Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw is a formidable book that delves into the former Navy SEAL’s hardships. More importantly, it explains how he overcame those hardships and challenges, something the current Texas Congressman applies to American society.  This book isn’t about the challenges, but about the solutions.  

The titles for each chapter explain how Americans can find the strength to handle everything from daily frustrations to difficult hardships.  The introduction, “Stay Outraged,” to the conclusion, “The Story of America,” shows how people must navigate their life with humor, a sense of duty, respect, and perseverance. 

For a little perspective, the first chapter delves into his injuries.  Having served as a Navy Seal for a decade, Lt. Commander Crenshaw was wounded in the Helmand Province in 2012, losing his right eye and requiring multiple surgeries to save his left eye. He earned two Bronze Star Medals, one with Valor, the Purple Heart, and the Navy Commendation Medal with Valor. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in November 2018, where he represents the Second Congressional District of Texas.

With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, it was heartwarming to read his feelings about his mother who died after battling cancer for years.  In the book he writes, “Going from kindergarten to 4th grade knowing that your mother is dying, that the center of a small boy’s world is collapsing is an experience I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone. But from this grief came learning. I got to experience the nature of a true hero, and the example she set was the most powerful fortifying and selfless thing I’ve ever seen, including in combat. Lying helpless in a hospital bed, I had to wonder whether my mother had asked the same desperate question I was currently asking – would I ever see my family again? I figured that if she could suffer through that question and the unknowable answer, so could I. My mother spent a half decade staring death in the face, burdened with caring for two small boys whom she would not live to see grow up. She lived day to day in ever-increasing pain. The cancer afflicted her, and the cancer treatments afflicted her, too. Six rounds of chemotherapy on top of radiation treatments are a brutal experience for even the strongest constitution. Self-pity is never a useful state. But if anyone had a reason to feel sorry for herself, it was her, and she never complained.”

Congressman Crenshaw told American Thinker, “Perspective is important.  I had to live through blindness, but my mother definitely had it worse. The book is dedicated to my mom and wife.  She was the first true sign of strength that I looked up to as a young boy.  After being diagnosed with cancer when I as five, she died when I was ten.  She never complained, never had self-pity, and she never saw herself as a victim.  Those values were instilled in my brother and myself.”

Another important lesson can be applied to all Americans who are going through the COVID 19 pandemic, where the world’s fortitude comes to mind. This book quote is very applicable, “The most devastating mental state I could ever wish upon someone is a sense of helplessness, a sense that they are not in control of themselves or their destiny.”  Sound familiar?

He directly commented, “I hope people see that what is required is mental toughness, honesty, and the ability to confront risk head on.  The Queen of England’s public address really stuck with me when she said, ‘I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.’”   

Asked about the SNL incident where Pete Davidson made fun by saying, “This guy is kind of cool, Dan Crenshaw. You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie. I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever…” Crenshaw’s reply was calm, “Good rule in life: I try hard not to offend; I try harder not to be offended. That being said, I hope @nbcsnl recognizes that vets don’t deserve to see their wounds used as punchlines for bad jokes.” He was then asked to come on SNL where Davidson apologized.  

Why was his reaction so measured?  “Where our culture falls short is that people assume there might not be good intentions, assuming the worst of intentions.  The reason they asked me to come on is because of how I reacted.  Instead of acting as the outraged victim, I chose my own narrative.  I did not want to express self-pity and to blame others.”

One of the chapters is entitled, “Who Is Your Hero?”  Why didn’t he name anyone? “For me, it is not about individuals to look up to because they can disappoint you, no one is perfect.  But, to look at someone’s success to build a hero’s architect, not a person.”

He hopes readers will understand, “Establish a culture that can last with the need for individual liberty, equal opportunity, personal responsibility, and mental toughness.  Do not accept a lesser version of yourself and be a victor as opposed to a victim.  I think this book quote summarizes my feelings, ‘It is about the importance of building a society or iron-tough individuals who can think for themselves, take care of themselves, and recognize that a culture characterized by grit, discipline, and self-reliance is a culture that survives.”



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.