“Embrace the Suck Devil Dog!!!” That is a phrase all Marines have heard at some point — or at many points — during their Marine Corps tenure. The phrase “Embrace the Suck” is used to help motivate Marines to ignore the pain and discomfort of the moment and instead not just come to terms with, but relish the misery they are currently experiencing.
Beyond that, the phrase is used as a reminder from Marine to Marine that they already know how to deal with adversity, so that when adversity comes they already know how to conquer the problem at hand.
Differences of Opinion by MOS
A meme I saw a few years back said this about soldiers on a rainy, miserable deployment:
Infantry: “This sucks.”
Rangers: “I like the way this sucks.”
Special Forces: “I wish it would suck more.”
Aviation: “Sure sucks down there.”
Air Force: “What?! Cable’s out! This sucks!
While this is just a friendly joke in the military, it does highlight a bit of the mentality some of the different professions within the military really have.
I had a friend in the Marine Corps who absolutely loved being wet, muddy, and miserable… He actually looked for ways to get wet and muddy first before going on a run or doing an obstacle course just to make it more difficult.
This guy ran in jungle boots instead of go-fasters (aka USMC running shoes) and camouflage utilities instead of PT shorts and a T-shirt. It was a way for him to prove to everyone else how much mentally tougher he was than them. And, generally speaking, it worked.
Other Marines would be complaining about getting up at 0500 to do a squad run in shorts, T-shirt, and tennis shoes and he would show up to lead the run in utilities and boots. That’s just how he was. As a matter of fact, he went hard in all aspects of life, both on and off duty. We need military members like him who gladly “Embrace the Suck.”
Everyone Hates Being Miserable but Some Embrace It
Everyone hates being tired, cold, and wet. There is arguably no worse natural condition short of being injured that a person can be subjected to.
OK, OK I hear you Navy SEALs; tired, cold, wet, AND sandy is worse but I’m sure you all can handle it fine.
In Marine Corps Boot Camp, Officer Candidate School, Combat Training, or School of Infantry one of the best ways instructors mess with you is to get you tired, cold, and wet. They know once a person is tired, cold, and wet their ability to “play nice” or “go with the flow” essentially evaporates and the real qualities of a person are revealed.
Does the person shut down or do they rise to meet the challenges? Do they complain and whine or do they motivate others to embrace the suck and push forward? Are they able to still complete the given mission or do they wilt under the misery?
Embracing the suck really is a mentality that successful military personnel must have. That said, don’t good employees in the civilian world need to have the same mindset? What about good spouses or good parents? How about when it is time to do the chores around the house or when you have to go to work on Monday after a particularly “exciting” weekend? Don’t all of those scenarios also require someone to embrace the suck in their daily lives?
Stories of Heroes Who Embrace the Suck Daily
Someone who works hard labor for 60 hours a week while making a low wage just so his kids and wife have food on the table and the rent is paid on time has to embrace the suck every morning when his alarm goes off. That worker has to be mentally strong and must daily come to terms with persevering through the workday knowing all the while that another will be come tomorrow.
Or, consider the single mom who works three jobs just to give her kids the same niceties in life that their friends have. She works all those jobs and still finds time to pack her kids’ lunchboxes for school and then sacrifices her evening lunch break to tuck them into bed each night. Doesn’t she embody the idea of embracing the suck on a daily basis? Doesn’t she have just as solid a mindset as the Special Forces soldier embedded behind enemy lines? In my opinion, she does.
Also, consider the husband and wife who have just worked a full work week and it is now Saturday, but they know the bathrooms need to be cleaned, someone needs to go to the grocery store, the laundry has to get done and the grass has to be mowed. That all in addition to needing and wanting to spend time with their kids and their aging parents.
All of these people are officially embraced the suck.
Marcus Luttrell Embodies Embrace the Suck
One of the most infamous military stories of someone who chose to embrace the suck is that of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell as told in the movie Lone Survivor. In 2005, Luttrell was sent out with teammates Mike Murphy, Danny Dietz, and Matt Axelson to a counter-insurgency operation in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan with the intended goal of disrupting local Taliban anti-coalition militia (ACM) activity.
During the mission, the men were surrounded and ambushed by a group of Taliban fighters. A raging firefight ensued. During the battle, Mike Murphy, Danny Dietz, and Matt Axelson were mortally wounded and Luttrell was gravely injured. In addition to losing his teammates and friends, Luttrell also lost most of his uniform and gear while falling down the mountainside. He was injured and alone.
Luttrell could have simply chosen to lie on that Afghan mountainside and give up and few would have blamed him. But instead, he decided to reach down deep within himself and muster the courage to embrace his situation and persevere in spite of it. Luttrell has said in interviews held with various outlets that one desire that pushed him was that he wanted the story of the heroic actions of his friends to be told and remembered and he knew he was the only remaining person who could make that a reality so he chose to push on.
Luttrell admits he was in bad shape following the battle. In a 20144 interview with Dallas News, he described his injuries as follows,
“Eleven through-and-through [wounds]. Broken pelvis. Broken back. Shoulder [sic] was torn out. My knees were destroyed. Pretty severe facial damage. I bit my tongue in half. My right hand was destroyed from my thumb over to my index finger. That’s about as much as I can think of right now.”
Too injured to walk, he decided to crawl to better increase his chance of survival. Even after sustaining each of those injuries Luttrell continued fighting — and killing — Taliban members as they wandered near him. It is truly an inspiring story of grit and courage.
There is an old quote by General George Patton in which he said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
That saying is true regarding the heroes who gave their lives on the Afghan mountainside during Operation Red Wings. We as Americans should thank God daily that men such as Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz, Matt Axelson, and Marcus Luttrell ever walked among us. They are true heroes.
To wrap this all up, whether you are gravely wounded and alone in a foreign land or you are a single mom working 80 hours a week just so your kids don’t know they’re “different” financially from their friends, we all must embrace the things that we don’t enjoy in our pursuit of life, happiness and/or success.
To quote U.S. Marine Michael Fisher, “To embrace the suck means to have discipline. Having the mental toughness to see the hard work through to the end. You continue with the hard-charging attitude of being able to keep moving forward and never give up.”
Regardless of your situation, move forward and don’t give up. Embrace the Suck!