By Julie Laakko
MASCOUTAH—Two statues, an eagle and an owl representing a warrior and a scholar, stand in the garden of Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman of Mascoutah. Grossman served in the United States Army for 24 years before he retired as a Lt. Col. and US Army Ranger. He was a psychology professor at West Point Military Academy for several years and is now a leader in military and law enforcement training. He is also a scholar and speaker, known throughout the world for his books and essays. He has spoken to military groups, law enforcement, and universities across the nation, and is one of the only people certified to teach law enforcement in all 50 states. Grossman has a black belt in Hojutsu and is a member of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He also holds six patents.
On top of all of this, Grossman is an award-winning author of 13 books, seven nonfiction and six fiction. His newest book, On Spiritual Combat, is scheduled to be released May 5. It can be pre-ordered, in both print and audiobook, on Amazon.com.
Grossman narrated the audio version of his latest book, On Spiritual Combat, here in Mascoutah at Flatlander Sound Studios. He has recorded several other audiobooks before, but after working with the owner of Flatlander Sound Studios on an album of Christmas carols Grossman wrote, he decided to record locally.
While this is not his first audiobook, Grossman explained that there are some unique aspects to On Spiritual Combat. First, the book has several passages of poetry, Christian hymns, and Scripture. When looking at the text, a reader can see the differences in these passages through line breaks or font variation. These visual aids are lost when listening to the audiobook. So Grossman’s team came up with a unique system of tones to translate the visual aspect into an audiobook format. Grossman said he is excited to see how it turns out.
Grossman did not record this audiobook alone. There are parts of the book where men’s and women’s voices go back and forth, so Grossman recruited the help of his daughter-in-law Sunie to read with him. While Grossman confessed that he never listens to audiobooks because he can read much faster than he can listen, he said he probably will listen to On Spiritual Combat just to see how it all came together.
Books and writing have always interested Grossman. He expressed how much he loved to read as a child. However, how it always made him feel as if he should give something back. In graduate school in 1988 he had that opportunity, and by 1995 he published his first book, On Killing.
On Killing has now sold half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into eight different languages. According to Google Scholar, it has been quoted over 2,700 times in scholarly articles and books. The book is on several required reading lists, including the US Marine Corps Commandant’s reading list and the FBI Academy’s reading list. On Killing introduces Grossman’s scholarly thought known as “killology,” the study of lawful killing, such as in law-enforcement or military scenarios.
On Combat is Grossman’s second book, and it delves into the heart of combat. It introduced Grossman’s trademarked idea of Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs. The idea is that there are three types of people in the world: sheep that have no capacity for violence, wolves that can and will be violent because they do not care about others, and sheepdogs who can be violent, but only to protect the “flock” of the community. The sheepdog analogy is even mentioned in the 2014 movie, “American Sniper,” although Grossman said the idea was viral even before the movie used it. The sheepdog comes up in many of Grossman’s speeches.
Grossman’s children’s books focus on the idea of the sheepdog as well. He emphasizes that a sheepdog is a protector, vigilant at all times, and not violent for the sake of violence but for the good of the community.
All of Grossman’s works flow from his first books, he said. His presentations and books also intertwine with each other, and his next projects evolve out of the combination of past ideas. He speculated that the next book might be on spiritual combat on culture wars, but he isn’t certain. He said sometimes it can take a decade or more to write a new book, and sometimes they go in different directions. He, of course, hopes On Spiritual Combat will be as successful as his previous works. And he really hopes, above all else, that those who read it apply it.
Grossman said the main purpose of his work is to help people be aware and prepared, and to look beneath the surface of things. “I want to be remembered as the man who saw things clearly . . . with video games, with combat, with people, with the things we can do to empower ourselves,” he said. He wants people to “be informed and empowered.”
He explained that, sometimes, things are not what they seem. For example, based on current murder statistics, violence has gone down. But murder statistics do not take modern medical technology into consideration. With better medical technology, and police officers carrying tourniquets as well as weapons these days, the number of murders that result from violence have gone down. And yet, the year over year increase of cops killed in 2016 was the worst increase in the history of our nation. Grossman says we need “medically adjusted murders”—just as we have “inflation adjusted dollars”—to reflect the current rate of violence. He wants people to be aware that there is violence in the world and be prepared accordingly.
Therefore, anyone can benefit from reading his books. Military and law enforcement, of course—but also teachers, parents, and anyone who lives in these uncertain times. Even houses of worship can benefit from what he has to say, he explained.
“They will ask, ‘Won’t God protect me?’” Grossman said. “Well, he will protect you from fire—but you need a fire extinguisher.” In the same way, it is important to be aware of danger and prepared for an emergency situation.
“Sheepdogs” know there is evil in the world and dedicate themselves to fighting it. This isn’t to say everyone needs to be ready to take a life, however. In fact, Grossman made a point of saying “some of the strongest fighters are not fighting at the perimeter, but on their knees.”
Grossman told a story he had heard, in which US soldiers were fighting on a mountain. Enemy fire was raining down on them, and one US soldier had been hurt and lay trapped halfway up the mountain, calling to his fellow soldiers for help. One soldier on the bottom stared at his watch while three other soldiers, one by one, tried to run up the mountain to save the soldier. All three of them failed. Finally, the soldier staring at his watch ran up the mountain, saved his fellow soldier, and returned them both to safety. When asked why he waited, he said he knew his grandmother prayed for him every night at 9 PM when she went to bed. He was waiting until 9 o’clock Chicago time before running up that hill.
Grossman summarized the anecdote by stating, “A grandmother praying for her grandson can be the most powerful force on the planet.”
Most of Grossman’s books, especially the early ones, are aimed at a broader audience. His recent books, coauthored with Adam Davis, are more focused on the spiritual aspect of the same topics. And while On Spiritual Combat is a stand-alone, it has recommended passages from On Combat in each chapter.
Despite all of his works and accomplishments, Grossman confessed it is always a little intimidating, putting out a new book. People can be very critical, especially these days. But he said it is important to stay focused on the good. The negative reviews hurt, but they cannot stop him.
He went on to add that he thinks anyone who has done anything worth recognition—unless they are hopelessly narcissistic—feels a little bit of impostor syndrome with their accomplishments. But, Grossman insisted, “anyone who can admit they’re insecure is more secure than anyone else.”
Adding to the intimidation, Grossman has had to deal with some controversy surrounding his books. On Combat is about empowering cops, and with the recent movement attacking police officers and law enforcement, he has faced a lot of criticism for his support. In response to these critics, Grossman simply quoted Amos 5:15, “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.”
He has also faced a lot of backlash for his book Assassination Generation, especially from video game industries. Assassination Generation was written in response to the influx of mass shootings in America. Grossman places a great deal of blame on video games and insists, “Don’t give these things to kids.” He argues that there are enforced age restrictions on driving, alcohol, and mature movies. Why not video games? There are many people who argue with his ideas.
Overall, however, Grossman is revered for his works and is invited to speak all over the world. He has spoken to many colleges, special ops, armed forces, and a navy destroyer crew, just to name a few. He does inservice school safety training, as well. In fact, he presented to Mascoutah High School a few years ago.
A map covered in pins and flags hangs in his office, showing all of the places he has been to speak. And if the map was not impressively full enough, he said they gave up keeping track about a decade ago because they were running out of room. Grossman spends over 100 days of the year traveling. And with over 20 years of doing this, he is on several Million Mile airline programs.
Although they fully support his efforts, his family does not travel with him. Grossman said it is just too rough to expect that of them. He runs through airports and carries an air mattress and a sleeping bag in case he has to sleep in terminals. Sometimes flights will be canceled, and he will get a rental car and drive all night to somewhere to speak for 8 hours and turn around and drive back.
Clearly he is dedicated to what he does, and that dedication has given him the opportunity to travel all around the world. And yet, his favorite place to go—out of everywhere he has been? Home.
“We love this little town, we really do,” Grossman said. With the base nearby and Mascoutah’s community, he says we “really have something very good happening that shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
Grossman is not originally from Mascoutah but moved here to be with his grandkids. He has three sons; one is in the Air Force stationed elsewhere, one lives in St. Louis and the other lives next door.
Grossman’s office is attached directly to his house. There are many interesting items throughout his office, from his books, awards, and photos to a set of metal armor. He even has a picture of himself with the vice president, discussing Assassination Generation during an advisory meeting with the president.
One room is full, wall to wall, with challenge coins. Grossman believes he may have one of the largest private collections of challenge coins in the world. These coins cannot be bought or asked for, only given as a sign of gratitude. The sheer number of them lining Grossman’s office is a testament of how influential he is.
Out of all of the unique and amazing items, he says his most prized possession is a watercolor painting that hangs on a wall, mostly on its own. Titled “Happier Days,” the image depicts the Pennsylvania West Nickel Mines Amish school in the hours before the school shooting in 2006. Grossman, along with first responders and police, gathered with the community after the shooting to provide counseling. The back of the picture is covered in signatures of the parents of the schoolchildren, expressing their gratitude to Grossman for his wisdom and support during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
He says it really has been an amazing experience, how one day he is speaking to sailors on a Navy ship and the next he could be at a quiet Amish community. And with all of his books, accomplishments, and experiences, Grossman still asks himself, what comes next? “What’s the next mountain to climb?” His accomplishments are never a goal, but the means to the next step—whether that be the next book, a new skill, or another presentation.
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