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SEAL encourages students to make communities strong (w/video)

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 10, 2014 at 12:10 a.m.

Retired Army Col. Mike Petrash walks in front of the Field of Honor near Faith Family Church in Victoria with "Lone Survivor" Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and his fellow famed Navy SEAL, Bill Wagasy.

A sea of American flags waved in the evening breeze as former Navy SEAL Bill Wagasy prepares to close a leadership seminar.

To his left, fellow former SEAL and "Lone Survivor" author Marcus Luttrell - portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the 2013 film adaptation by the same name - readies himself to speak to the crowd.

His presence at the Field of Honor is a surprise for the more than 40 high school students and Christian Warrior volunteers who spent Saturday afternoon with Wagasy learning military and Christian-based leadership principles designed to encourage and inspire SEAL-like dedication.

Luttrell's entourage of blacked-out SUVs and security officers resembling U.S. Secret Service men surrounded the white tent.

In an hour, the students would hear the decorated SEAL speak at the VISD Fine Arts Center about his affiliation with Operation Redwing and his SEAL Team 10, where he was the only survivor of a 2005 mission against a Taliban paramilitary group.

But for a moment, he wanted a more intimate occasion with the students, many of whom are preparing for post-graduation military service.

"Billy and I are kind of cut from the same cloth, if you will," Luttrell said, mentioning the students should pay attention to Wagasy's advice. "We started up together, came up together, deployed into combat together."

The students met at St. Joseph High School earlier in the day for the Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity's "Speaking of Sweat Equity Series."

Between Wagasy's talks on honor, developing character, brotherhood, fearing God and developing intellect, the students broke into small groups and prepared mini-projects to present at the close of the seminar.

"I want to present them with tools they can use to achieve success," said Wagasy, who serves as program and outreach director for the Gary Sinise Foundation in Woodland Hills, Calif. "Anything great you want to do in life, you have to suffer to achieve. ... You have to go beyond your abilities and learn to fight with your intellect to win in life."

Butch Warren, 18, who attended the seminar, said he was pleased to hear Wagasy's advice and teamwork training.

"It was great to hear him talk about how he heard the voices in his head telling him to quit, and the more he heard them, the harder he worked," said Warren, a senior at Cuero High School.

Warren said he enjoyed the faith undertones of the day, mentioning he was encouraged to see military officials speak openly about faith.

"It's amazing to see. Most people in the military are Christian, and that's a lot of what Christianity is about is being a part of the brotherhood. And that's what the military is about as well," he said.

Wagasy's hope for those who attended the seminary Saturday was that they realize their potential as change agents in their communities. All it takes is one to start a ripple, he said.

Start small, and "it could be a victory for a city block. But if you link those together, and you get enough city blocks, you get a whole city. You get enough cities, you get a nation," he said.



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