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Free Side: An Iraqi’s path to the American Dream via the Navy SEALs -and Kenny Rogers

So I just hit go and published my interview with Johnny Walker. He’s now a citizen and free to share his real name. But I’ll leave that ball in his court. I wouldn’t be so keen to share my name if I had ISIS and the likes dreaming of laying me to rest.

So Johnny started out as just another kid with a dream. Except this kid was in Iraq and was carrying around a American dream. Hanging with his buds, he fed his dream a steady diet of Kenny Rogers, the Harlem Globe Trotters, and John Wayne films. He liked a bit of mischief so his parents pushed him to play basketball. He used it to study America, and soon his dream of living in the USA became an all consuming fire. Tall and driven, he became one of the better players in the city. He became a star highjumper too. However far away, his dream somehow always seemed within reach. But all that changed when Saddam Hussein, as he puts it, “started acting like a crazy moron.”

Iraq went to war with Iran.  And well, things got bad.

Money and food became scare. Bodies rolled into the city. But as he did with sports, Johnny found a bridge. He married the love of his life.  Working long hours as a truck driver and equipment operator, his American dream began to fade into background. His focus was now on his family, and victory a daily trip home with a piece of meat for the dinner table. But luck again would find Johnny. The day the American’s arrived at the start of the Iraq War, Johnny felt hope. He touched his dream again.

One fateful day after drinks with an uncle who would be killed at the hands of ISIS, he ran into three women arguing the Military Police. Johnny saw a bridge. Having a good way about him and a basic grasp of English, he helped both sides avoid an incident. He was hired on the spot. Somewhat of a natural at this stuff, the Sargent soon set him up with an interview with the Navy SEALs. When he looked up the word in the dictionary he wondered what he’d got himself into. “Sea going animals?… Who are these people?” After a shaky interview where he understood little, but nodded yes alot, he asked “did I get the job?..” “Indeed,” the interviewer responded. Ashamed to admit he didn’t know what “indeed” meant, he shuffled sheepishly back to his unit. They asked, did you get the job. “Indeed,” he said. His pals broke into uproarious laughter. “Well holy shit,” he thought. “I guess I got this job too.”

Johnny, who describes himself as lucky, landed the job as an interpreter for the Navy SEALs. He’d got on to a hell of alot more. But the story of how Johnny made his luck is much more interesting. Parts magic, mystery, and superhero tale, Johnny’s tear to reclaim a savaged Iraq while becoming an American citizen is truly epic. Love, guts, grit, wit, terror, hope, and reckless courage, he bares it all in this episode. His mission to find freedom not just for family, but two countries is about as real as it gets for an American story. At least for those Americans who remember how the country was built. Listen as Johnny tells the story of how fought for love of two countries and two families, his own and the SEAL brotherhood. And somehow came out winning his American Dream.

Be prepared folks, Johnny tells it straight.

Johnny is a NY Time’s best selling author and former interpreter for the Navy SEALs.

Links share with your community:
Audio Trailer: bit.ly/jwalker-at-x
Video Trailer: bit.ly/jwalker-vid

Episode Page: bit.ly/jwalker-lp

Listen On:
Pioneers of Insight: bit.ly/poi-ep-jwalker
Woke Warrior Stories: bit.ly/wws-ep-jwalker

*Available nearly everwhere podcasts are played

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War & Art On The Jericho Mile: Navy SEAL David Rutherford’s journey from Penn State football hopeful to poet warrior

So imagine a character working at Blackwater  -a dude who’s a former CIA operator and Navy SEAL. Ok, now just let the image pop up and really sink in.

Now imagine that same character chatting excitedly about life, death, and personal growth with a health junkie who digs DMT trips and airing out the ups and downs of open relationships. Not sure what you imagined, but I didn’t imagine I’d find this character here.

But that’s exactly where I discovered David Rutherford. I caught him on the Aubrey Marcus podcast, which for those of you unfamiliar is kind of a no-holds barred dialog on sex, health, change, and consciousness.  Marcus, who’s the CEO of performance supplement Co. Onnit, has become somewhat of a popular media figure in the alt health worlds.  So “Rut,” as he’s known to friends and fans of the Team Never Quit Podcast, is no longer in Kansas so to speak.  He left “down range” for “down home” and hit the ground running. He’s now talking shop with the sharpest transformation junkies. It’s an impressive leap and one that definitely caught my attention. He seemed the perfect fit for our show.

David, or “Rut” as fans and friends know him, co-hosts a show alongside his buddy and beloved national hero Marcus Luttrell. The movie Lone Survivor was based on co-host Marcus’s survival story. He’d survived a horrendous ordeal following the infamous Operation Redwing snafu, in which the SEAL Team sent to rescue him was shot down in Afghanistan.

Anyway, I was blown away by David’s chat with Marcus. While Marcus is famous for delivering great chats, David did more than hold his own. He ran. So from there I quickly migrated to Team Never Quit and was even more impressed. David facilitates the show alongside cohosts Marcus and a shadowy operator known as the Wizard, a true smarty parts in wolves clothing. This isn’t your typical meat ball patriotism and lock and load wack fest. While there’s a high side and lots of enthusiasm, especially on David’s part, these guys lock into piercing explorations with A level guests, most of which have overcome epic challenges of their own. It’s anchored in sound wisdom and insight. So you can see why I was intrigued. Having now done the interview with David I can say this dude knows how to talk to where change turns to transformation. And he’s got lots of angles. David considers himself an artist who joined the SEAL teams. So I pushed him in our deep dive to really expose the origins of that. David started out as an obsessive child athlete from a well off family who ran into a buzzsaw when he got into college. Apparently he had plans to play QB at Penn State Football, but that dream was thwarted by another kid with a dream, college Hall of Famer Kerry Collins. So he basically fell into a hole that was filled by the company of tortured artists and tempered by mysticism. But Rut’s story only got better, as we dredged the impact of powerful failure and the artist’s disposition on the warrior’s journey. I found the interview enlightening and enlightening and a ton of fun.

You’ll find a bit of everything in this story, and a killer soundtrack as we ran with a Door’s inspired theme.

We hope you enjoy. 

Watch the episode trailer below ->>>

Listen to the full episode:

Listen to “Episode 20 – War & Art On The Jericho Mile” on Spreaker.



Gamer: CEO John Allen’s rise from elite basement gamer to Navy SEAL

Ok, so first off John Allen’s  got a unique story, even for a former Navy SEAL, which is saying alot. 

The dude was a video gaming college drop-out living in his parent’s basement before he became a Navy SEAL. So there’s that to start with. 

I’ve been considering a couple of different story arcs for this interesting life story, ’cause that’s what I do. *Spoiler alert- if you you intend to listen and don’t want to ruin it for yourself, you may want to postpone reading this until later. 


So perhaps John’s story is that of the underdog; here an unlikely hero becomes the hero in a typical way. In this version a frustrated middle class kid sets out to become a man, discover his purpose as a warrior, and then earns his manhood and more on the battlefield. Now a man he returns home only to re-experience frustration; he’s got to pretend to be something he’s not. So he wages war, but this time not as a frustrated kid, but as a war-tested leader. Man goes back into battle as a CEO fighting for the futures of the elite brotherhood he left behind. 

That sounds pretty tight. 

The alternative arc is that of the typical hero who plays hero in atypical way. Here an eager young man leaves home for adventure, takes up the sword, but only after a brush with death does he discover his true identify and purpose. He then gives himself permission to return home as the man he’d always intended to be. A man who leads a little differently.  

You know how the saying goes, perhaps the truth lies somewhere inbetween.

So “Gamer.” As said, this episode takes you into the life of a frustrated college kid who became the world’s top ranked gamer in a video game called Skate. I’m a 90’s dude, so I remember this. It’s the game that basically killed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater in 1999, which was a billion dollar + franchise. We’re talking millions of users and an empire turned to dust by this release by EA Sports. Kinda a big deal in the gaming world.

So, yeah, John ruled that. Which if you think about it, is a cool story by itself, but the story gets better.

John is frustrated. So he gets an itch to become a Navy SEAL. But he doesn’t see himself as the typical Navy SEAL candidate. He’s not a “strapping jock,” as he states in the interview. But John defies the odds and does it anyhow.

 So now it’s a very cool story, but still it gets better.

Once on the teams, John’s plans change after a close call in combat and some unfortunate bureaucratic bugaboos. With little time to prepare, he gets hit with a sad reality. Transitioning from the service ain’t easy, and perhaps it’s even worse for former operators. Of course this struggle to shift from combat to domestic life complicates everything, including his marriage. Eventually he gets fed up as a civilian and decides, “hey I’m going fix this shit so my brothers and sisters in arms don’t have to deal with it.” And so he does! John founds a company which places elite vets and fighter pilots into good jobs. 

So now it’s a very, very cool story. But still it gets better!

John gets a visit from the ghost of combat past. He’s forgotten about “The Warrior’s Code.” Operators don’t talk.  So his special forces brothers remind him.  The community brings the heat.  John finds himself in a quandary. He believes if he’s going do any good as a CEO he needs to own his past as a Navy SEAL. Even more conflicting, he doesn’t want to let his identity as a warrior go! Striken with guilt,  he unsure whether he’s doing this for himself or others. And here comes the soul searching.  


So yeah, you get it. John’s story is an exceptional story. It’s paints a powerful portrait of the dilemma our elite solider’s face transitioning back into society and our working cultures. 

John talks openly about the pain of having to surrender his identity as a SEAL when returning home. And he talks openly about the fear of of losing the community he values most – this being his connection to an elite brotherhood. There’s also the added irony of John’s taking on the challenge of making transition easier for future warriors. 

As for me. Well, personally, I think this is a great episode so listen.  But really, as an interviewer I don’t always have the luxury of clicking with everyone. And I did with John. We had some funny similarities, gaming, philosophy majors, BUDs. But John’s objectivity, humor and humility really endeared me to him. He’s capable of talking to both the foibles and nobility of the warrior’s job and journey. I think you’ll hear what I’m referring to if you choose to tap in. 

Highlights of this episode include insights into; 

  • how a gamer becomes the best in the world without actually knowing it 
  • how a pair of swim trunks can become a weapon to inspire powerful change 
  • why luck matters in Navy SEALs training
  • How a near-death experience can rewire a person’s priorities
  • what many military spouses of Special Forces operators fear most
  • what motivates an operator to break age old unwritten warrior’s code
  • what some elite warriors fear about transitioning back into civilian life, i.e. what it means to “come down the mountain”

Watch the Story Trailer for this episode below:



Listen to “Episode 19 – Gamer” on Spreaker.