Very few soldiers make it through Navy SEAL training. In a class that began with more than 220 soldiers, Republican Governor Eric Greitens was one of 21 graduates who endured the toughest military training in the world. Drills included months of four-mile timed runs on soft sand wearing boots and pants, two-mile ocean swims, what’s referred to as drowned-proofing, land warfare and his team running for miles with logs atop their heads that weighed hundreds of pounds. He said SEALS call it the best time you never want to have again.

Gov. Eric Greitens

“The pain is not like the pain of being in a gym and knocking out a hard set,” Greitens said during a Missourinet interview. “This is not the pain of feeling your muscles get tired. This is a searing, almost spiritual pain.”

The warriors who completed the training weren’t the best and brightest students and athletes. The ones Greitens thought would finish, ended up quitting on the first day. The soldiers he thought had no chance, were vomiting during the running drills, but made it to the end.

“The people who made it through the training were the people who got to the moment of the greatest pain, the greatest hardship, greatest difficulty they’d ever been in in their life, they were able to say to themselves ‘you know what, I’ve got someone to my left who’s counting on me and someone to my right who’s counting on me. I can find a way to be strong for them for 10 more seconds.’ That’s why you end up getting such incredible teams. To make it through that vicious training, you have to be focused on how you can be of service to the people around you,” said Greitens.

One characteristic that Greitens explained was almost universally true among those who finished training was they had a good sense of humor.

“What you found out was that in the middle of something that’s so hard and so painful, you’ve got to be able to find a way to have fun,” said Greitens. “You have to stay optimistic and you have to figure out how you can rely on each other and create a sense of joy even when things are difficult.”

At a young age, Greitens was fascinated by “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, special operations, Rambo and Top Gun movies. Both of his grandfathers served in the military.

What made Greitens want to become a SEAL? The challenge and the drive to want to lead on the frontlines. Greitens’s recruiter handed him a sheet to fill out his top three Navy jobs that interested him: Intelligence, Surface Warfare, Pilot, Navy SEAL, etc.

“I filled out the sheet. My top choice was Navy SEAL. My second choice I put Navy SEAL. My third choice I put Navy SEAL,” chuckled Greitens.

He served four tours of duty overseas, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. He received a Purple Heart for his team’s efforts involving a 2007 suicide truck bomb in Iraq.

“I went to the roof of the building that had been hit that day to provide security so that a quick reaction force could come in and take the most seriously wounded guys to the hospital,” said Greitens. “They got those guys out.”

After a 72 hour hiatus to nurse his wounds, Greitens returned to the battlefield. Some of his comrades weren’t as lucky. Greitens lost friends during war.

On this Memorial Day, Greitens thinks about his friends who have defended America, including the ones he’s lost. He said he honors America’s soldiers and veterans by trying to ensure that their values of service and sacrifice continue.

Listen to Missourinet’s full interview with Governor Greitens: