Elite U.S. Special Forces veteran speaks on 9/11, developing grit

AMERICAN VETERAN Logan Leslie enlisted in the army at 17, serving as a cavalry scout before joining the U.S. Elite Special Forces. Tyler Bui | Staff Writer

By Tyler Bui | Staff Writer

Logan Leslie, a veteran of the Elite U.S. Special Forces and graduate of Harvard Law School, reflected on the tragic event that occurred 18 years ago on 9/11 and shared how the day impacted his life and decision to serve in the military.

“That fateful day occurred just two weeks after my 15th birthday,” Leslie said. “I was not there and I didn’t know anybody who was there at the time, but 9/11 is a big part of my story. I underestimated the impact it would have—the uncertainty that we were heading off into together.”

On Leslie’s 17th birthday, he enlisted in the Army and has been dedicated to serving ever since. He first served as a cavalry scout, then went to join the U.S. Elite Special Forces. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and two Army Commendation Medals for exemplary combat leadership.

Leslie discussed three topics in his lecture: struggles, resilience and risk and how each are beneficial and imperative to living a successful, healthy life while serving others.

He used Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York at the time of 9/11, to illustrate the beauty of struggle.

“Rudy Giuliani described 9/11 as both the worst day of his life and the best day of his life, which is pretty striking,” Leslie said. “He saw pure savagery, murder and hate. But he also saw the absolute best of humanity. There was beauty in that terrible struggle we had that day. There’s heroes, there’s selflessness, [and] there were leaders that were born in that fire.”

Leslie said it is necessary to appreciate the struggles on the way to achievement. He gave examples in his own life that reflected this.

“In the struggle, your character is built,” Leslie said. “How you respond to struggles and how you feel about those struggles is who you are. I know that my worst times are what define me.”

Leslie stressed that tangible achievements are not what bring us happiness, but rather the adversity one faces in the journey to success.

“Achievements are not what are going to make you happy,” Leslie said. “The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can enjoy and appreciate the struggles on the way to achievement. So seek out the sweet, relatively painful struggles in life, be clear about the ones you want to take on and you will truly be unstoppable.”

Resilience was discussed next — Leslie explained the different perceptions of how it is attained and gave his own definition of the term.

“Resilience is a tough thing to describe. There are certainly a lot of people out there who think that resilience is just something we have or we don’t, but I don’t believe that,” Leslie said. “I believe you cultivate resilience. I think [resilience] is the ability to keep going with grace and to bounce back, survive trauma and flourish.”

He described a spectrum with resilience and precision positioned on each end, and talked about the necessity of finding a balance between the two.

“I find that the times in my life where I buckle down and try to be super disciplined are the times that I was most fragile when I was challenged,” Leslie said. “We value resilience over precision, because life is not precise. It does not mean we don’t try to be precise; it means that we accept that we are never going to be precise.”

Leslie connected resilience with struggle, and explained how when combined, they can create beauty in any situation.

“True resilience is needed at every level of a challenge because fear and anxiety—they don’t know perspective,” Leslie said. “Fear and anxiety hold us all back at every level, and if you can cultivate resilience in your life, you can savor the struggle. It’s a pretty powerful combination. Don’t be so quick to judge and try to cultivate resilience in yourself for the people that rely on you.”

Kevin Davis is the veterans educational and transition services (VETS) program manager at Baylor, and is a veteran of the Marine Corps. He said he related to many of the experiences Leslie referenced regarding his time in the military, especially the topic of resilience.

“What really hit home for me was this value in adversity, and I think that’s right on,” Davis said. “It’s the number one thing that’s driving resilience. If you can learn to see the value in the challenges that you go through, you’re really going to be equipped to achieve some remarkable things.”

Risk was the last point of Leslie’s lecture. With his extensive military experience, Leslie is used to constant risk-taking and the acceptance of an unknown outcome. He illustrated risk by explaining how in the military, often times risk can mean life or death.

“We spend our risk, we spend casualties, we spend human lives as currency for a greater good. Even outside the military, risk is still a currency you spend to chase opportunity,” Leslie said. “It’s not life or death, but it’s the cost of chasing big dreams, of helping as many people as possible, of achieving greatness and always remembering to savor that struggle as you take on risks.”

Benjamin Cooper is the pre-law program manager at Baylor. He commended Leslie’s bravery and leadership, and also mentioned the importance of taking risks.

“I think the primary lesson students can learn from Mr. Leslie is that they’re capable of far more than they often think, and accepting the idea that success is only brought about by the taking of calculated risks,” Cooper said. “And sometimes, that means you fail, and that’s only a problem if you don’t step back and think what you could have done differently and apply that lesson that you’ve learned.”

Leslie ended his lecture with a call to action—by embracing struggle, resilience and risk to achieve goals and help others.

“I challenge you to embrace the struggles that make life worth living because the successes are not what make life worth living,” Leslie said. “I challenge you to strive for resilience over precision and to be honest with yourself about the risk or lack thereof of the things you want to do. Don’t let fear of risk hold you back from chasing your passions.”