What’s on your Batman belt?

Batman is one of the greatest stories of letting your fears and challenges make you stronger.  Okay, Batman is a fictional character, but you have to respect the storyline that led to 14 feature films and 21 movies featuring the same fictional character!

In the latest episode of UNBEATABLE, I had the chance to sit down and interview two guys that I highly respect.  Mark Hollis and J.T. Cooper are the modern-day military equivalent of Batman to me (or for those DC Comics fanatics out there, Batman and Robin).

If you’re one of the few people on the planet who has never heard the backstory of Bruce Wayne, here’s an oversimplification of events that led to him becoming one of the most recognizable superheroes of all time:

His extremely rich parents were murdered before his eyes. This left him under the care of a guardian named Alfred. Wayne started to use this massive family fortune to clean up a city and to make a better life for his neighbors.  Batman developed some legendary weapons to help him in the fight against crime. The Batman persona came from a particularly traumatic childhood experience with bats. Overcoming this fear of bats became Bruce Wayne’s greatest weapon.

While interviewing Mark and J.T., I started to recognize this storyline. It occurred to me that I was listening to a modern version of Batman. These two warriors are unknown to most of the military because their names never appear associated with Black Hawk Down. However, these two guys are the reason I’m alive today.

I wanted to tell their story, because I believe there’s something you can learn from Mark and J.T. Perhaps you can become a mini-version of Batman in your community, as well.

From bad memories to ballads

J.T. is a country boy from the hills of Tennessee. When he joined the military, it was his way to follow in the footsteps of generations of his military family. Serving in the United States Army took him far away from his hometown and his country music roots.

He was deployed to Somalia as part of the United Nations humanitarian relief mission to help provide food to a starving nation.  During this nation building mission, J.T. and his unit was called into action to fight alongside some of America’s greatest special operations warriors.  J.T. and his unit would spend almost 12 hours fighting courageously for men he had never met.

J.T. later had some personal struggles with what he experienced in Somalia. These struggles could have overwhelmed him. But, instead of allowing this trauma from combat to destroy his life, he decided to do something good with it. J.T. began a mission to help other guys and gals that have gone through something similar.

He took his love for warriors and his passion for music and combined these two into a ministry.  Warrior Rounds exists to help warriors take their stories from combat and turn them into music lyrics. J.T.’s mission is to connect combat veterans with accomplished musicians. Eventually, these powerful stories become the basis for gripping music lyrics. J.T. helps people turn bad memories into ballads.

From service to serving

Mark was a brand-new platoon leader. Literally, Mark Hollis was introduced to his new unit the day he arrived in combat. Assuming the role of leadership is an incredible challenge for anyone. But, as if assuming the role of leadership wasn’t difficult enough, Mark’s circumstances were even more challenging.  He was an outsider. 

He assumed the role of leading this platoon that had been working together and training together for more than a year. These guys knew each other intimately long before Mark showed up. Consider this: His first day on the job was his first day in combat. The men that he would lead knew each other and their capabilities, while Mark was considered an outsider. This combination of leadership challenges would overwhelm anyone! –but not Mark.

He led men like J.T. and others in one of the most violent and dangerous combat missions in a generation. It was Mark’s role to place his men in the lead elements through the city streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. Mark led skillfully, fought valiantly, and served honorably during this major combat operation, yet got no recognition for it when the movie Black Hawk Down was released.

His service in Somalia alone was more than the average soldier would do over the course of an entire career in the early 1990s. However, Mark didn’t stop serving after Somalia. He continued a career as an officer in the United States Army. Retiring decades later, Mark continues to serve today. He uses his skills as a leader to care for homeless veterans in his community.  

What’s on your tool belt?

J.T. uses his experience in the music industry to help struggling combat veterans. Mark continues to use his leadership skills to serve homeless veterans. These two modern-day Batmen have turned painful experiences into a passion to serve others.

All of us go through tough times.  Why not take what you have learned from those difficult experiences and use those lessons to teach others?   Some of the painful moments of our lives can also be the most powerful moments, because they propel us to help other.

I challenge you to take your difficult experiences and use them like a tool on Batman’s belt. Follow J.T.’s and Mark’s examples. Use your hardships to help others get through difficulties. 

Listen to the entire interview here

Watch Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story HERE

Further reading