Reese: Sweat More, Bleed Less, Protect What You Love

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2015 file photo, a supporter of open carry gun laws, wears a pistol as he prepares for a rally in support of open carry gun laws at the Capitol, in Austin, Texas. Texas is still sorting out where firearms are allowed, and where they're …
AP/Eric Gay

I remember it like it was yesterday. The room was cold, sterile and ripe with the nerves of young men, some not yet old enough to vote. At 17, I was one of them.

I was not quite sure I knew what I was getting into, but I did know college was not in the cards. Like scores of others, my future was no more, or less, than a series of questions without answers—worse, I did not care to answer any of them. I was a high school athlete, exceptionally fit, with mediocre grades; not because I was not intelligent, rather, I was simply bored. I was ready for a challenge and a way out of a tough upbringing, and the room I found myself in promised to be the catalyst for multiple solutions.

My story was not an isolated one. Most of the guys in the room seemed to have a similar story. They wanted a challenge, and all roads led to precisely where we were—in that room, with our hearts pounding in our temples as a uniformed man asked us to raise our right hands and repeat an oath that, unbeknownst to us at the time, would become foundational to our integrity, honor, discipline, and determination to see good overcome evil, whether foreign or domestic, and our Constitution preserved, no matter the personal cost with that blank check you may have heard about… or may have written out yourself. In a nutshell, our oath was simply to protect what we love.

While my conviction as an oath-taker was no less resolute after eight years of Marine Corps service, it took good friend, law enforcement officer, and expert personal defense instructor Rob Pincus’ four words, “protect what you love,” to truly internalize the depth and breadth of that oath’s meaning in my personal life—honestly, it is the epitome of K.I.S.S. (keep-it-simple-stupid) at is relates to our individual right to breathe, our collective right to live free in a Constitutional republic, the essential purpose of our Second Amendment, and yes, protecting and exercising that right specifically; after all, the simple truth is undebatable, our Second Amendment ensures all others remain intact.

While I had not found the right words, Pincus summed up the conviction behind both the oath and why I carry a concealed firearm with “Protect what you love.” The impact and weight of the statement, as a husband, father, and responsible citizen, were not lost on me; in fact, I suspect these four principled words are the root of the reason most people exercise their right to bear arms, even if it takes someone like Pincus to simplify our cause—we love liberty, rights, our nation, our families, our future, and, believe it or not, each other. We found this truth self-evidenced on September 11, 2001.

The truth is as simple as those four words: each of us has the basic human right to life and here, the rights to liberty and pursuit of happiness, too, although there is a plain of evil rearing its head. In the words of Grenier, Churchill, Orwell or anyone else you prefer to credit, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” While the notion that our nation’s troops readily step up to such a responsibility is obvious, the millions of citizens in every small-town-USA who also stand ready to answer the call in defense of those they love may not be. Although in many cases, for those whom they may never know—you see it daily when good Samaritans rise against evildoers in public spaces–benefit from the fact that they are armed.

In our civilian world, the string of violent crimes like home invasions, homicides, school shootings, assaults, car-jackings, armed robberies, and domestic violence are seemingly never-ending, and the themes, eerily familiar, as they relate to victims’ inability, for whatever reason, including gun-free zones, to protect themselves. Often, for gun owners, the shortcoming can also be a lack of effective defensive training.

Ancient military strategist and author of The Art of War, Sun Tzu, believed, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” And our most revered military leaders believe the same. In the Marine Corps, this powerful mantra was central to our training ideology, and I am certain nothing has changed. I mention this because nothing changes for law enforcement or civilians either. Success and survival are best leveraged through vigilance and training; in a word, preparation.

Pincus drove this point home when I attended his Intuitive Defensive Shooting Course, an ultra-dynamic, largely un-choreographed training session. After two days of speed and precision drills, strong and weak side shooting, wind sprints, a half a roll of rock tape for my aching body, and 1,000 rounds of expended ammunition, I understood carrying a firearm was more than a right, it is a responsibility. More than internalizing a principle, I walked away as an exponentially more capable protector of those I love… and a formidable nightmare for those bent on stealing them away.

Sure, we have a right to bear arms, but with that right we have a responsibility to protect what we love. Exercising our right, both judiciously and expeditiously, requires exercise. To learn more about Rob Pincus’ Intuitive Defensive Shooting Course visit

Kevin Reese is a Marine Corps veteran, Second Amendment advocate, award-winning outdoor writer, and guest columnist for “Down Range with AWR Hawkins.”