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Navy SEAL’s Mom Shares Her Secret to Raising Strong Sons

The best thing you can do while raising your son is to allow him to grow up to be a man, according to this Navy SEAL’s mom.

Karen Vaughn joined Glenn on radio Thursday to talk about her book, 'World Changer: A Mother’s Story: The Unbreakable Spirit of US Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn,' and her family’s experience raising strong, resilient kids on a farm.

A small-town boy from Tennessee, Aaron Vaughn was one of 30 Americans who died aboard Extortion 17. The tragedy in August 2011 marked the greatest single loss of Navy SEAL lives. After their son’s death, Aaron Vaughn’s parents decided they would continue his legacy of protecting the American way of life.

In her book, Karen Vaughn wanted to share her family’s story with the hope that it would help other parents trying to raise kids who are willing to face their fears. She told a story on Thursday’s show about how 10-year-old Aaron learned from facing down the most intimidating cow on their family farm.

“I stood back and let him do it, and Aaron did,” Vaughn said.

She explained that sometimes not interfering was the best thing she could do as a parent, stepping back when her husband needed to teach their son about manliness.

GLENN: I want to introduce you to Karen Vaughn. She is -- she is a mom of a U.S. Navy SEAL who was part of an operation -- what was it?

KAREN: The helicopter's call sign was Extortion 17.

GLENN: Extortion 17. That's what I thought it was. And I thought, it couldn't be extortion.

KAREN: Yeah.

GLENN: Extortion 17.

If you have anything to do with Navy SEALs, military, you know Extortion 17 as one of the worst days in the history of SEALs. More SEALs were lost in that one day than ever before.

KAREN: Right.

GLENN: You want to talk just a little bit about that.

KAREN: Yeah. It was the single largest life in the history of naval special warfare single largest one-day loss in this entire war actually. And, you know, on that Saturday morning, unfortunately, we found out that our only son, our first-born child was part of that disaster. And it's been a life-altering experience. Those men were brave, fearless American warriors who were rushing into the battle to assist Army rangers who had been in a gunfight for three and a half hours. And their helicopter was shot down just before they touched down, killing every single person on board.

GLENN: So you didn't know -- I mean, there's a reason I have you on. And I'm doing an hour with you tonight on television. And I -- I invite you to watch this. Because there's a reason I had Karen on. There's a lot of people that can tell these remarkable stories of heroism. I mean, the stories of heroism from the guys who survived and didn't survive, they're -- they're just -- they're plentiful. They are plentiful.

And they're stirring, each one.

But the reason why I wanted to have you on, Karen, is because of what you did with that experience. It's very different than just simply telling a story of a great hero.

You chose a different path.

KAREN: I did. You know, after Aaron's death -- it's going to make me emotional to say this. Because you're kind of a rock star in our family. You were to Aaron, and I want you to know that. He absolutely loved everything you did. And we did too and have listened to you from day one.

GLENN: Thank you.

KAREN: But, you know, what I realized after Aaron died was, he gave his life for me, fighting a battle kinetically to protect and preserve the American way of life. Not a government. Not a piece of land. But a way of life.

And my husband and I have dedicated our lives to fighting culturally, as you do, to protect the same. We feel like it's the at least we can do to spread the message across this country that America is worth fighting for. It's worth dying for. And that it's up to all of us inside the boundaries of this nation to protect and preserve in -- in the interior of this nation, what so many are giving their lives for, to protect and preserve from the exterior of the nation. So it just became a calling on my life.

GLENN: So it's amazing to me, Karen -- I'll speak to millennials -- and they don't -- you know, it's hard for people my age to really come to grips with, they didn't know America prior to 9/11.

KAREN: Right.

GLENN: So they don't -- they don't know her real promise.

KAREN: Right.

GLENN: And so many rights are starting to just slip away. And, you know, I talk to people our age, and I'll say, "The western way of life is in real jeopardy. It's about to slide under into tyranny of some form."

And people our age understand it.

KAREN: Right.

GLENN: Millennials don't really understand it.

KAREN: Right.

GLENN: Your son -- you know, the book is called world changer. And what you started to do was right a book for his children so they knew dad.

KAREN: Right.

GLENN: But then you realized, wait a minute. This is actually a parenting book. Tell me about that.

KAREN: It was an interesting thing. Because as you said, I knew -- his babies were only two years old. Not quite two years old, Reagan was, if that tells you anything about my son's politics. And Chamberlain who was only 9 weeks old when Aaron left this earth.

GLENN: That's funny.

KAREN: You understand, right?

GLENN: Yeah.

KAREN: So -- so, you know, I wanted them to be able to pick up stories of their father's childhood in every stage that they would go through. You know, their dad is not here to tell them what it was like when he was ten or what it was like when he was 14 or when he learned to drive. So I wanted to be able to know their dad's story. And that's how it started.

GLENN: Gosh, how hard was just that, going through the scrapbook of your mind?

KAREN: Oh, my -- yeah, that's it. And it was a gut-wrenching experience. It took a long time because I continuously had to put it down because I was just emotionally overdone.

GLENN: Oh, I bet.

KAREN: Well, then just out of the blue, a friend of mine asked me to speak to a mom's group down in south Florida, not far from my home. And she said, I want you to teach people how to raise a world changer like your son. And I was like, wow, I don't think I did that. I thought God did that. You know, because Aaron was a devout believer. He loved Jesus. You know, his whole life revolved around his faith in God.

And so I just always saw it was something God did. And then when I started just evaluating basic principles of parenting and started talking to moms about this, I realized this culture did not have those foundational tools that, Glenn, you and I had growing up or raising our families. And all of a sudden, I was like, wow, I did do something -- it didn't seem fantastic to me or extraordinary to me. But in today's culture, they're extraordinary tools.

GLENN: It is. It is.

KAREN: And so I just sort of thought, wow, I'll go back through these stories, and I will weave the teaching principles into every single story. And that's what I did.

And my oldest daughter and I wrote 18 tiny chapters in the back of the study guide where moms could sit down together in groups or even dads and go through principles of how to raise strong formidable kids who don't need safe spaces on college campuses. Kids that are willing to run in the direction of whatever it is God calls them to do with their life, instead of running away from it in fear or cowardice. Just kids who can take what life deals them.

You know, and it was quite a project, working with one of my children, to write a book about parenting.

GLENN: I bet. I bet. I bet.

KAREN: It was kind of funny, you know. And we had to go away and, you know, butted our minds together and just said, what did I do right? You know, my husband and I. Not me. But Billy and I. What did we do right, Tara? What did we do wrong? And so we put all those principles in the back and just loved it.

GLENN: What was the biggest thing that you get to now and say, had no idea, but, wow, were we lucky we did this and people should do this?

KAREN: The first thing that comes to my mind is as a mom, wow, was I lucky that I caved to the concept that my husband wanted to raise a man. It's that simple.

You know, in our society, I believe one of the biggest breakdowns in our homes right now is this role reversal and this constant striving of women to believe that they have to be everything that a -- I know this sounds -- this is such a broad thing. And I know it needs to be a little more narrow than this, but there's a lot to talk about here in our culture, you know, where we are constantly telling men, you have to be more like women. You have to be more like women to fit into this society. And, you know, I was married to a rugged farm boy who had no intention of conforming our son to my -- you know, and I say in the book, I tried to fight that every way I knew -- I was a 19-year-old mom, Glenn, when Aaron was born. And so I tried to fight it every way I could. I entered him in the Troy Tiny Tot Beauty Review. And he won it.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

KAREN: But he never forgave me for it, you know.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

KAREN: While Billy was constantly busy teaching Aaron that he could overcome unimaginable obstacles, obstacles that seemed too huge for him. He would have him out there helping him cut trees on our farm, helping him give birth to calves. You know -- you know, things like that.

And I tell a story about White Cow, this cow who literally terrorized our children on our cattle farm in Tennessee. And this cow -- Aaron was terrified of this cow. He wouldn't walk out the pasture with it. And Billy one day, instead of letting Aaron cower in fear to this cow, he said, I'm going to tell you what, you're going to stand at the fence right now. And when White Cow -- I'm going to herd the cows in. And when White Cow confronts you, if she charges you son, you've got to punch her in the nose. I'm sitting there thinking -- Aaron weighed like 60 pounds soaking wet. You know, he's about ten years old, I think. And I was like, you're going to do, what? But he let Aaron do it. I stood back and let him do it. And Aaron did.

White Cow sure enough charged Aaron that day. And he rared back in a nerve-defying -- like a nerve-racking defiance and just punched that heifer in the nose. Well, you know what he learned that day -- and White Cow, you know, she snorted and snarled at him and took a step back like she couldn't believe what happened, but then in submission she went in the pen. And Aaron learned that day that there was no challenge too great for him. And this is what drove him to become not only a Navy SEAL, but all the way to the pinnacle at Seal Team 6. Those are the things. And I say the greatest principle I can teach any mom is let your husband raise a man. It's hard not to interfere. But let him raise a man.

GLENN: I was always afraid to have a son. Because I didn't have a dad that did any of the typical dad stuff. And had a hard relationship with my dad for a long time.

And so I was terrified of raising a son.

KAREN: Yeah.

GLENN: And I have three girls.

KAREN: Yeah.

GLENN: And I do not know how to raise girls. I am horrible at raising girls. I don't know how many times my wife will look at me like, what the hell is wrong with you? What are you saying?

I'm like, what? What? Yes, the skirt makes her look fat.

No. What are you doing, you imbecile

But I see it with my wife with my son. Men speak the language of a boy. Women speak the language of a girl. And if you don't honor that language and honor that there is a difference there --

KAREN: Right.

GLENN: -- I mean, your kids will be lost.

KAREN: You're right.

GLENN: They'll just be lost.

KAREN: You're right.

GLENN: What was the thing that you found out that you did wrong?

KAREN: That's a hard question. No one has ever asked me to evaluate that side, Glenn.

Wow. You know, gosh, I'm not like I'm flawless. But if I tried to single out one thing -- I don't know. Maybe it was that -- maybe it was that I resisted things for so long. You know, that I tried so hard to resist. Speaking specifically about Aaron, not with our daughters, but maybe I tried to resist so much that forging that a man has to do with his son, if a boy is going to turn out right. You know, I did resist it for a long time.

And like I said, I'm thankful that I caved. But that's the first thing that comes to my mind, is I really did try to resist that. And if I could just speak to women out there who are raising boys, stop resisting. Let your -- let your husband have that role in his -- in his son's life. And let him be to him what he needs to be, you know, and stop trying to turn both of them into women.

(laughing)

GLENN: As you see the world and where we're headed and where we're headed I think with war, where we're headed culturally, where Europe and everything is headed and the lack of leadership, how do you feel about your son's sacrifice?

KAREN: That's hard. It's really hard. I -- you know, we have -- we have a -- I'm not trying to plug our organization. We have an organization where we mentor kids whose fathers have died during this war.

Not long ago, we had about 30 kids sitting in front of my husband, as he was, you know, closing out the camp and their moms, the widows were behind them. And my father said -- my husband said to those little kids, he said, I want you to know your fathers didn't die for a government -- like I said earlier. He didn't die to seize anybody's land. They died for an American way of life -- or, for a way of life, the American way of life. And, Glenn, we are watching that slip through our fingers.

And I feel like every day I have an obligation to honor the sacrifice that not only Aaron has made for me, but so many others throughout history. And I feel a compelling desire to -- to reach into the homes right now and say we got to shake this loose and shake this up and understand what we've given up. Where we are today. And where we need to go into the future, whether before it's too late. And you will never convince me it's too late because that means Aaron died for nothing. And you will never convince me of that. He died for the American way of life. And I'll fight. I'll fight to reinstill those values in American culture with my last breath.

GLENN: It will not be men who save the earth. It will not be women who save the earth. But I am convinced that it will be mothers and fathers that save us from ourselves.

One last question: What's -- what is the -- what is the thing your son taught you?

KAREN: That's easy. How to be strong. Aaron's death didn't make me weak. It made me strong. It really did. Because I started employing the principles in my life that he employed in his. Aaron never took a break. He never said I'm too tired to go fight the fight. He never said that.

And so you know my life has taken this crazy turn in the past -- we're coming up this Sunday as the sixth year anniversary of his death. And I've lived a very different life than I lived before Aaron died.

And many times along the way, I've thought, you know, I'm too tired. I'm too old. I'm too weak. I'm too frail. I'm too this. I'm too that. And every time, it's just his voice whispering in my ear -- Aaron was an encourager. You can do this, Mom. Just keep walking.

GLENN: I want to let you know that I believe there is something on the horizon that is very important that I just feel is coming and that is a movement of moms unlike we have seen before. And I wanted Karen to be on TV tonight to spend an hour with you and with moms. And talk about changing the world just by raising good children. If you're struggling and you would like some help or you want to know how to spread, join tonight at TheBlaze.com/TV at 5 o'clock. The name of the book is World Changer: A Mother's Story. The unbreakable spirit of U.S. Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, by Karen Vaughn, his mom. Thanks, Karen. Appreciate it.

KAREN: Thank you.

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