Thank You for My Service - Mat Best
Does Anyone Need a Hand?
As an Army Ranger and a contractor, I had the honor and pleasure of spending some of the best years of my life defending what this country stands for. I did my thing in many different areas of several countries over the better part of a decade. I saw a lot of death. I made a fair share of it myself, dispatching our enemies to the netherworld with extreme prejudice by any means necessary. I wore the uniform with immense pride and deep admiration for those who had worn it long before me, including my father, a Vietnam-era veteran. It was a privilege to be part of a military brotherhood that is second to none.
After leaving the Army following five combat deployments, I never thought I’d be able to replicate the relationships I built within that brotherhood. I assumed that whatever I did next couldn’t possibly offer the kind of camaraderie you develop by living and working with the same group of guys, in war zones and on military bases, day in and day out. Over the years, however, I’ve found ways to compensate for that in my personal life and in my professional life. Early on, if I was missing one of my boys, I’d just hop on a plane and crash on his couch without giving him a chance to warn his wife, like a good friend is supposed to. Later, to stay in touch, I’d start a group text and send a message like “Perfect 10” with a picture of Kim Jong Il’s bullet-riddled face taped over the ten ring at my local shooting range, which would inspire them to send range pics of their own, partly to join in the fun and partly to pretend like they’re better shooters than me, which is just about as pointless an exercise as arguing on the Internet.
Eventually, though, as I moved on and moved around and some of those older relationships faded into the background, I realized that camaraderie isn’t something that only develops between people who’ve shared the same experience. It’s also possible to develop it with new people who share the same values and have had the same types of experiences. Guys from the military can work and connect with each other outside the military too. The service is not the only place where you can create bonds with guys who know what it means to sacrifice, to suffer, and to shit in places with no doors on them.
That isn’t why I ultimately started a clothing company or a liquor company or joined forces to build a coffee company called Black Rifle Coffee, but it is why my partners and I prioritize hiring veterans. We know that they’re looking for the same thing in the civilian world that we were: the ability to play with guns, dogs, and explosives while doing some good and keeping our health benefits in the process. Starting a business by veterans, for veterans, is probably the closest I will ever come to re-creating the emotions I felt and the bonds I enjoyed during my time with the Army and the ███.
Now if only it could re-create the one thing I have missed more than anything—every waking moment of every day—since I left the military: the thrill of war.
Silently hunting nature’s most formidable opponent while implementing years of training to execute a precision raid? Yes, please. High-fiving some jihadi’s face into martyrdom with a suppressed AR-15? That’s just a warm slice of freedom pie with an ice-cold scoop of America on the side. Understanding the fragile, ephemeral nature of life and then being the one to snatch it away from some fucking terrorist who hates you and wants to kill you and everyone you care about? It’s better than Chick-fil-A…and let’s face it, nothing is better than Chick-fil-A.
Yet the most satisfying kind of war story of all, karmically speaking, is when one of these dickless shitbirds suicide-bombs himself into oblivion but fails to take anybody with him because he’s fucking stupid. One night, deep in central Iraq on my final deployment, I had the great honor of watching the world’s worst terrorist work his special brand of magic.
Our target that night was a set of buildings that either housed or operated as a meeting place for an active cell of insurgents. When that many fighters gather in one place there’s usually a bunch of shit worth knowing about them, so our mission was to capture as