Honoring a Friend’s Example

John Zinn was a teammate of Brandon’s in SEAL Team Three. They were both California surfers with a love of entrepreneurialism, and they hit it off. After getting out of the service, John did an incredibly dangerous stint in Iraq as contract security early in the war, and the close calls he witnessed and experienced led him to design a brand new armored vehicle and, eventually, to found the hugely successful company Indigen Armor. Brandon, meanwhile, started his own venture, poured five years into it, beating off competitors and barriers on the outside and subversion from within his company—only to finally be nuisance-lawsuited out of business by the local Sierra Club rep. Chapter 4 of Among Heroes tells the story of their friendship, their entrepreneurial struggles, and how it was John’s example that pulled Brandon through the most difficult time of his life — a few years after John’s death in Jordan in 2010. I called the shareholders and let them know it was over. I had beaten Blackwater at their own game—and in return been beaten myself by a lady from the Sierra Club. It would have been funny if it weren’t so crushing. I had dedicated five years of my life to this idea, bolstered with the majority of my modest net worth along with a ton of money from friends and family members—and it was all gone in the blink of a court filing. Shortly after which, my wife asked me for a divorce. As I said, life in the teams can be brutal on relationships. Despite my having left the service five years beforehand specifically...

Quiet Professional

Matt Axelson was one of Brandon’s personal students in the SEAL sniper course that Brandon and his BUD/S teammate Eric Davis were managing in 2004. “Axe” was one of his finest students. Not long after graduation, he took part in the fateful mission immortalized in the book and film Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell, another of Brandon’s personals. While Marcus survived the mission, Matt and his other teammates did not. Chapter 3 of Among Heroes is Matt’s story. Getting to know Matt affected me in two ways: First, it made me realize that over the course of my years in the teams, seeing the sacrifices so many guys and their families were making, and experiencing first-hand what was going on in the rest of the world, I’d come to have a deep love for my country, along with a dedication to serving that I hadn’t known was in me. He also made me want to up my game. I was already fiercely dedicated to excellence, always had been. By natural inclination I have a very low tolerance for bullshit, laziness, or mediocrity. (One reason among many that Dave Scott and I clicked.) But just being around Matt and watching the way he held himself to the highest standard possible was pushing me to hold myself to an even higher standard. As much as our students looked up to us and took us as role models, every now and then it worked the other way, too. As Matt worked his way through the course, I found myself looking up to him. To me, he represented the epitome of what it...

Larger Than Life

This week, since there are seven days until the release of our new book Among Heroes and there are eight heroes we write about in the book, I thought I would release one excerpt per day: one for each hero. Today’s excerpt is about Dave Scott, who was with Brandon when they were called to stand guard over the USS Cole when it was bombed off the coast of Yemen in October 2000. Dave died in an accident while stationed in Guam in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Kat, his parents, Jack and Maggie — who will be on hand next week in NYC at the Barnes & Noble signing — as well as his legion of friends. Dave was the embodiment of the expression larger than life. Everything he did, he took to a level beyond what anyone else would think possible. He was more hilarious, more outrageous, more audacious. As his mom, Maggie, put it, “Dave lived more in his twenty-nine and a half years than others could live in a hundred.” Because he was so quick, he could pick up on anything that anyone was talking about and find a way to reference it to something he knew about or had experience with. That high-speed intelligence, combined with his basic good nature and sense of humor, gave him an amazing gift for conversation and for striking up new friendships. Kat describes him as a chameleon: He could throw wild parties filled with sophomoric stunts (like the time he convinced a group of starstruck freshmen to prove their mettle by sweating it out in a...

A Friend’s Legacy

One week from today my next book comes out. It’s no accident that this happens the day after Memorial Day, because the book itself is a tribute to the memories of eight heroes. But it’s more than that. When we started working on the book, Brandon and I knew only that we wanted to tell these guys’ stories. We didn’t know exactly how to tie them together, or how that would make a book. As we talked about these friends he’d known, the thread slowly became clear. This wasn’t just a collection of stories about who these men were. It was also the story of how meeting and knowing each one of them changed who Brandon is. And, our hope is, how knowing them can change who you and I are. While we were in the process of writing the book, Brandon’s best friend Glen Doherty died in Benghazi. Months later, when we were close to finished, Brandon’s friend Chris Kyle died in Texas. It was eerie … as if the book were writing itself, through the tragedy of real-time events. But in the end, the message of the book isn’t about the tragedy of how these guys left us, it’s about the triumph of what they left us. Here’s a brief excerpt, from the end of chapter 1. The setting: Brandon’s friend Mike Bearden has died in a training accident, in a free-fall parachute jump in which both main chute and backup chute failed to open. This passage describes the aftermath of that accident. Mike’s death shook us all up, and I took it hard. It was the first time I’d...