Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 125

A Good Death Mortality and Narrative in Army Leadership Maj. Dan Leard, U.S. Army What does it matter when death comes, since it is inevitable? To the man who told Socrates, “The thirty tyrants have condemned you to death,” he replied, “And nature, them.” 1st Place, General Douglas MacArthur Military Leadership Writing Competition, CGSC Class 14-01 (The Apotheosis of Hercules, oil on canvas, François Lemoyne (1688–1737), circa 1736) —Michel de Montaigne A soldier sees death more vividly than most. Mortality’s daily presentation in war has major implications for how leaders induce individuals and organizations to operate under the shadow of stark possibilities. To most leaders, this omnipresent threat of death may seem unremarkable—a benign fact—unless as soldiers we acknowledge just how important immortality is to each of us. Philosopher Stephen Cave, in his book Immortality, identifies narratives that, in one form or another, all civilizations have used to sate human anxiety over death.1 Countless soldiers have steeled MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 their minds against battle’s peril using four immortality narratives that Cave calls staying alive, resurrection, the soul, and legacy. Army leaders have used them to influence soldiers to carry out dangerous missions and to try to stay alive. However, leaders should use caution when emp