Core Stories

Resilient to the Core

The Story of Captain James Nash, USMC

Oregon Roots. American to the Core.

When First Lieutenant James Nash saw the wide-open country he and his tank platoon would face in Afghanistan, he knew he was in for a different kind of fight. The terrain was vast and unforgiving. He could see for 100 miles in any direction, which means he could be seen from that far, too. Nash would not only have to lean on his military training, but also on the lessons learned from growing up on the outskirts of a small Oregon town.

“Growing up on a ranch, you found a way to fix whatever problem you had with whatever you could find. That type of ingenuity really lends itself to the Marine Corp., where they’ve been doing more with less since 1775.”

As a child, Nash’s free time revolved around rifles and bows. Making the ranch a safer place quickly became part of his daily routine. Trapping gophers and eliminating predators would eventually lead to guiding backcountry hunting trips. He quickly became adept at glassing the rugged terrain and spotting game across open country.

“I knew about how to hunt in big, open country because that’s what I grew up doing. Being able to observe at long distances is critically important, and the way to do that is with a spotting scope.”

But in Afghanistan, the stakes far surpassed a missed shot at a six-point bull or a failed guided hunt. Nash’s life and the lives of his Marines depended on every decision he made. Mission after mission, challenge after challenge, his deployment tested his resilience; both physically and mentally.

“It was both the best and worst experience of my life. In combat, everything has a consequence. And the consequences are big. But a lot of it is more about what you don’t do then what you actually do.”

After 100 missions, getting wounded twice, and being awarded two purple hearts, Nash found his way back home. While his experiences have changed him, a lot remains the same. He’s still a guide in Eastern Oregon. He still relies on ingenuity to get things done. And he still enjoys making the ranch a safer place. 

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