In this episode, Marine officer Justin Constantine shares his story of being shot in the head by a sniper in Iraq and the people who continue to help him grow as a human being, and about what we learn from knowing other people’s experiences.
As a Marine officer, Justin volunteered for deployment to Iraq in 2006, and served as a Civil Affairs Team Leader while attached to an infantry battalion. While on a routine combat patrol, Justin was shot in the head by a sniper. Although the original prognosis was that he had been killed in action, Justin survived. Through teamwork and a positive mental attitude, he has had quite a successful recovery. Justin now speaks to audiences large and small about personal leadership, the critical role of teamwork in facing life’s challenges, and the upside of change. He applies his incredible story of overcoming adversity to every level of an organization, and all audiences to move beyond the challenges they are facing in their own lives.
While on active duty, Justin had served as a Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps. Upon recovering from his injuries, Justin continued to serve in the Federal government in a number of attorney positions, including the Department of Justice, Capitol Hill and most recently with the FBI on a counter terrorism team. Despite being shot in the head, Justin was the Honor Graduate of his class at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. He also recently completed the Master of Laws (LLM) program at Georgetown University focusing on National Security.
Justin retired from the Marine Corps Reserves at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and SemperMax. In addition, in 2011 the Secretary of Defense appointed him to serve on a 4-year Congressionally-mandated Task Force for Recovering Warriors. In 2012 the Virginia Legislature passed a commending resolution highlighting Justin’s continued support of veterans and other wounded warriors.
Most recently, Justin was awarded the prestigious inaugural 2014 Lincoln Award recognizing his outstanding achievement and excellence in providing opportunities and support to our nation’s veterans and military families. Justin has also been named a Champion of Change by the White House, and was presented with the All-American Hero Award at the 2013 All-American Inaugural Ball. Further, Justin was invited to introduce President George W. Bush at a veterans’ symposium at the Bush Institute in February 2014.
Through his journey of courage, injury, resilience and triumph, Justin demonstrates that we are all stronger than we think we are. His personal story of recovery and success is a testament to the power of the human spirit, and the message he shares applies to every member of the audience. All will leave inspired to attack any difficulties in their own lives, and will search out opportunities to excel at work and at home.
(03:32) When you hear the word successful, who’s the first person or what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
(06:00) It sounds like care, empathy, building community are some of the support tenets for you that came out of Tim Maxwell.
(06:50) Maybe we’ll just dive into your time spent in the armed forces and then the inflection point that’s turned you into the man you are today.
(10:51) After George had performed the surgery, I wonder if you can take us to when you came to, in the hospital. What were the feelings going through your head? The mindset that you have now I’m sure wasn’t what it was then. So I’m curious immediately after, what were your feelings? And then how did you get yourself back on the right track?
(15:29) I think the importance of communicating and being vulnerable, and I’m sure that… I’m just guessing… that a lot of your comrades have difficulty with that. Or just don’t feel like it’s part of being a man or something like that… Has that been always part of your nature or did you learn that through the development process after?
There are just so many people in our country who are facing mental health challenges and we don’t encourage people seeking help.
We pride ourselves in the Marine Corps about taking care of each other. And this is one way you can do it is to check on your Marines, make sure they’re in a good place.
(20:53) I’ve read articles about there are different types of PTSD: long term PTSD, short term PTSD, also post-traumatic growth. What do you have to say about that?
(24:23) Now when you speak, because you’re an inspirational speaker, you wrote a book, My Battlefield, Your Office … Are there 1 or 2 or 3 tactics that you can share with people to help them develop that mindset, or just build some daily habits that can help them?
(28:06) We talk a lot about change in this program… If we can build our muscle to respond more consistently in a positive manner, then change becomes nothing but something that provides us the ability to grow.
When you can reframe things in your mind, it’s amazing how much progress you can make.
(30:03) I’m just curious. Going back, when you entered the military, you were in your 2nd year of law school. Is that a common thing for lawyers to do? It seems to me to be something unique to you but what is that process? Did you always know that you would potentially go into the military?
(32:22) Did your family have a background in the military?
(33:37) In the work that you’re doing today… do you find that your story sometimes is intimidating to people? Like, their day-to-day, they feel like, “I’ve never gone through any real struggle… What I go through everyday isn’t as bad as what Justin had to go through so it doesn’t resonate.” Do you ever feel that? I feel like people make excuses sometimes.
Unless you take the time to really question what your values are and your priorities and what you want to accomplish in your short time here on earth… If you’re not taking the time to do that, I feel like you might be wasting time.
(38:12) So you’re working on a new book right now. What else are you working on now?
(39:27) Do you have any favorite books that have most influenced you, and why?
The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life by John O’Leary
41:01 If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?
US President Lyndon Johnson
(42:27) Is there one message that you’d like to leave the listeners with today? Anything specific that if they have one takeaway from this conversation, what would it be?
You are stronger than you think you are.
You can make a real difference in your local communities.