After writing The Red Circle, my Navy SEAL sniper buddy Brandon and I were planning to write a follow-up book on sniper training and field experiences. But then something came up.
Brandon had an idea for a different type of memoir, this one not about him but about close friends and colleagues he’d had in the teams, men who had changed his life — and given theirs. The idea wouldn’t let go of him, and I loved it too. A sort of Band of Brothers of the modern Spec Ops warrior era.
So the sniper book went onto the back burner (it’s coming, but not till 2016), and we poured ourselves onto this memoir-of-friends project until we’d finished it.
It’s called Among Heroes, and it’s hitting the bookshelves this coming May — but it just came available for preorder now. (You can find it on Amazon, BN.com, and the rest, or just click here.)
Here’s how the book opens.
In thinking back on the days of Easy Company,
I’m treasuring my remark to a grandson who asked,
“Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?”
“No,” I answered, “but I served in a company of heroes.”
― Mike Ranney, quoted in Band of Brothers, by Stephen E. Ambrose
# # #
When I joined the Navy in 1993 I was a fresh-faced kid, barely out of high school. Like most nineteen-year-olds, I thought I knew something of the world. I had no inkling of the struggles that lay ahead.
Nor did much of the country. The America of 1993 was a world quite different from what it is today. The Cold War was over, the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own obsolescence, and the deadly malaise now known as the Global War on Terror barely a blip on the horizon. Nestled in its valley between those two epochs of global conflict, the 1990s seemed a golden age of peace and prosperity. In many ways it was a time of fantasy and naïveté, and it would not last long. In the first light of the twenty-first century’s dawning we would awaken to stark geopolitical realities. The very nature of war would radically change, and my friends and I would be on the front lines of the new warfare.
These were also the years of my passage from swaggering teen years to a more sober, reflective adulthood. On the way I would make a solid handful of the best friends in the world. Many of them I would soon lose.
It’s a strange place I find myself in these days. When I talk with people in their eighties or nineties, they describe what it’s like seeing so many of their friends vanish, one by one, and finding themselves progressively more alone in the world. That’s a normal part of the cycle of life, I know—but I’ve been having that experience for years, and I’m barely forty.
The U.S. Special Operations community is one of the fiercest and most experienced fighting forces the world has ever seen. But we have been at war now for well over a decade, the longest continuous state of armed conflict in our history as a nation. This has put an enormous stress on all men and women in uniform, along with their families and friends. Given the unique nature of today’s asymmetrical warfare, it has placed an especially heavy burden on our Special Operations community. Many of my closest friends in the SEAL teams are no longer here. They sacrificed everything, many leaving behind mothers, fathers, wives, and children.
At the same time, they also left behind powerfully instructive examples of living—models of what it means to be a hero.
This is the story of eight heroes whose lives intersected with mine during those years, men who gave their lives for their country and their team. Men who gave pieces of themselves to me, and without whom I would not be the man I am today. I trained with them and fought with them, looked up to them and learned from them. I miss them all terribly, yet at the same time, they’re here with me still.
“Leave no man behind” is the mantra of all Special Operations teams. The purpose of this book is to help ensure that these eight heroes are not left behind. Within these stories of friendship and character you’ll find the principles that guided these men in their lives, principles I have adopted in my own life and share with my children. Knowing these great men—who they were, how they lived, and what they stood for—has changed my life. We can’t let them be forgotten.
So read about these amazing men, share their stories, and learn from them as I have. We’ve mourned their deaths. Let’s celebrate their lives.
— Brandon Webb
John, this seems to me as if it should be required reading for everyone. We need to understand the blank check our armed forces give to protect our country. Often that check is filled in with their lives. Thank you and Brandon for writing this book.
Thanks, Laura — I so agree: to understand what’s behind that blank check, and who these men are as human beings, too, and not simply warriors. Writing this book was a humbling process, getting to know their families even more so.
Hi John David,
I remember reading about your work in an earlier email you sent to me.
What I read of it was very well done – as I expected.
I just read a story about Brandon Webb in Men’s Journal and remembered that you were the writer. Webb seems like a genuinely beautiful soul with great honor. I have some understanding about how to deal with unwinding PTSD because everyone has it to an extent, and I also worked with some Native American vets.The reason PTSD is so rampant is that we are not taught in this society how to properly digest and assimilate any kind of experience, especially in an overload situation. There is a way to retrain people to function from a deeper internal truth which then guides awareness under all circumstances. I spoke some about this to the Commandant of the Naval Academy in 2002 – then Col. John Allen – and he seemed to like it but said they lacked training money that year. Would be fun to talk with you about it.