06 make no doubt about it, Mantz is a fighter. His first fight, not physical, began while he was still in grade school. At the age of seven Mantz lost his father to Cushing Disease, a rare blood disorder. “While more treatable today,” he told me, “my father succumbed quickly to the disease and died in my mother’s arms.” A few years later his mother would marry a former Army infantryman turned law enforcement officer. Mantz credits his step-father Degg as one of a handful of men who significantly influenced his life and made him the man he is today. “I was blessed with great role models. Men of integrity and character that reinforced the importance of those principles in me.” At one point in his youth Mantz thought he’d like to follow in the footsteps of his step-father. “Over his 25-year career in law enforcement I watched him rise through the ranks and become a highly respected detective in his department. His service to others and his commitment to justice while defending the defenseless was something I admired and wanted to emulate.” But his step-father’s advice pointed Mantz away from law-enforcement and toward the military, not because law enforcement was a lesser calling but because he saw his son’s natural leadership ability. His step-father’s father had retired as a colonel in the military and his own military service was something he drew upon in helping Mantz set a course of action. Those discussions, even at twelve years of age, MANTZ’S STORY OF survival is unbelievably powerful, yet in many ways, the story is not his own. Sometimes when the Creator of the Universe intervenes and affords us a second chance there is an unspoken demand placed upon the benefactor to share the message. Mantz is a messenger – a great messenger – whether he wanted to be one or not. In his book The Beauty of a Darker Soul: Overcoming Trauma Through the Power of Human Connection we learn that Mantz has been to hell and back. He’s not talking about the day he died, but rather the days he’s lived since dying. Like many who’ve served in combat and experienced the ugliness of war, Mantz came home different: hollow, dark, and listless on the inside, struggling outwardly to disguise his pain from others who couldn’t understand. If he couldn’t explain it to himself, how the hell could anyone else understand it? His death was only the beginning of a transformational journey and quest to find the beauty of a darker soul. I have listened to Mantz speak before audiences and have interviewed him on two separate occasions. During presentations, I have heard him lead with the words, “On 21 April 2007, I was shot and killed by an enemy sniper.” If that was the most amazing part of his story, he probably wouldn’t lead with it. For Mantz, it’s simply a matter-of-fact statement, but a statement that grabs your undivided attention; a big left hook that catches you square on the jaw demanding the respect of the fighter before you, and 07 JAY DOBYNS Mantz was a happy-go-lucky kid but a rare blood disorder would claim his father’s life when Mantz was only seven years old.