know what's going on. They don't understand why their daddy chose to move out and leave them. Neither does Serling’s wife. It’s clear he can’t do this to them anymore.

Challenge… letting go of the past. He made a command decision in a combat environment under hostile fire - and he was wrong. As he says, “That's the chance you take when you make decisions. Nobody's perfect. You make decisions and you hope you're right more than you're wrong. Just like any other job.” The only difference is everything decision carries the potential price of human life. All he can do in the face of that challenge is hope not to make the same mistake twice.

Personality… guilt-ridden. The law could absolve him of all blame, yet his implicit responsibility for those deaths lingers. It was a certain capacity for cognitive dissonance that took him to the Army – from a person who could never kill to one who had to in the name of his country.  He never took it lightly. As he describes: “It's a struggle every day, finding out what's right or wrong. Most people don't even want to wade into those waters. That's why we have religion, Codes of Conduct, rules to sort it out for us.”

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