The night that changed Navy SEAL Jon Macaskill’s life started off as a quiet military operation. Back in 2005, Macaskill was assisting from the command center during Operation Red Wings when U.S. forces suffered an ambush that resulted in the deaths of 11 Navy SEALs and over a dozen other service members. Macaskill was close friends with the SEALs who were killed, as well as their families, leaving him with a deep sense of grief and survivor’s guilt.
“They don’t get to spend time with their spouses anymore or watch their children grow up,” says Macaskill. “I now have to earn my being alive because they don’t get the chance to be. I have to recognize and honor their sacrifice every day.”
This tragic event led to the work Macaskill does today in healing the psyche of the warrior, with a focus on mindfulness. As a result, he launched a podcast titled “Men Talking Mindfulness” with yoga instructor Will Schneider to promote resilience and self-mastery through meditation techniques, open dialogue, and interviews with experts including psychologists. This discussion is especially important for men, Macaskill explained, who tend to suffer more acutely from the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues and are therefore less likely to reach out.
Below are a few of the other topics Jon and I covered in our interview:
Self awareness is critical for mental health, especially when it comes to the healing process for members of the security community. But how exactly do you “train” an individual to become more self aware?
How can service members transition from an environment of violence to a place of compassion when returning home from hostile operations?
Are there specific psychological issues that tend to hit men harder than women in the security field?
How can we tackle the stigma around mental health that persists in the security community?
As George Orwell pointed out, “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” The ideal warrior, however, is someone who can transition from an environment of violence to a place of compassion (including self-compassion) when returning home. This can understandably be a difficult transition for some, but Jon Macaskill is dedicated to helping those in need find their inner peace.
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About Jessica Lauren Walton: Jessica is a communications strategist, video producer, and writer in the U.S. defense sector. She has written articles on a range of security and mental health topics and conducted interviews with military leadership, CIA officers, law enforcement, psychologists, filmmakers, and more. Jessica recently completed her memoir about her experience as an American woman struggling with mental illness while trying to get into Israeli intelligence.
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